34: A Happiness Throttle

34: A Happiness Throttle

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

A Happiness Throttle

When I get logical, and I don’t trust my instincts — that’s when I get into trouble.

~Angelina Jolie

I checked the clock on the bottom right corner of my office computer. Only ten minutes longer. I sent another e-mail, then checked the clock again: only nine minutes now. Eight minutes later, as the clock struck 5:29, I closed my office laptop as quickly and quietly as possible, wished my team a good night, and scuttled off the fifth floor.

There should be a survival kit for navigating your twenties. What no one ever tells college students is how little they’ll be prepared for the real world once they get out there. Many will not get the job they wanted. The job they do find will be different than the job they dreamed about.

On top of that, friends will be moving to opposite ends of the country, romantic relationships may end, and unless you’re in the small minority of twenty-somethings, life will become about surviving paycheck to paycheck, in a world of unpaid internships and night jobs where college degrees mean squat.

Phew. At least I had a job.

The elevator, taking five minutes too long, took me down to the first floor, where the desk attendant tipped his hat goodnight. Trudging two blocks to my car, I shoved my heavy briefcase onto the back seat. I climbed into my Honda CRV and peered at my hair in the rearview mirror. It was frizzing from the humidity as usual. I sighed. Curly hair problems.

I had been one of the lucky ones. After graduating with honors, I’d packed my bags and headed to the big city for a well-paying internship with good job potential upon completion. I hoped this would be my opportunity to expand my professional résumé, enjoy the culture Washington, D.C. had to offer, and figure out what I was supposed to do with my life.

Boy, was I wrong.

Before I knew it, I was swept into the entry-level job world: long hours behind a computer screen, customer service calls from rude clients, horrible commutes, carpal tunnel syndrome, and robotic work I didn’t give a darn about.

I had studied the liberal arts: Psychology, English, and Sociology. I was supposed to be working in a job that allowed me to use my passions, not ignore them. This was not at all what I had signed up for.

A dark wave of depression floated over me. This was hell.

Well-meaning opinions from parents and friends did not help. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at their attempts to console me.

“Everyone hates their first job.”

“You just need to adjust to the professional world.”

“Just give it time.”

“You’re only twenty-two. You don’t know what you want.”

But I did know. At least I knew that I didn’t want this. Doing what every twenty-something was supposed to do wasn’t working for me. Following the path most traveled felt like the fastest path to my self-destruction.

So I decided to turn in my notice.

The next morning, as the alarm shrieked me awake from a peaceful slumber, instead of dragging myself out of bed, I jumped. This was the beginning of the end. As I stepped into my knee-length skirt, black flats, and gray blazer, I was overcome by a sense of calm, the likes of which I hadn’t felt for months.

When I arrived at work, I even grinned at the desk attendant. “Good morning ma’am,” he said, a twinkle in his eye.

My smiling co-workers were grinning, too, as they brought fresh toasted bagels and coffee from the kitchen. We made small talk and then settled into our morning tasks. Somehow, the snippy client seemed less angry this morning. The market research less draining. My carpal tunnel syndrome less painful.

As the clock struck 5:29, I approached my supervisor. I calmly shared my action plan.

“Thank you for your hard work,” she replied. “Let me know if you ever need anything.”

I trudged the familiar path to the parking garage. I paused for a moment and smiled.

Two weeks later I packed my bags and moved back to my college town. I found a job working with kids with special needs and began a part-time freelance writing career. And I found out special needs kids are the greatest and writing is transcendent.

Money is not worth it if you hate your job. The key to happiness may very well be doing what you love. Sometimes all it takes is a spontaneous life decision to bring back your joy. In order to live a truly authentic life, it becomes necessary to throw away the rulebook and answer to one person and one person only: yourself.

~Alli Page

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