I have no career at 30 — and that is okay!
At the ripe age of 28, I quit my job.
Before that, I was a privileged 28-year-old with a CPA designation and a decent paying job as a finance manager in real estate.
That used to be my identity. Of course, I had the quarter-life crisis that every millennial seems to have.
That crisis started at 23 but it never left me. I was convinced that just like everyone else, my quarter-life crisis would disappear soon.
2018 had been a tough year for me. Despite a lot of personal milestones and celebrations that year (My husband and I got married, and we bought our first condo together), I was in a fragile emotional state.
I was dealing with the death of a friend/co-worker and I was in a job that was stressful — one that I only later realized was also toxic for my mental well-being.
Why I Quit
Before we got married, my husband and I had set a dollar milestone of when I could quit my job. We anticipated it would be the summer of 2019.
I would take the summer off, and try to figure out my next steps.
But three days after our wedding, in August 2018, I walked into work and I felt this feeling in my heart that this was not where I should be — physically. I felt a sense of urgency, that this was the wrong place for me, and I needed to get out now!
I had this nagging feeling that I had already been pushed over the edge and there was no way I was going to survive another year hanging from a cliff.
There was no way I could show up to work every day without falling apart. My work had already taken a lot from me. And I had nothing more left to give.
I felt burned out.
So I made the decision I thought was best for me.
On the following Monday, I walked into work and told my manager that I was leaving with 3 weeks' notice.
I had no plan B but I knew that I could no longer spend my days, evenings, and weekends dedicated to work.
She knew that there nothing she could say or do to change my mind.
Two years later
I’m still unemployed — or as I like to call it fun-employed.
I don’t have a magical story about how I quit my job, started a business, and now own a multi-million dollar company.
Oh, how I wish that was the case!
Over the last two years, I’ve taken on lots of projects — most of them have involved self-discovery. The goal has been to figure out what my next step is going to be.
As fun as those projects have been, I haven’t been able to monetize them enough to sustain a full-time income.
So, at the moment I likely soon be returning to the profession I spent years studying and practicing — accounting.
As I look for a job, in the middle of a pandemic, I’ve been reflecting on the changes I was able to make in life in the last two years. And I feel like a new person.
I would probably not recognize that unhappy 28-year-old on her fifth cup of coffee, frantically running around the office trying to fix yet another metaphorical fire.
The last two years have been a lesson in self-discovery and self-awareness. Out of this, I am more content, back in control, and actually enjoy learning new skills!
Since I have stopped spending my days working as an accountant, I am happy. Maybe it was the job, maybe it is the profession, or maybe it was how my dedication. But I had given too much of myself to the job.
Since I quit, I have woken up every single day without any dread.
I used to think I was not a morning person. On Sundays, I would sleep in till noon. Because I was always tired. I was always trying to catch up on sleep.
But since the end of 2018, I have not slept in (unless I was sick), even on the weekends.
I wake up excited to tackle the next task in my projects. I am excited to take on new challenges, to learn something new and unexpected every day.
I have fallen in love with processes, rather than just trying to accomplish the end goal. That to me seems like a success.
Taking back control
In the before days, I used to have nightmares about looming deadlines or missed emails. There were times I woke up in the middle of the night remembering that I had forgotten to follow up on an email.
I would lose control of days. I would make plans and to-do lists, and the days would be lost to fighting fires and urgent tasks.
Of course, there are days where I have deadlines now — some from clients, some self-imposed. But I feel more in control.
My days feel energized. I have the capacity to focus on tasks. I have let go of the feeling of being on a hamster wheel 24/7.
I can control my time and my energy. I have control over the meals I eat.
I am no longer eating a granola bar for lunch, grabbing my fifth coffee at 6 pm, or getting food delivered to the office in anticipation of a late night at work.
Continuously learning and growing
One of the things that I have been able to do over the last two years is to learn new skills.
Whether it was related to blogging, writing, sales, marketing, e-commerce, SEO — all these skills were skills I wanted to learn. I was able to read books that appealed to me. I have been able to take the courses I wanted to take.
That was a kind of freedom that I never had before.
Personal development and reading used to be focused on worked related topics — accounting, finance real estate, or leadership.
And as much as I actually enjoyed those topics, I now know it was a bubble.
I worked with most of the same team for over five years. That meant I had no new perspectives.
I was always working. That meant I had no time to go meet new people to discover new perspectives.
As difficult as it is to meet new people when you’re self-employed or a solopreneur (especially in a pandemic), I have found there is a world of people who openly share their perspectives and experiences online.
I would never have had the time or energy to invest in learning from the experiences of strangers, who have a vast range of perspectives.
Defining a new self
I used to define myself using these words — an accountant.
Every time I was asked to introduce myself, the first words I would utter would be “I’m an accountant”.
It came from a sense of pride — of course, I was defining myself with my career. I spent years writing exams, working long hours. But I was also starting to live in a bubble. I was replacing social engagements with work, and giving up a part of myself.
It was a defense mechanism that I needed. I needed to tell others what my job was because I had to justify that those long hours were not spent in vain. They were valuable. They had to be part of my identity.
I’m sure there are accountants who have figured out work-life balance. But I for one have not met many of them.
I used to live in a bubble where I was expected to have my career figured out by a certain age.
And I did, by the antiquated definition of work. I knew what my 9–5 (and beyond) was, and how I would make money until I retired.
I was paid enough to live a comfortable life. But no amount of money is a replacement for losing one’s sense of self or not having the ability to discover a new self.
I now know that there is no shame in quitting a job, to take time off to figure out what you need. As long as you can afford to do so, and it is a decision that you can live with.
Sometimes you have to take risks, and although they might not pan out exactly the way you wanted them to, there is still a lot you will learn.
Until you step out of your bubble, you won’t know what’s outside of it.