I was sitting in a crowded coworking café in San Francisco staring at my embarrassingly old Macbook and trying to summon the will to complete my homework assignments for the coding class I had moved across the country to for when I snapped.
“I don’t want to do this,” I thought.
Actually, my thought was much more specific and graphic. It was more along the lines of, “I would rather have all my teeth drilled out than do this.”
I closed up my laptop, left the café, and within the next 24 hours I had contacted Dev Bootcamp and let them know I wanted to quit. They knew better than to try to convince me otherwise. I had struggled with the decision to quit or continue the program for weeks. The feeling that coding wasn’t the right path for me had simmered inside, erupting in a few bursts of conversations with friends where I asked for advice and tried to listen. Finally, in that cafe, it boiled over. The goal I had worked towards for months – becoming a software developer – evaporated.
So now what do I do?
I’m still not sure.
I decided to stay in San Francisco for a few more weeks to relax – something I hadn’t really done, mentally or spiritually, in months, and maybe even years – and do some soul searching to determine my next steps. Ever since college, I had been stressing about my major and my career. Now it was time to force silence on my fears and listen to the small voice in my head that kept begging me to return to some kind of center or truth that I kept drifting away from.
After I quit the class, I thought that I would go back to working in digital marketing. I realized that I liked digital marketing a lot more than I liked coding. I started talking to new potential clients. I worked on a plan to expand my freelancing, grow my client base in San Francisco, and build my own agency in Atlanta. But I began to notice that every time I thought about marketing, my stomach would grow queasy. As time went on, my discomfort grew. "Maybe I like digital marketing more than coding, but do I really like digital marketing?" I wondered. I felt increasingly uneasy about returning to a path that I had felt happy to leave when I chose coding instead. So I did what any other seeker would do in my place. I flew to Hawaii.
I read two books on the plane: a collection of “The Pearl” and “The Red Pony” by John Steinbeck and If I Live to Be 100: Lessons from the Centenarians by Neenah Ellis. I found both of them at my favorite used book store on Haight Street, the Bound Together Anarchist Collective Bookstore, and I felt like both of them would help me sort out what was most important to me.
On the plane and in Hawaii, I was mostly alone. I hiked alone, scared I would break an ankle and die in the forest. I swam alone, scared that my bathing suit top or bottom would be ripped away from me in a swirling wave. I drank alone, not scared at all, because as usual, I made new friends at the bar. But mostly, I just thought a lot, alone.
Why can’t I find a career or a job that made me happy enough? I know better than to seek complete fulfillment in my work, but why can’t I find something that at least doesn’t make me feel depressed and frustrated on a regular basis? Why am I a failure? Why did I choose marketing as a career in the first place? I changed majors so many times trying to find the right mix of art and science, passion and practicality. But the reasons I chose marketing have almost nothing to do with what my jobs in marketing have required. I’m weary over digital privacy, invasive advertising, bullshit content creation, everything about it. This isn’t what I wanted. This isn’t what I thought I was getting into.
When I was a little girl, I loved ballet, Tae Kwon Do, reading, writing, building forts, hiking in the woods, making physical objects with my hands, being with people I loved. I didn’t like sitting in front of a computer for eight hours plugging away on a keyboard. I didn’t like being still and staring at a screen. I still don't like it. I like moving. I like being outside. I like working hard at things that seem meaningful in the physical world.
What if it isn't childish or selfish to try to find work that involves things that I've always loved?
The cliché of my revelation and situation wasn’t lost on me when, as I floated far out in a salty ocean, watching body boarders fight to ride a wave, feeling the tepid waves wash over me, pulling me back and forth while I treaded water to hold steady in one spot, I decided to quit digital marketing, too. I don’t want to work inside, at a desk, on a computer. I want to work with my body. I want to move. I want to be outside, at least a little bit. I want to see and feel and taste positive impact through my work.
I’m not sure what that means for my future, but I’m going to try to figure it out. I have some definitive goals and ideas, but they’re still in the works. Until I achieve some of them, I’m more unemployed than I have ever been. I always fell back on marketing-related freelancing in times of crisis; now I don’t have that. I can’t go back to it. I tried that, and it didn’t work. Now I have to move forward.
I’m ready to move.