“We have to let you go.”
I sat in a windowless conference room and could not believe what I was hearing. My director continued on. His words bounced off the indifferent walls, punching me in both cheeks on their way to the floor. A perfectionist and a top performer, I felt shock, disbelief, panic, resolve, and at last, relief.
Here is why.
I worked at a top notch company: aggressive, fast-moving, staffed with Harvard graduates and future McKinsey consultants. Fear-based management was the norm at the behemoth workplace. I witnessed―and experienced―anxiety attacks on a frequent basis. Work-life balance was at best ignored and at worst discouraged. We were constantly glued to our iPhones, available 24/7, always competing with colleagues on who would answer emails the fastest, who was “driving results” and getting “cross-functional alignment.” At this company, as in most of corporate America, macho culture still thrived and the numbers were what had mattered. This environment was starting to crush me.
So I was fired. The kick that we most sorely need often comes from an unexpected direction. The truth is, I never completely believed into what I was doing. I could never properly show excitement in endless meetings, conference calls, emails, sales performance reviews, ad campaign presentations, and field trips to research consumer needs. After four years in brand management, I had reached the dream of corporate America with good salary, increasing responsibilities, looming profit goals, and mounting pressures. But I could no longer remember why I was there and care enough to sell one additional widget to the consumer. Indeed, I revolted against the very notion of calling someone a “consumer” and lamented over my contributions to the increase of over-indulgence in our society. I wanted with all of my being to become a creator of humane stories, not an exploiter of human weaknesses, and had an on-going struggle between getting a comfortable paycheck and wanting to quit my job.
This was my second run in corporate America. My immediate impulse was to call all the recruiters I knew to start searching for my next gig. But I never picked up the phone. Instead, I decided to finally move in the direction of my dream. I’ve dreamt it for so many nights, doodled it on sheets of paper, and experienced glimpses of it during travels to faraway places. I’ve thought it, visualized it, doubted it, killed it, buried it, and resurrected it every time because it simply would not stay dead as it burst through the cracks of my being.
Naiveté notwithstanding, I dreamt of joining the growing ranks of creators wandering our world and sharing good stories about it. An Istanbul lover, I’ve always wanted to live in this incredible city and not just pass by on occasion. A self-taught photographer and writer, I’ve dreamt to study both crafts and make a living from the very act of creation. I’ve had ideas and projects I’ve yearned to implement, and felt that this was my chance to do so.
Why? You may ask. Why leave the security of corporate employment behind as I venture into the unknown?
Because life is short. Life is so short that to not attempt to do something with the fire that burns within us is a crime we inflict on ourselves. Because the world does not need another brand manager who will help a corporation make millions of dollars to satisfy shareholder needs. Because what the world sorely needs is more understanding, empathy, and connections between people from different places. And at its core, connecting people through stories is what my heart desires as well.
It would not be true to say that this is an easy choice. In fact, I am terrified as I’m writing these very lines. The thought of not having predictable income is still giving me the oh-so-predictable anxiety attacks. But beneath all that fear and anxiety, there is also hope. Hope that this perfectionist and top performer will figure it out. That the universe will notice me taking a small first step in the direction of the extraordinary life I know I am capable of living and will turn toward me as well.
Hope that in the end, I will get as close to living my version of truth as I can, or at the very least, will go down trying.
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I’m a travel writer, photographer, and a wanderpreneur. My work appears in Lonely Planet 2016 Literary Anthology, Upward Magazine, Matador Network & others. Learn more about me here and follow my journey on Instagram @insearchofperfect.