Burnout is Real
On March 1st I quit my job. As the first-born daughter of a working class black family, that is never a phrase I thought I would say. I quit my job without having a parachute or a concrete plan.
I love working, and I'm really good at what I do. I am passionate about design and elevating brands, as well as sneaking in D&I (diversity and inclusion) before they became the buzziest words to use for corporate organizations. It wasn't just because I was under-appreciated, underpaid, or overworked; although all of those reasons were true. It was because I had developed stress and anxiety issues that had never existed prior to this job, and my mental and physical health was declining, fast.
My anxiety appeared in many forms. First there was the constant buzzing, a body hum if you will. Always reverberating and incessant, it felt like I drank 10 cups of coffee. I was jittery and on edge no matter the time of the day. Then there was the constant exhaustion, no matter how much I slept I was drained and depleted. My energy level was nonexistent when it came to social activities outside of work. I also developed pre-diabetes from eating sugary treats to help dull the feeling of drowning in stress (after some hard work, I was able to reverse that diagnosis in 9 months). Then came the digestion issues, super fun. I had 3 years of living with never ending gut problems, no doctor could seem to solve for. I spent thousands of my own money, out of pocket for a therapist; who I could not have survived the last year without.
Sunday nights were the worst, because they meant that Monday was just around the corner. I often spent Sunday periodically checking email, looking at my impending schedule for the week, each day dotted with back-to-back meetings. Sometimes there would be just enough time to grab lunch in between. For the first 2 years, I ate lunch at my desk chained to the screen lest anyone "need" me while I take a 30-45 minute break.
Daily I was expected to work as early as necessary (answering emails or calls at 6AM) and I've been in office until 8PM, and online working well past 11PM. Again, I was a graphic designer, not a surgeon. This was all considered very normal behavior, I wasn't special. I was salary, so I never was compensated for the times I worked during weekends, nights at home, or even during my scheduled PTO when I would receive (and be expected to respond) to panicked text messages, emails and phone calls. Of course, there were other factors as well (invite me for a drink if you want all those details); but my main issue was the lack of work-life-balance as well as being treated like trash on the regular.
After three years I had had enough; I couldn't mentally or physically remain in that toxic environment. I gave my two weeks notice, and was told I would need to leave the premises immediately. As a fun parting gift, my healthcare benefits were liquified immediately too. It didn't matter that I had won awards and worked tirelessly for that company, at the end of the day I was just another cog in the machine. It took me 15 minutes to gather my belongings and sashay out of that building. It reminded me of one of my favorite Maya quotes:
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.Leading up to my quit day, I researched how to prepare. I saved as much money as possible (6-months worth of living expenses), I took 3 weeks off to reset. I read, slept, hiked, visited my parents & grandma, saw my therapist, and just tried to get back to me. And when I was ready, I reached out to my network to let them know I was accepting freelance work, and begin applying for jobs that actually interested me. A mere 13 days later, I had a phone interview with my current company.
I quit my job, and it was the best decision I have ever made for my mental and physical health.