If you win the rat race
If you come in first place
Then a rat is all you will be
– Devotchka, The Clockwise Witness
It is Tuesday, December 1, 2009 and I am overwhelmed with a rare combination of fear and excitement. Before me is my email of resignation, but I cannot bring myself to click send. In the worst economic recession of my generation, is it crazy to leave a secure and high-paying job with nothing but an idea and some savings?
I’ve always wanted to do an internet startup, and I’ve always told myself when I had the right idea I would pursue it. I really believe in this idea; it has the potential to change the world, to help people, and even to generate a fortune.
I have been building up to this decision for 5 months. Reviewing my sent items, I first communicated the idea to friends on June 28th. Since then, I have thought about it daily, not to mention spoke about it with my friends and family who are probably about ready to kill me. While I tried to convince them, I was really trying to convince myself, and I can’t thank them enough for listening. I finally justified it this way: business school would take 2 years full-time, and require a large investment; for a fraction of the cost and closer to one year, I can gain invaluable experience. I’m pretty sure my mind was already made up from the beginning, though.
I went to a therapist for the first time last week to help me organize my thoughts (and to use my health insurance while I still had it). After reciting my well-rehearsed speech, he said it was clear that I had thought this through. Where I seem to be stuck is (surprise) related to my parents, who could not be any more opposite. My mother takes risks and spends money freely; my father is always working and saves as much as he can (do I need to add that they divorced?). “You have two voices in your head,” my therapist said, “one for each of your parents. They couldn’t work it out, but you’re going to have to learn to.”
I also realized how unhappy I am with my current job at a big corporation. I’ve achieved success in most people’s eyes, but that impression is based solely on the name of the company I work for. Most people do not even understand what I do. Why does the name make them proud and not how happy I am with what I am doing? Working at a large corporation was an educational starting point, but I’ve never felt comfortable with the prospect of working for someone else forever. I am not competitive and do not get the satisfaction most feel from a promotion. After 4.5 years and multiple promotions, I don’t feel like I’ve gotten anywhere. I’ve always been one to seek more, and at the pace I’ve been going I don’t feel like I’ll ever arrive. I realized that I do not want to be my boss, nor my boss’ boss. Not to mention all the ridiculousness, waste and inefficiencies of working for a large corporation, but those stories will have to wait until after I leave.
I called my mother today who said she supports the decision, but warned me that I will have to suffer. When I was a child, she suffered to build up the family business. I remember a little silver car. I remember hand-me-down clothes. I remember being happy with very little. Since I started working, my salary has tripled, and with each raise I only think of more things I want. Now I find little joy in going out to eat (unless I go to a fancier, more expensive restaurant); nothing feels special any more. In a way, I want to suffer. I would rather scrape by doing something I love than be financially secure and waste away. I want to feel alive again. I want to feel passionate about what I am spending my life doing.
I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason, and that one should follow their gut. The problem is, some things don’t happen for a reason, and sometimes what you think is your gut is something else, like your testicles. The fact is my gut has led me to where I am today, and so I must continue to trust it.
I’ve been stuck, but that doesn’t mean I can’t continue my story – I’m ready to click send.