The day I woke up praying I had contracted some type of illness so I could avoid another soul-sucking day in my cubicle was the day I knew I needed to leave my job.
It had been a full year where simply stepping into the office gave me an overwhelming feeling of heaviness and all-consuming dread.
Monday through Friday, between the hours of 7 am and 4 pm, I felt completely dead inside.
Suddenly, staying put for health insurance and a steady paycheck seemed like an entirely uneven exchange.
So on that day, I set my quit date.
I frantically texted the most trusted members of my inner circle, divulging my plan before I could grasp what a hugely challenging endeavor I had just committed myself to.
I didn’t have another job lined up or even a position I hoped I might be qualified for.
I simply had an unavoidable need for freedom and a few freelance writing gigs with potential.
When I finally gave my notice, I found myself choking on the words, “I’m starting my own business.”
Saying them to my superiors felt childish and naive.
I didn’t have a business name or any legitimate paperwork. I only had the intention to figure it out along the way.
There was no plan B.
Three months later, with a registered business and several bonafide clients, I can say the side effects of venturing out on my own weren’t entirely what I expected:
1. Money seems far less important.
When I was confined by the walls of my cubicle and churning away at work I couldn’t muster up much excitement for, earning a certain amount of money was essential.
After all, it was my compensation for turning over precious brainpower and the most substantial chunk of my waking hours.
Even when I first thought about starting a business, my mind immediately went to the income potential for such an endeavor.
I crunched numbers and visualized cashing checks bigger than the ones I was currently cashing.
Then, as I dove deeper into establishing a life based on enjoyment rather than obligation, something strange happened: Money didn’t matter as much.
What was once a mindset of, “I better be getting paid to do this” turned into, “I’m so lucky I get paid to do this.”
That was an amazing thing.
2. I’m a better friend, daughter, sister and girlfriend.
Feeling as if I was stuck in a never-ending cycle of loathing my day-to-day life was utterly exhausting, both for myself and those who had to endure my mood swings and bad attitude.
This exhaustion — paired with the monumental task of tackling additional work on the side — led to “busy” being the most commonly used word in my vocabulary.
My work was receiving my energy, and those I loved were receiving the short end of the stick.
Yes, starting a business is a challenge most aren't prepared for.
But when starting a business is mixed with establishing an overall well-balanced, intentional life, something magical happens.
When I’m happy, I'm more likely to make others around me happy.
An improved demeanor means they are more likely to want me around in the first place.
3. Life and work transition seamlessly.
There’s nothing that points out how much you dread your job than how you feel coming back from vacation.
For me, there was a clear delineation.
Happiness, passion and joy were left in whatever tropical location I was visiting, and obligation, work and an overwhelming feeling would be greeting me at the gate upon arrival.
Now, my mind has deconstructed the brick barriers that separated my work life from my personal life.
Sundays morph into Mondays with nearly as much ease as Fridays into Saturdays.
Work isn’t to be endured in order to reach the weekend, but to be appreciated as something that creates challenges and carries the possibility of feeling really damn good about what I produce.
Feeling steadily content — whether it’s Monday or Friday — is something I didn’t know I would be so incredibly grateful for.
4. Time is no longer the enemy.
I used to hate time.
I hated how it would creep at a mind-numbingly slow place between the hours of 1 pm and 4 pm.
I hated how I had to request it, routinely counting how long it would take me to amass X amount of vacation days.
I hated how weekends never contained enough time to make a dent in household tasks while still having fun.
Time moves much faster now, regardless of the day of the week.
But, it’s in a things-are-flowing-so-well-I-forget-to-look-at-the-clock type of way.
I don’t mind when down time flies by because work is no longer something I need to muscle through.
Time and I now have a cohesive relationship built on mutual respect. That’s how I like it.
5. Guilt is persistent.
I used to wake up at 5:30 am every day, drive the 20 minutes to my office and spend the next eight and a half hours trying to be as productive as possible.
Today, I woke up at 7:20 am and immediately had a small panic attack that if this “laziness” continues, I won’t create the business success I’m hoping for.
It turns out, guilt — especially the type born from the rules of traditional office life — dies hard.
When I pound away at a project for a solid five hours and have a gloriously free afternoon stretched out in front of me, guilt rises up to greet me.
I immediately think of five tasks to complete, operating from the underlying belief being busy and filling a time slot equates to a productive day.
I thought I’d toss out these antiquated ideas when I left cubicle life, but it turns out this is one thing that’s a perpetual work in progress.
But considering how far I’ve come and the world of difference I’ve seen in my life, this is a small price to pay.
I may not receive money at the same designated time each month, and my health insurance is something I now cover, but I’ve been reinstated as the owner of my life.
There is nothing more valuable than that.