Three weeks after I initially entered the corporate world, I realized that I wanted to retire.
I was twenty-one years old.
Call me an expectant, delusional millennial (And trust – I’ve been referred to by a plethora of adjectives that are substantially worse than those, so there will be no hard feelings here), BUT something about the soul draining repetition that comes with arriving at an office every morning at 9 am, draped in a wrinkled Ann Taylor pencil skirt that screams ‘matronly/boxy/lifeless,’ and then departing at 6 pm that evening – only to fill the hours in between with tasks that I was relatively, if not entirely, dispassionate about — seemed tantamount to the act of serving a life sentence to me.
My first post college job was as a junior financial analyst, which is a title that I still struggle to wrap my head around.
Hunched over in the recesses of my cubicle, I’d often find myself trying to conceal my computer screen, which was laden with street style pics and ‘must have’ makeup items on the Allure.com website, while agonizing over the horrific idea of a life that would ultimately equate to nothing more than forty five more years (and yes, I had already commenced a countdown – never before had I wished to reach my sixties so desperately) of yellow/grey walls, unflattering overhead lighting, office plants, and a passionless professional and personal existence – because, of course, the two are never entirely mutually exclusive.
What had I done to deserve such a fate?
As a consistent straight A student, who had completed her undergraduate studies two years early (I know — WHY? Moral of the story: cling to college for as long as you can kids), I understood that life wouldn’t always operate on cue and that dream jobs aren’t prone to popping out of the sky without a substantial amount of corporate climbing and first rate networking. I had managed my expectations with some degree of pragmaticism, but I never anticipated the dissatisfaction that is synonymous with an inability to see any end in sight.
Within six months of serving as the world’s worst junior financial analyst/best professional People.com reader, I left the work force in favor of brighter pastures, commencing my three year stint as a law student. I’d always been “good” at school – with its shorter hours, frequent breaks, and final guarantees of golden tickets to…where exactly (I would worry about that later), I figured that, naturally, it was just begging for me to take it back, like an old flame who I had perhaps pulled the plug on too quickly.
When I moved to New York City after receiving my JD (because, of course, as is always the case with former boyfriends – law didn’t ultimately turn out to be the one), I landed an amazing position as a producer/reporter. I learned that office life doesn’t have to be banal if you really love what you’re doing. And while I looked forward to the content that I was collecting, editing and putting out, something about the beauracratic, cyclical nature of the conventional corporate aesthetic, and the lack of room for independent creative allowances, still left me feeling dissatisfied.
Why was it SO important to stay until 9 pm to save face in front of my peers, for instance, if that time could be more efficiently spent on my home desktop pulling content at a faster pace while munching on a bowl of cereal and recharging both my IPhone and my mind and body? And, why couldn’t I wear a seafoam green pleated Tibi skirt to the office without somebody (or everybody) suggesting that I was ‘inappropriately’ dressed for the environment? Nothing about wool, pleats, or Tibi screams ‘skank’ to me, but then again, if you’ve read any of this, you’ve probably already deduced that my decision making skills are somewhat questionable.
So maybe it’s me.
While I believe that we all crave a substantial degree of certainty in our lives (You need to know, for instance, that Hermes will, in fact, eventually call to tell you that the wait for your Birkin is over and that your shit is finally IN STORE), it seems equally sound to assert that, on an underlying, molecular level, everyone seeks varying degrees of uncertainty, as well. I mean… do we really want to know everything? That seems to equate to watching the same movie twice — it’s just never as exciting the second time around because you already know what the outcome will be.
Here’s the thing: corporate America just felt so definitive to me. I had a fear that no matter what I would accomplish within the span of my career, all of the days would bleed together into one amorphously shaped ambiguous memory.
Upon assuming the fetal position atop my death bed, with my rail thin varicose vein covered legs dangling over the mattress in their requisite pair of Wolford’s and accompanying Loubs, I would inevitably realize that my clothing, and in specific, my choices of foot wear, had outshone the legacy (or lack thereof?) that I spent my life working to create.
In January of this year, I decided against resigning with my former company.
Without a job, an income, or a plan, I just wrote.
I’ve always had a dream to actively pursue fashion journalism, but with no concept of how to properly execute a business plan that would allow for me to turn it into anything more than just a very time consuming hobby, it seemed like an unrealistic career choice. When you decide to forego social norms and to pursue your foremost passion – and yes, deep down, you already know what that is – most people will think you’re crazy. And if your story is anything like mine, you’re likely to encounter a zillion failures, a lot of criticism, plenty of public humiliation and no real measure of tangible success. With your bank account dwindling and your capacity to buy shoes food waning, you’ll start to question yourself and consider going back to what feels safe.
Most people settle for just that — security. And that’s fine. But you, dear reader, YOU have to seek out what sets you on fire and then pursue it with wild abandon.
If you keep going with it, and disallow yourself from accepting failure, you will find success because…well, Jay-Z says so (“The genius thing we did was, we didn’t give up”).
And once you do, you’ll get to spin around in a red dress at Lincoln Center and write about it for a living.