When I quit my first post-college job earlier this year, it was an act of both desperation and liberation. I’d worked in local TV news and woke up at 3 a.m. every day to curate content for the station’s website. As a journalism major with little to no life direction, the job was suitable. Even though the schedule was killing my soul, I could carry myself with a certain air of dignity, unlike my fellow unemployed postgrads. “Why yes, I do have a full-time job with benefits in my chosen career field,” I’d say as people stared at me like a rare endangered species they’d only see in the movies. I could also alert my mom that I was going to be featured on a newscast and genuinely say, “Hey ma, look! I’m on the TV!”
Obviously, that novelty wore off.
I drank a lot of wine during those first few weeks of underemployment (I was cocktailing part-time) and general self-loathing. “Was that the stupidest thing I’ve ever done?” I often asked myself while checking my ever-dwindling bank account, trying to calculate how much money I had until my car was repossessed or until I’d have to default on my student loans. I usually had a freshly uncorked bottle of Malbec next to me as I ripped through bill after bill. Each envelope opened warranted about three swigs from the wine glass – sometimes directly from the bottle, depending on how much money I owed.
I thought that quitting my job would result in some larger-than-life epiphany in which I realized my true calling – perhaps it was to be a landscape painter or a ballroom dancer. “I could be like Vanessa Williams in Dance with Me,” I’d think to myself. Maybe I’ll run off to the Amazon and work at a nature conservancy. I’ll plant hundreds – nay, thousands – of trees and single-handedly fill up that hole in the Ozone!
Rather predictably, what started off as blind (and perhaps drunk) ambition spiraled into a manic and urgent identity crisis. If I wasn’t cut out for journalism – the craft I’d spent five years of my life labeling as “my thing” – was I cut out for anything? Was there a point to the 3 a.m. wake-up calls, frenetic newsroom environment, and cutthroat shit-talking everybody did to everybody else that I was missing?
Probably. What I knew for sure was that it wasn’t for me. And, what’s more, I had to learn that “it” didn’t mean journalism as a whole; “it” meant that particular experience at that particular place and time. Acknowledging this difference in definition was crucial. Once I realized that the reason I quit was because I had more to offer than I was being allowed to offer, I started to feel less like a failure at what I was supposed to be good at and more like a work-in-progress at all the other things I had yet to discover. The message I’m getting at isn’t exactly original, but it’s one that ought to be reinforced: You are good at more than just one thing. You are worth more than what’s printed on your college degree. There’s still time to do what has yet to be done.
In the meantime, pour yourself a glass of wine. It may cure nothing, but it’ll numb everything.