A few years ago I was on the verge of a mental breakdown. I was probably one cappuccino away. I was stressed to the eyeballs, not looking after myself, way too busy in my full time job as an editor and practically living on air… and caffeine.
I was 32, I felt like I had no life, I was in a rut and finding life in general hard to cope with. I had never felt like this, so I knew it was bad. Really bad.
In all honesty, I was exhausted. From the outside in everything looked great. I had just scored my dream gig. I was the launch editor of a new weekend magazine for a major newspaper organisation. I’d been the launch editor on two other mags, but this one was different.
I’d spent 13 years getting my career to this point. I was hand-picked. Others wanted it. But I got it. It’s what I’d longed for. I’d made it. This was it. You know that feeling?
Only it wasn’t “it”. I was excited for about five minutes before I realised it really wasn’t what I wanted at all. What did I want? I wanted to run my own show – I wanted that to be my full time job – to teach people the art of writing great content and to be a business owner – and to lead a life a really loved. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the media, but I was over it – maybe I’d finally admitted that to myself.
But did I listen to my inner self? No. I just pushed down those desires and accepted a promotion I didn’t want because that’s what you do, right? You get on with it.
I spent three months trying to love it with all my heart. At times I did. But I was working around the clock, putting out fires, dealing with difficult people, doing just about everything, and more and more jobs were landing on my shoulders.
Until one day I couldn’t take another step. Literally.
On this morning, I’d arrived at work and was immediately bombarded by people who wanted something from me and about a gazillion emails. That was pretty standard.
I wouldn’t have even put my bag down and there would be someone at my desk. To cope, I just got another coffee (probably my third or fourth for the day) and opened one of the emails; it just happened to be yet another nit-picking message. Urgh.
Then I got an absolute blasting from a head of department who yelled at me in front of the newsroom for something he had done but blamed me for… I snapped back at him as he turned his back and walked away. That was all before 9am.
After that grilling, I stared at the email from a reader about the gardening section of the new magazine and I thought, “you know what? I’m done. I’m out. There has got to be more to life than this full time job.”
So I collected my phone and walked out. People stared. I needed to get out of there before I had a Jerry Maguire moment and told them all where they could stick their promotion. It was on the tip of my tongue let me assure you. But that’s not who I am.
I walked out and just kept walking. I had no idea where I was going. I didn’t take my bag or my keys. I was walking in the opposite direction to my car. My brain was just not working.
Then I found myself on a chair in a park bawling my eyes out. I couldn’t take this any more. I felt useless, weak and like I had no support. I was working my fingers to the bone and getting nowhere.
At this point I was sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn’t breathe and I started to see stars and darkness like I was going to pass out. I can’t recall what happened after that, but when I came “to” I could breathe and my tears had subsided somewhat.
I went to get up to walk back…only I couldn’t make my legs move. It sounds so weird but I was telling my brain to move my legs and make them walk and nothing was happening. Then I really started freaking out … I’m paralyzed. I’m brain dead. What the hell is happening?
I called one of my friends and colleagues. I was melting down and freaking out and had no idea what to do. She talked me through it and eventually I walked back to my car, where she met me with my keys and I left.
I never went back.
I called to tell my editor I was ill and had to leave for the day, then I booked in to see my doctor. I took stress leave, all my holidays and sick days, wrote a resignation letter and never returned. I couldn’t bare to go back. I think having that as my “full-time job” would have eventually killed me.
This is the story about how I come to start my business. Obviously, it’s not ideal and I don’t recommend it. Thankfully, I’d already started by business on the side, but it was simply shoe money at that stage. I was making about $300-500 a month.
By the end of my first week away from the newsroom, but still on “sick leave” I had secured a part-time PR role, which would keep my mortgage paid. By the end of the second week I’d let all my contacts know that I was out on my own.
By the third week I’d picked up enough work to last for about three months. I’d soon realise much of this work would be ongoing.
Then after three months of being in “business” I left the part-time PR gig because I had enough work to be on my own full time – this was my new “full-time job” and I was loving it. The first six months were amazing and it grew from to the point where I put on a team of writers to help.
Why am I telling you this? Well, it is a question I get asked all the time … How did you leave your full-time job. I also tell this story at one of my workshops because I use it as an example of how stories can help you connect with your readers. I’ve posted this story before and it’s one of the ones that got the most traction.