I have imagined how this breakup would go over a hundred times now in my head.
While everyone in my office is away at lunch on a hazy summer afternoon, I’d secretly pack up my stuff into my Ralph Lauren work bag. I’ve always kept my desk pretty light because hell, as a corporate employee your disposable AF so I had to be prepared for any day I was handed the pink slip and told to march my butt out of there and never come back. I’d delete everything on my computer, take the last few cans of San Pellegrino from the fridge, and throw up a pile of glitter as I twirled out of the office with the confidence of a pop star. I would never look back.
“The next stop is…Fulton Street.”
The sound of the New York City subway brought my daydreaming to a sudden halt. As the train speedily hurdled towards the platform into a pit of underground darkness, I observed the other morning commuters, several of them fellow companions in corporate servitude, as my stop slowly approached. The faces around me were lifeless, many of them already drained by the stressors of a busy morning commute.
The train is slightly packed. I watch a woman in Zara workwear anxiously look up and down at her watch and the subway map behind me. Another, Wall Street banker-type, seems to be typing a furious text on his phone, his face weathered by stress making him appear older than his presumed age. Although we are all different, we all share the same sentiment on that subway car: we are tired, we are stressed, and we are wondering when this daily draconian commute to an office where no one really gives a fuck about us is going to end.
Is this life, God? I think to myself. Is this what all that childhood dreaming and years of education has manifested itself to be? What am I doing here?
After “working hard” for the past 20-odd years of my life, I’m finally working in (what I thought was) my dream career. As a web developer I build exciting site experiences for one of the world’s largest beauty brands. My office is covered in marble tiles and “positive pink” bold statements of confidence plastered across frosted glass walls: “Every woman deserves to be confident” or “The most beautiful skin is the one you are in.” But even though I’ve reached this pinnacle moment in my corporate career, the moment where I get to walk into an office and not hate what I do everyday, I secretly long for something more. I’m beginning to crave the rogue life of self-employment versus the confined walls of false corporate security. I dream of mornings where I “work from home” and peacefully set my own schedule, versus anxiously rushing to work to avoid the scowls of my manager if I show up two minutes late.
I want freedom and a life where each day is filled with passionate hunger, not nervous joy coated with fear.
It was March 14, 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic began to consume the daily news and ultimately shut down our corporate office for good. Emails from HR began flying about taking home our office equipment and how to properly work from home. As I started my afternoon commute home, we got the news that we would be working remotely for an indefinite amount of time, I looked up at the sky and smirked.
I’m almost free.
As the pandemic began to rear its ugly head around the world, I began to adapt to a new normal. Days filled with peaceful self-paced workout plans, and mornings filled with rich, fulfilling breakfasts. The same breakfasts that were often ignored or replaced with a sugary Starbucks drink on my rush to the office in my pre-COVID life . I slowly began to forget about my old life in the office, and began to embrace the money I was saving from not having to pay for mass transit. I woke up every morning with the sunrise. And, I heard birds chirp for the first time with the fall of the morning dew. My appreciation for a slower life, one that came with more control of my day-to-day actions, was alluring to me and mentally calming. That’s when I knew: the time to escape is now.
For years, I imagined what this moment would feel like. The moment when I realized it was time to break up with my corporate job and dive deep into the pool of my “side hustle” dreams. I always kept saying “soon” or “later”, with no true date in mind, begrudgingly working towards a transition that I subconsciously knew I was never going to act upon hastily. I kept holding out to see if “that promotion” would come or if another company would “treat me right.” I constantly gave corporate America pitiful second chances that were unfair to my true dreams and desires.
As I sat on my yoga mat one morning in April, a spirit inside me stirred with longing and passionate rage. The time to escape was now. I must be methodical and strategic – but I cannot look back.
With life on pause for so many people, I have finally found the time to reflect about where I want to be when everything is over. When we finally emerge safely from the fearful shadows of this world, what direction do I want to take my life in order to feel like I was purposely moving through it? Will I still be another rat in a race where only one out of a thousand really win? Or will I be defining my own destiny and living life on my own terms, not worrying about whether or not I’m getting a promotion or kissing up to my boss enough?
As each day passes, I have chosen to abandon the lesser life. I have started using the quiet of this universal stillness to plot the future that I want to have. I’ve been spending time investing in myself by taking online courses and restructuring my business to figure out how I can get more time back and attract new clients. I have been crunching the numbers, doing the math, testing out new sales strategies to build a foundation where I don’t have to go back to corporate. I have been reading inspiring stories about other women who left their old worlds behind, training my mind for the mental stamina I will need to get through the highs and lows of going out on my own. I have written up my resignation letter as a manifestation of my commitment to this plan (and researched some gigs I can do from home if shit ultimately hits the fan). The time to make my dream life a reality is now and I’ve fully committed to trading in the idea of working for someone else for a career that is defined by my own grit and hustle.
I know that I’m not alone. Emerging from nationwide protests, the spotlight on racial injustice in corporate America has been bright and arresting. What has been revealed is what we’ve known all along—the systemic oppression that runs deep from the CEO’s office down to the conference rooms is felt by thousands of highly-educated Black women who are often passed on for promotions, discriminated against based on stereotypes, or not guaranteed equal pay. Want to know why Black women are really the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs? It’s because many of us are emotionally forced out of corporate workspaces because we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Corporate America often does not see our talent and skill and is ridden with racial inequality; we are not valued to the same degree as our white counterparts. I, like thousands of other black women who thought their dream life was behind some white man’s expensive doors, are waking up to reality and realizing that the glass ceiling isn’t worth shattering if it means I’m still going to be treated like shit when I’m at the top.
There is a difference between the life I had and the life I want to live, and I chose the fuller life over the lesser one. I choose to be free. I choose to end the rat race once and for all. (Click to tweet)
With so many unknowns about the future, it’s hard to say how the pandemic will end or how my boss will feel when she finds out that my last day at work mentally was really 12+ weeks ago. But what I can say with confidence is I know that I will be actively choosing to live in my purpose on a daily basis, even if I must struggle first to reap the reward in the end. If there is one thing that I have learned since this pandemic stopped the world in its tracks, it’s that life is short and I refuse to waste another day not working towards my dreams.
Now is the time to be your best self. Now is the time to live the life of your dreams. Not later. Now. (Click to tweet)
I lay down on my yoga mat and look up at the morning sky, my heart beating calmly as my workout came to an end.
I am answering the call, God. I am here. And I am on my way.