Career Shift

Today begins my last week of office work. (Wahhoooo!) Every single day that I’ve been at work for the last two weeks since giving notice I have felt completely anxious about all of the work I should be doing at home, all of the errands I have piling up, all of the things on my to do list that are just waiting… for me. Once you give notice the “I don’t give a fuck” mentality kicks right in, and suddenly it’s like WHY am I here again?! Didn’t I quit two weeks ago?!

A few weeks ago Kamel and I got into a fight. This is not abnormal, but I’ll give you a moment to brace yourselves. What was the fight about? Well… when he got his job offer and accepted it, and gave notice, and it was all official, I took him out to a celebration dinner. There was champagne and steak and ocean views.

When I gave notice the following Monday, there was no celebration (aside from the internet giving a collective WAHOO!), and I was mostly ok with that because I felt like having the ability to give notice was gift enough. But then Kamel had going away lunches and going away get togethers and his last full day ended with a trip to the bar with a bunch of co-workers. Now, I wasn’t expecting any of this for myself. Actually, I think I would be straight up mortified if my job wanted to do anything special for me. In my ideal world my last day will come, I will go to work, the end of the day will appear, I’ll get in my car and drive off into the sunset. It will be gentle, and there will be no fanfare, I will simply stop showing up. And I will be relieved.

But then Kamel continued his crusade of convincing. His life’s work of trying to get me to WANT to move out of the city, and in this case – south. Foster City, Redwood Shores, Burlingame, Palo Alto. Months ago, when he first brought up the south, I said no. Hell no. And then he needled his way in to my brain and I thought, well maybe. If it’s cheaper, and true… it is warmer. So we looked. And every single time I would search for apartments I would get a sick, sad feeling in my stomach. That’s where we would be living? In that shitty one bedroom for similar rent, in the middle of nowhere? With bad carpeting, lame bathrooms, on the ground floor, with doors on the outside of the building (Like a Super 8 Motel)? No… I couldn’t. And I grew more and more frustrated.

Where is cheaper housing? It’s not in the city, it’s not north or south, and moving east would only add to commute time, not make it better. And is every apartment, even the one we are currently living in, a giant compromise? Why does this city have housing that I feel is “doable” at best? That’s the best reaction I have, “Yeah, I could do this. I guess it’s the best for the price…” It’s exhausting to not love your home. And it’s exhausting to not be able to afford (or be willing to spend the money on) apartments that would make you excited to live there. Apartments that would actually have charm vs just being old.

But Kamel didn’t let up. He didn’t want the commute, and he was convinced we’d find a better deal (something I had not seen in the months we had looked). And when I would say, “No. I worry I’ll be isolated, I’ll be driving into the city all of the time anyway. There is no where to walk out there, we’ll have to drive everywhere. Where will I go? What will I do? I will be stuck in the house all day and I will go insane!” he would tell me that I could work from anywhere now, that we never use the resources of the city (not true, but possibly perceived if you take them for granted), and what difference would it make for me, all I need is a computer, right?

This conversation happened for the third? fourth? fifth time one day while we were both at work, while I had tried again to want to move out of the city, tried to convince myself that it would be better, and again was terrified with the prospect of losing walkable coffee shops, the beach, a 5 minute commute to meetings, the ability to interact with people just by taking a bus downtown. And I realized that we had spent months preparing for Kamel’s job change. There had been discussion after discussion of options and budgets and what-if scenarios. There had been new clothes purchased, and celebration. What had we done to prepare for my job change? The most we had done was make sure that it could feasibly happen. And that was supposed to be enough for me. And I realized, no, I cannot work from just anywhere. No. Working remotely does not mean anywhere. More freedom, yes. Ability to work in my pajamas, in bed, with crumbs sprinkled about and still have a productive, self fulfilled day? No.

And ya know what? I’m having a career shift. I am not unemployed. I am not becoming a house-wife, and this has nothing to do with the wedding (though good timing for my sanity). It’s not about, “oh, I’ll try this and if it doesn’t work, I’ll just get a job.” This is my job. And I’m sure I’ll have many different paths and many different reinventions of what that means for the rest of my life. But just because it doesn’t look like what a job looks like on TV, and just because I’m not required to have a dress code, or a badge, or a desk with an inbox, doesn’t mean I’m not making money, and it doesn’t mean it deserves less respect.

So we’re staying here, in the city. And Kamel has stopped bugging me about moving closer to his job. And it’s an adjustment, these new life things. There are new schedules, and new time expectations, and we’ll pound them out and see what works and what doesn’t, and we’ll do it together. He told me the other day that he was planning on taking me out for a celebration dinner after my first day working from home. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me that before?!” As is a common statement in my house. And he said, ” I dunno… But I had been thinking about it for a while.” Sigh. It’s a learning process.

12 thoughts on “Career Shift”

  1. Thank you so much for writing this. I love your mentality. I too am in the middle of a “career shift” — though I wasn’t the one who chose to shift at this point in time. Just because I’m doing more work at home doesn’t mean that I want to bum around and do nothing, and it’s frustrating to me that because I don’t have a full-time I may be perceived as doing just that. What will you be doing for your new career? E-mail me if you’d like, I’d love to talk!

  2. Oh, BOYS. One day they’ll realize that just because they think about it doesn’t mean that we KNOW they’re thinking about it.

    YES. I’m so glad that you guys are getting in the right headspace for this. Working for yourself is a whole different structure, but there IS a structure. I’m so beyond excited for you I can’t stand it….
    I also think that your first week of working for yourself needs to come with at least two days of doing NOTHING but watching TV and eating ice cream. It’ll be a nice mini-vacation, it’ll get it all out of your system and you’ll be ready to really work. And because that’s what I’d do for the first two days of self-employment and I’m living vicariously through you.

  3. Oh heeeeeeey, this sounds familiar. Jon and I have both recently had career shifts (in his case a promotion/location change/new (better) boss, in my case a new company/same location/same boss/better circumstances). When his happened, I celebrated with him. When mine happened? Not-so-much. And it wasn’t until a couple friends took me out for celebratory drinks (yay APW girls!) that I realized I’d been missing the celebration because it WAS a switch, it WAS a decision I’d made to better my career, and dammit, it. Deserved. To. Be. Celebrated.

    I can see how Kamel could miss the “no I CAN’T just work from anywhere” issue. It’s a hard concept to grasp for those who haven’t ever worked remotely. But you’re totally right. This is a job. It should be fulfilling for you, and yes, it totally deserves respect. If you need something to make this successful (in your eyes) … then yes, that needs to be considered.

    As for moving/resources of the city … we’re having the opposite argument right now. He wants to move INTO the city … but it would require selling the car. And, as often as we DON’T use it, I’m still attached to the idea of having my car parked downstairs, ready for me to jump in it any time I need or want to go anywhere. And, just like your need to be near resources and people and anything else you can think up, my need to keep the car is completely valid.

    I’m still so freaking thrilled for you, for making this leap. Here’s to the next chapter!

  4. The negotiation of living environments and careers is difficult in relationships. Especially when both people are quite opinionated about what they want. There is no magic solution other than to talk and be completely open. Sometimes one person has to fold a little. The other has to make a concession or two.

    When the Beagle and I were discussing my career and moving to ND for my new job, it was a tense time. Neither of us wanted to live in ND, but I really wanted to advance my career. The Beagle did not want to leave the bustling Chicago metro. In the end we moved so that I could get further, but we ended up living in the apartment that the Beagle wanted to live in. So we both got a little of what we wanted. Not ideal, but it works.

  5. Times of shift are hard. Period. I am suffering through a hell of a lot of shift right now and perhaps when I am on the other side I will have some sort of fantastic advice, but for now, I say hang in there and be good to yourself.

  6. I’m sure they’ll miss you even if they don’t show any emotion but, come Friday, we’ll be celebrating your departure to better and more rewarding endeavours!

    You are a driven person and success will always accompany you!

    I’m proud of you!

  7. Hell to the yes. This is something I’ve been thinking about–I tend to downplay my career and that’s bad. I need to stick up for mine so he can stick up for his.

    I’m so glad you figured out what was going on!

  8. Oh man, I hear you on the Bay Area housing/rental market. I told Jason the other day that I’m so tired of feeling like “Okay, we can make this work” rather than “Oh my God, I so want to live here!” when we view potential apartments.

    On a brighter note, I’m so glad that you stayed with the process of figuring out your emotions/needs in regards to this career shift. It sounds like you’re in a really good mental space and relationship space to start this next stage.

  9. Yay for staying in the city where you are close to things and can walk places. I so so miss that. During the summer when I’m off, I would much rather walk out my door and go exploring or to a local coffee shop or park or even pool in my neighborhood. We have a family ‘park’ but the closest thing to local coffee is a McDonald’s near a strip mall. I can walk there, but I really don’t want to. Instead I become a lump and lose my inspiration. I am glad you spoke up for your needs, I am glad they are being met. I can’t wait to get out of the suburbs.

  10. Oh man, people so do not get that working remotely does not equal working anywhere. When my husband and I moved (and when we now look at houses) I continually explained that just like he has a dedicated office at work, I needed one at home. And no, a desk that I would have to pack up every night so that we can eat dinner does not count. A ledge in the living room open to all visitors does not count. I just want a space that I can keep as messy as I need to in order to work without feeling guilty that I’m ‘taking up’ this communal space.
    This is obviously an ongoing discussion. Especially as I’ve had to explain that once we have kids I need an office with a door. A toddler will not understand that from M-F 9-6 his weekend play space is now mommy’s office.

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