It was a warm, muggy day at the height of summer in August 2017. I was sitting in my cubicle on one of the top floors of the Old Western Union building in Manhattan, surrounded by some of the top companies and brands that flank many of the high rises here in NY. I was closing in on three months as the new project manager at a well-known ad agency with offices around the globe. I was in awe that I was working just an elevator ride away from the offices of Harper Collins Publishing, Thomson Reuters, Getty Images, Gucci, and Nobu restaurant. I enjoyed the perks of working at a global ad agency: shopping trips, gifting, spa nights, dinners, concerts, free food, and box seats at sporting events. The pay and recognition of working in a "prestigious" industry weren't bad either. I had finally made it! Today, that was an afterthought because all that glitters isn't gold.
I feverishly packed up my desk. My work cell phone and laptop cleared and ready to be dropped off with IT, my building pass in hand. Everything of value that I owned was thrown into an extra bag. I turned to the intern who sat across from me to ask her where the rest of our team was. She responded, "In the morning meeting." I mentioned I wasn't feeling well and I had to go home. Too bad, she had no clue that I was planning on walking out at that very moment. I'm off; I speed walk down the hallway to turn everything in without saying goodbye, run towards the elevator, sweating the ride down to the first floor, and walk out the door without notice.
After working 60 hours a week (including working till 2:00 am), enduring weeks of bullying (imagine mean girls meets corporate America with a ton of gaslighting), always being on-call (I was getting calls while out on dates or weekend downtime), doing other team members work, being set up for failure, and constantly being put down, I had enough! I realized there was so much more to life than this; my family, friends, health, and wellness were at stake. This job was a grave mistake and not worth the extra $20k a year I was making, perks, or title. The day finally came, and I was ready to say goodbye to the good job I'd worked so hard for. The job that looked so glossy and exciting to everyone else but felt like a burden to me. The job that made me feel like "I finally made it"--but just as quickly had me feeling like I hated my life. And though it took some time, my plan of leaving it behind began unfolding.
A weight was lifted off my shoulders as I jumped on the train home from Manhattan to New Jersey. Before I reached my stop, I emailed HR that I had resigned immediately and all my work property had been returned. It felt like a fresh start as I walked home. I let myself into my tiny studio apartment and stood in the hallway; it looked so welcoming and warm. It sparkled with the perfect amount of light; my bed hugged me as I settled in for the best nap of my life. Being jobless, with bills coming my way, wasn't even a thought. I embraced the moment of leaving something dark behind, something that was damaging my health, staling my happiness and whole life.
A month after leaving my toxic job, I found the job I needed. It gave me rest (work-life balance), appreciation, and a sense of community. However, this blissful period was short-lived after two years as the company underwent layoffs and reorganization. It became evident that I would eventually be laid off, and I also lost my sense of community and influence during the process. The environment became tense, and the joy drained from every corner, prompting me to leave for greener pastures. Unfortunately, I turned to what I knew best, revisiting old habits at what would be my fourth ad agency. What pulled me back was the pay and perks. Although less toxic than my previous job, it suffered from poor management, creating different stressors. Add that to a looming pandemic; it wasn't a good mix.
While squeezing in my morning workout at the gym before going to work, I watched as Tom Hanks and his wife announced they had COVID-19. For whatever reason, this cemented the reality of what was going on. I mean, it's Tom Hanks!!! I decided to stay home that day and work from home.
I was closing in on a year at the new agency, wondering if I had failed again. Did I pick the wrong job? The question loomed in front of me for months. Monday through Friday, as each day passed, I got up for work. I sat at my sewing desk (my now work-from-home space) from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, begrudgingly stressed with pointless meetings, note-taking, passive-aggressive management, and often feeling overlooked (my feedback and skills not fully utilized). Over and over again, each day began to feel like Groundhog's Day until little nudges kept pushing me. The Universe was conspiring for me, offering me time to sit in my thoughts, question what mattered, and play tug of war with my emotions, wants, and needs. I was forced to slow down. I began to realize what was and wasn't working (expectations, putting others ahead of myself, hustle culture, thankless jobs, running from here to there, no rest, no time for myself).
On top of that, I was dealing with all the other craziness at the time (an insurrection, racial injustice, protests, sickness/death, natural disasters, quarantine, layoffs, and shortages of just about anything you needed). I decided I didn't want the life I was living anymore, and it became clear what I did want. I wanted a life of rest, a slower life, being appreciated, meaningful work, and creating what was important to me, putting my health and wellness first! If it didn't bring joy or comfort, it was a no.
It was June 2020, four years from when I left my "good job." Today I went to work, planning and creating HER; who I wanted to be, what was important to me, the work I wanted to take part in, how to participate in this world in an authentic way that was true to me, and putting myself first (taking control of my health and wellness). I threw out the script that was written for me and began to create the story I envisioned, full of comfort, peace, and joy. I dove head first into mornings full of meditation with tarot cards, practicing breath work, dancing using music as therapy, journaling, connecting with my intuition, enjoying long walks through the neighborhood, cooking whole foods with love and care, camping, taking on hobbies and projects I loved (I brought back my Instagram boutique), therapy, trying new beauty rituals, and setting boundaries.
Sharing my journey of prioritizing self-care, I aimed to empower women to navigate the challenges of putting themselves first and escaping the hustle. My Instagram boutique became a self-care and wellness haven full of self-care tools, resources, meditations, journals, and more. I authored a blog with insightful self-care and wellness content to amplify my message, built a community forum, and adapted my content to serve others.
That brings us to today and the future. I'm training to become a certified wellness coach, refining the brand of Daily Ritual Boutique to match the mission. I'm finding my voice, sharing my story, struggles, experience, and knowledge so that I can help you! Oh, and did I mention I'm still deconditioning. It's a journey, but I get closer to the life I want and put myself first every day.