Uncertainty. There’s something about that word which makes people uncomfortable. The state of not being certain. Not knowing.
I am no exception to this. I love to over plan (as evidenced by my fully loaded Excel tracking doc and Trello board and Post-It notes all repeating variations of the same information). I wake up in the morning thinking about all the things I’m going to do today, who I’m going to talk to, what I’m going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And then I go to bed that night thinking about what I’ll do tomorrow.
The certainty of routine comforts me.
So what was it then that recently drove me to quit my job that I held for the past 2 years? Day to day, things were pleasant enough and I had a group of friends who I could confide in. I owed a lot to the company who had taken me in as an intern, hired me on full-time afterward, and then promoted me within a year. It was also because of this job that I discovered my interest in marketing and branding. I was (and am) thankful.
But thankful doesn’t mean the same thing as happy. And truth is that I was miserable. I would wake up in the mornings dreading work, and go to bed at night dreading the morning. I would even stay up late just so I could prolong the amount of waking hours I wasn’t at the office. But, if the day to day was good enough, why was I so unhappy?
In hindsight, I see now it was the mere certainty of it all that unnerved me. I saw a clear path for myself: if I stayed, I could continue developing our employer branding programs and social media platforms. I would eventually get the title I deserved (like social media or branding specialist, rather than recruiter), be promoted to a supervisor role and maybe even a manager. I was already getting nods of approval from the executives. I could eventually quit in a few years and get a better paying senior manager job in another corporation and be one of those people who speak at HR or marketing conferences and whose bio would go something like, “Gelaine began her successful career as …” and then ramble on about all my accomplishments (which always sound better on paper than real life).
For many, this sounds awesome (and for good reason). But I didn’t want that. Not one bit. The thought of staying in this path and spending the next few years climbing up a decrepit and fragile career ladder made me feel disappointed in myself. Was this what I studied political science for, what I travelled 12 countries for and volunteered in rural villages for, what I was working towards when I joined those non-profit student leadership organizations and led conferences about global citizenship? All to make someone else more money and take one week’s vacation at a time? These realizations brought me to tears when I would come home from work. How could I have let myself down so much?
So I quit. I have no job. I’ve reached out to a few contacts and have an interview for part-time work this afternoon. I signed up for a few courses online and through a local college which are starting next week. I have three or four projects going on, all of which excite me but may or may not lead to anything. I still have my five to-do lists and my meals for the week decided on, but nothing except uncertainty planned ahead.
Though for now, here I am at home on a Wednesday morning drinking coffee from my favourite mug, writing this post in my PJs as I sit next to the balcony and listen to the rain outside plink gently against the windows. Days like these make me thankful. Days like these make me happy.
So yes, uncertainty is a scary word. But sometimes, when what’s certain isn’t enough, maybe uncertainty is what we need.