Ok, so it’s not a rock in the picture, but the gear analogy for a mechanical engineer is a good one. And on top of that, I didn’t notice until today that this little figure I had representing my career is actually pushing that gear uphill.
I’ve been pushing for over ten years now.
Pushing to get ahead.
Pushing to work as much and as hard as I could.
Pushing to be the best.
Pushing to impress others.
Pushing to educate on new technology.
Pushing to have a seat at the table.
Pushing to be promoted.
Pushing to be heard.
Pushing to be respected.
Pushing to make things better.
But I’m tired.
And I’m sick.
And all the incessant striving has burnt me out.
It shouldn’t be this hard.
I took a step back recently and began to evaluate where I was and why I was feeling so uninspired, so detached and so very unhappy. Here’s what I found:
I lost my sense of purpose
You see, I’d driven for years to get the bigger project, the higher title, the raise, and even the corner office. And I achieved it all. But none of that made me any happier. None of it gave me a sense of fulfilment or purpose. I thought I wanted the stuff – I thought that was the end-game. As it turns out, for me, all the stuff had no bearing on my sense of happiness, pride and worth. I had to be very honest with myself and admit that what I was doing in my 9-to-5 was not bringing any good into this world, and that my true purpose is helping to bring health, happiness and inspiration to the lives of others.
I was fighting battles I’d never win
I took a personality test the other day to discover that I am a Reformer – someone on a mission to improve the world by overcoming adversity. Well, enter Kattie – the young female race car aerodynamicist in the most male-dominated industry you could find (automotive engineering). I naively believed I could bring about change by being good at what I do, fighting for what is right, and helping other women in the industry. I went against many a manager at many points in time during my career, because I only ever do what I believe to be right. But I was fighting to be heard and recognized and supported in an industry that is simply not ready for it. I have no control over other people’s opinions of me, and yet, deep down, I was hoping that if I did a really good job, maybe things would become more inclusive for the women who toughed it out.
I suppressed my intuition
I knew that things didn’t feel right, and yet I kept heading down the very same path. I have a built-in warning system (unfortunately) that alerts me to things being wrong through physical illness. I know when I am out of alignment with my own personal values and beliefs. I get very ill. And I’ve been very ill, on-and-off, for over three years. It’s time to take that more seriously, and make bigger changes in order to look after myself.
I ignored my entrepreneurial DNA
I only realized this when an HR notice was sent out about changes to our personal emergency leave policy. Something so seemingly innocuous had me up in arms. But it wasn’t the actual policy or the change to the same that was chaffing at my subconscious, it was my resistance to being told how and when to live my life. The older I get, the more I know myself, and the greater my ability is to dictate my own preferred working conditions, schedule and personal needs. I could no longer be handcuffed to a desk in a specific location from 8:30am to 5:00pm every weekday.
I didn’t come to this decision easily. It took months of contemplation, of soul searching, of long conversations with my fiancé. But I did it. I handed in my notice, and as of Tuesday, I am no longer a full-time engineer.
Instead I’m following my heart, my curiosities, and where I believe my greater purpose is. I discovered it when I began working at barre3, and I’m expanding on that by also becoming a personal trainer. It’ll be a big transition for me, but one I am excited about. I will be working with other women to inspire them to be their happiest and healthiest selfs every single day.
I am going from working with all men to working with all women.
From a desk job to being on my feet all day.
From a set 9-5 schedule to my own schedule.
From a steady pay cheque to variable income.
From the status quo to the unconventional.
The big change happens this week.
Pushing the rock uphill will come to an end.
Saying goodbye will be hard.
But moving on is necessary.