When I was in High School, I made my then girlfriend promise to punch me in the face if I ever started working for a bank. I knew how my brain worked by that point. I needed to be doing something at least slightly creative, and/or something that I was passionate about for my brain to function properly and not lead me to repeatedly bash my head against the fridge. A few years later, I found myself a) with a boyfriend and b) sitting in the legal department of a big bank, so I think she owes me a punch (or two).
I took the role at the tail end of a law degree which I struggled desperately through, but was in far too deep to stop, despite how unhappy it made me. My path wasn’t laid depressingly out for me, it was just a stepping stone, right? Except that there was seemingly no stone after it. Two years later and still in the same role, I found myself wondering how I became something Year 10 Andy would despise. It was actually really hard to get out. It was great experience and would be a great help in getting another job, but the other jobs were in banking and finance.
Admitting that you made a mistake and boldly declaring that you’re going to leave it behind for something more ‘you’ is a lot like coming out, really. And just like coming out, you’re not asking permission to be who you are, you’re just telling them, as a courtesy, because you don’t want Mum to find out that you’re never going to be a lawyer through Facebook!
I came out to my parents in a crowded bar and I thought that would be the most difficult thing I would ever have to tell them, but it was somehow worse telling them how unhappy I was in that job. Needless to say, it ended with me in an uncontrollable, snot-bubbly crying fit in the middle of a crowded restaurant.
It was only when I was alone in a meeting room, in the middle of a terrifying panic attack, that I realised that something was very wrong and that nothing was going to change whilst I allowed that job to remain an option. I had rent and bills to pay, but no responsibility is more important than your mental health. It will be okay.
I resigned without having another job (the horror!), but I landed a temp job the very next day in a much happier environment. I’d been slowly building experience in other areas that I enjoyed through volunteering and spamming recruiters. It was a deliberate move to give me time to think about how I want to actually spend most of my life and not get locked into something else that wasn’t right.
What is my dream career? I still don’t know, but keeping something an option when it’s fundamentally wrong for you is a sure way to get punched in the face.
Andy James is a winner of YOA’s Writing Competition in the category ‘Realising your dream.’
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