An Honest Discussion of Career Struggles

It’s been such a tumultuous year. I know 2020 has been challenging for every human in existence. But for some of us “lucky” ones, it was next level transformation. I dealt with so much more this year than a pandemic and I am quite frankly reeling from it all.

I’ve been struggling immensely with the career change that I’m in the middle of, which irks me. I wanted (needed) a career change. Yet now that I’ve reached the moment where it has become reality, I am riddled with grief and I’m overwhelmed with so many conflicting emotions.

One part of life that doesn’t get discussed very often or openly is what happens when you lack the fundamental skills required for your job. I fought relentlessly to attempt to stay in a career that I simply am not well-suited for. Chemistry is wonderful. I love it because it makes sense and is more or less predictable. But it’s also rigid and unforgiving. It’s physically taxing for someone who has my set of health problems, too. It was a perfect storm for my destruction.

My attempt to stay in a career that I wasn’t suited for was costly. It cost me my health, both physical and mental. I regularly pushed myself past my breaking points to produce unbearably average work. Repeatedly doing that to myself broke me in ways that I am unable to put into words; I lack the appropriate vocabulary. My body tried to quit on me for this reason back in March. I wasn’t on my death bed, but I was too ill to function. I didn’t listen, either. I kept pushing and pushing until I was ultimately forced out in October by my health problems.

I destroyed my health for a job that grossly underpaid me. I fought tooth and nail for a field that didn’t value me. I broke myself for a job that was destructive to me. I was slowly falling apart instead of being somewhere that I could thrive and grow in. I was stuck in a horrible, toxic, negative feedback loop. Why did I do this? Partly because I didn’t know what else to do. My confidence was nonexistent. I had no energy to look elsewhere. And there was an unhealthily stubborn part of me that wanted to conquer that mountain and overcome those obstacles I was facing. I had an unhealthy view that if I walked away, it would mean failure. I didn’t fully comprehend what was happening and what I was up against, partially because you rarely hear about this kind of situation. I thought I was the problem and never took into consideration that chemistry and myself are not compatible, which is no one’s fault.

I’m slowly learning that knowing when to walk away from something is a skill and not a failure. Having boundaries with myself, my body, and the outside world is invaluable. Setting and holding boundaries is challenging for me because I am a people pleaser and I am painfully ambitious. But I’ve learned the importance of boundaries and the negative effects of not honoring those boundaries this year.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful for everything that has unfolded for me. I am thrilled to be changing my career and I am proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone in order to pursue a healthier, more fulfilling life. The road that lies ahead is filled with potential. Yet instead of finding myself in an excited state, I am devastated and overwhelmed.

Major changes and transitions are challenging even if they’re necessary or desired. Especially for someone like me who’s emotionally delicate. I’m working very hard to overcome the obstacles of my physical and mental illnesses. I’ve made tremendous progress, but I easily get overwhelmed by what I’m facing. I often feel as if I am going to be crushed by the mountain of responsibilities that come with adulthood.

I have the tendency to always be looking forward. I look to the future more than I spend time in the present. According to StrengthsFinder 2.0 this is one of my top strengths. Personally, it feels more like a hindrance than a strength because mine is on hyperdrive. I spend too much time looking forward and I look too far forward and by doing so everything looks gigantic and impossible. So instead of being inspired or ready for the road to come, I become paralyzed with fear and overwhelmed by the tasks ahead and find myself walking away from opportunities that I really shouldn’t be walking away from.

So here I am; amongst major personal changes in a year that has changed the world permanently. I’m once again facing the challenge of finding a new normal and I’m doing what I can to navigate everything. I have little to no experience when it comes to handling this style of change and transition. The concept of what happens if you’re not suited for the career you chose was beyond me prior to this year.

I hope that someday society will learn how to talk more freely about what happens when you’re in a situation you’re not suited for so that in the future when people face this road, there can potentially be a “map” to help guide the way. Because right now I’m guessing there’s a lot of people who’ve dealt with this and like me felt lost and worthless. I felt so overwhelmed and I felt like a failure. Now, at least, I know I am not a failure. But I wish I had prior access to some of the information I have now.

In my eyes, there’s no valid reason to not discuss these more challenging sides of life. I deeply feel we all must learn how to embrace the challenges of life more openly and freely. We must embrace our humanity and the concept that we are continuous works in progress and that is something to be celebrated, not shamed.

Humans are beautiful, malleable, resilient creatures. I look forward to the day where it isn’t considered uncommon to be brutally self aware and honest. I want a world where we won’t feel shame for our various struggles and weaknesses. It’s so much easier to embrace the path of healing if you have a society that honors that process instead of scoffing at it. We are all imperfect in different ways, we must stop pushing the fake image of everything being happy and okay all of the time. It isn’t realistic and it’s so incredibly harmful to the people who are smack in the middle of their own personal battles. I crave a world that allows for more authenticity.

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