I recently left a job. I was only in the position for eight months and in some ways I feel like I failed. It was a position with a lot of responsibility and we were making significant cultural changes that were yielding exceptional results, but my stress level was higher than I was willing to continue to endure. I had to make a choice on whether to continue or to walk away. This was painful because I had moved my family from Texas to Virginia and thought that I would love the new challenge. In hindsight I do not regret the experience because I learned from it. Here are three major lessons I learned along the way.
- Your body will tell you when the stress is too much.
I was only in the job for about 3 months when I started to show signs of fatigue and headaches from working long hours and feeling stressed about trying to make change quickly in order to deliver results. Then, about a month later, our entire family got COVID. The surprising thing was that my husband and kids only had symptoms for two or three days. I was sick with a fever and nausea for 10 days and even ended up having to get IV liquids to be able to recover. While I was laying in bed, sleeping up to 20 hours a day I wondered why I was so sick? I am generally the most fit and nutritious eating member of the family. What was happening? In retrospect, I realize it was my body saying that I needed a break and that I need to take care of myself. The sad part is that I continued to work remotely the entire time. This was not an expectation of the company but rather my commitment to not back down from the job that needed to be done. It was not a good decision.
Eventually I went back to work but my body continued to tell me it needed rest. For the first week after my return I could only work half days before I would run out of energy and was having trouble breathing. I went back to the doctor and learned I had pneumonia which took me out of the office again for another five days. Eventually I recovered from COVID, but I started to have additional stress related symptoms including neck pain and even hair loss. At first I blamed these things on COVID recovery but realized later that these symptoms were also my body telling me that something needed to change. After about 8 months in the role, I resigned. The lesson here is to listen to your body and rest when you need it. Sometimes this means you have to completely quit something to regain your peace.
- You never know your true impact until you are leaving.
It was not easy to leave the team and resign. I underwent a struggle and stress over making that decision. The team was wonderful. Sure, we weren’t perfect, but in general everyone knew their role and I trusted them to do a great job. On top of that, we were starting to produce excellent results and we were growing. I didn’t want to disappoint the team by leaving but I also knew that my health had to come first or I wouldn’t be there to lead my work team and worse yet, be there for my family. After several weeks of deep consideration, I decided to quit.
I had a lot of fears about how the team would react. Would they be mad, or sad, or indifferent? Generally the team was disappointed but expressed that they understood my situation. This helped me to feel ok about my decision. The thing I did not anticipate was a few people who I didn’t really feel like I had strongly connected with during my 8 months came forward to individually express their feelings about me and what I brought to the company. Honestly I was blown away by some of these conversations from people who I thought may not have even liked me prior to resigning. It opened my eyes to two ideas. The first is that you never know who is watching your actions and how those actions make them feel about you. The second is to never assume someone doesn’t like you or is in opposition to what you stand for. It can be easy to read body language and think someone doesn’t like us but that may not at all be true.
3. Sometimes walking away from something will open a door to a dream.
Jake and I have dreamed of moving to Florida for many years. While my stressful situation was playing out another opportunity was shaping up, one that was remote. The position was open for a couple of months before I was at a place mentally to start looking for another job. I had a discussion with Jake because it was a unique opportunity and would allow us to move wherever we wanted. I was concerned that I would not be qualified or that the company may have been too far down the hiring process with other candidates and I would be too late. The strange thing is it is almost like the position waited for me and once I started the interview process it moved pretty quickly. I don’t know why the stars aligned but I am very happy they did! After my first several weeks in the new position it feels like I have found my sweet spot for my career and we will move to Florida after school is out for the summer. Yes, there can be a lot of stress with another move but I don’t feel stressed, I feel excited!
I wanted to share my story in case you are experiencing any of the same type of feelings of stress or may be questioning your future. Even if we take missteps, there is still something to learn. In fact, I wouldn’t change anything about the path I have taken even though some of it has caused pain and disappointment. Without those feelings it is hard to truly appreciate what we have when things are great!