There are times in everyone’s life when enough is enough. When you’re so exhausted of doing the same dance each day that you have a ‘moment’. You wind up making a snap decision that if we were talking about a movie, would be accompanied by those painful violin noises to warn the audience of danger.
I’ve had quite a few of these moments in my life, seemingly more than those around me. Perhaps spending the majority of my adult-life without a partner and kids has given me a lot of flexibility that others don’t necessarily have. I have been labelled everything from brave to reckless and I’m sure that certain people think some of my life decisions have just been downright stupid. Alas, here we are.
Stuff it moment #1: the teenage years
In the last year, I’ve been very open about my struggles with mental illness and more specifically, an eating disorder as a teenager. I haven’t written much about the day when one comment flicked that switch in my brain and I decided I was done with being ‘a bigger girl’. And for the record, if you ever call anyone ‘a big girl’ or any variation of that because you think it’s better than calling them large or overweight, think again. Such comments – as flippantly and unknowingly as they are dished out by people – leave scars on people. In my case, I was around 13 at the time and I have no idea why but a group of friends were having some kind of discussion about my weight and the fact that I wasn’t thin. We’ll change that, I thought… and I did, albeit to an extreme.
Upon reflection, I’ve never been one to do anything in halves. I do everything to death. From my obsession as a kid with AFL, to my early tweens when I loved the boyband 5ive, to my lifelong obsession with Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Once I have something in my head, my dedication appears to be on another level and I follow it through… sometimes to the (almost) death. That seemingly innocent day and split second decision when I decided to turn the tables on my ‘bigger girl’ status, was eventually followed by another decision after much suffering and one night when I truly thought I was dying to try and eat (click here to read more about my lived experience of an eating disorder).
Stuff it moments #2 and #3: the twenties
I surprised many people by digging myself out of the black quicksand that is an eating disorder. I earned a place at university and studied a Bachelor of Journalism before eventually finding full-time employment. I had big aspirations and my ambitions led me to work pretty much 24/7 for four years in the hope of being promoted. In a nutshell, I knew I needed that title to be able to move on to a more secure position in terms of being paid what I was worth. The hint of the promotion was always there and I got to a point where there was nothing else I could do to prove that I could do the role. So after requesting six weeks of annual leave to go on a European holiday with my family and being approved for four instead (to be fair, quite a reasonable amount of time in hindsight), I decided to drum to my own beat, hand in my resignation and go on my six week trip. Unaware of what was going on behind the scenes, the wheels were actually turning and plans were being made to promote me. But it was too late – we had booked the trip. Trust me, it was quite the conversation telling my boss at the time that the boat had sailed.
I remember feeling so devastated. Something I had worked so hard for over four years, gone in the blink of an eye and because of a decision I had made. At the end of the week, I remember driving my car to McDonalds, ordering a caramel sundae and drowning my sorrows with soft-serve ice-cream – as you can imagine, my eating disorder tendencies didn’t usually lead me down the road of comfort food. Luckily enough for me, in the end, I got to go on my trip and come back to my promotion.
So I came back from six weeks of seeing the best that the world has to offer and spent another year working as Communications Manager with the company. Restlessness consumed me – after so many years in essentially the same role, the only challenge was the workload and not really the work itself. Plus, I still wasn’t being paid enough to do the things I wanted to do with my life like travel more and buy my own place. So my eyes started wandering and I used one of the only days I can remember ever being sick in five years or rocking up to work late, to go to a job interview. It seemed like a dream – a new role that I could mould into whatever I wanted it to be, a much larger pay packet and a challenge that I was so thirsty for. So after a lot of thought and brushing aside a heap of relentless guilt, I accepted the job offer after only one interview.
Stuff it moment #4: the twenties continued
For a couple of months, I was truly high on life. I went from getting paid modestly (perhaps that’s generous) and doing two or three people’s work, to getting paid well and not doing much. Each day was mine to create whatever I wanted to. It was such a change of pace that after a couple of months, I was bored out of my brains and clock watching. One day felt like a week. To make matters more complicated, my former partner also worked in the same company (yes, I know what you’re thinking because I’ve thought it myself: that probably helped me to land the gig after only one interview). Being unhappy at work was definitely creating tension between us and I felt backed into a corner. Should I stay or should I go?
After one too many mornings of wishing that my public transport ride would derail my journey into work, I decided to hand in my resignation after less than six months with the company to start my own business. In hindsight, I wasn’t prepared for the aftermath and destruction my decision caused. I basically blew up my working life (the General Manager didn’t take it well and set out to make my last week a living nightmare – she did that job very well) and my relationship at the same time. When you’re planning your future with someone, it’s hard to swallow when they seemingly back someone at work over you, even if it is their boss. That’s how it felt and we never got over that: the trust was gone.
If I had my time again, I would have handled the entire situation differently with my 32-year-old hat on. I’d like to think that I could have had the courage to have an honest and open conversation with my then boss to see if she was open to adjusting the role – or even just to fill her in on how I was feeling – before making any bold decisions. Unfortunately, I can’t go back in time. That said, I don’t think anything I did justified her unacceptable treatment of me for that last week… especially as a more mature woman who would happily tout her ‘women supporting women’ attitude. Women supporting women is about more than a snappy hashtag.
My advice to anyone reading this would be not to wait for the chaos and darkness of unhappiness and restlessness to trigger a ‘stuff it’ moment. Know that you have every right to choose a different path for yourself to the path people may have planned for you and move forward as gracefully as possible.