I left the kind of job that you don’t leave voluntarily. You leave if there is something equally prestigious or lucrative in queue. My job was really cool, too: I was an Executive Producer at one of the top advertising agencies in the country, arguably in the world. I had an amazing and talented team of producers working with me who I liked both as producers and as people. So what gives?
It had been itching at me for a while – a frustrating feeling of misalignment with my career, but no clear understanding of why. I thought about all the other possibilities for work I could do, businesses I might start, places I could go – but because I wasn’t sure my rationale, it was really hard to pull the trigger.
Despite the unrest in my mind, when I was at work, I never stopped doing the best job I could. I didn’t stop caring about my coworkers or their side projects in anime or their equestrian training. What happened instead was that as I started to realize more and more that I just didn’t belong, I felt further in tune with the people around me. What were they going through? What did they need to hear today? Had someone told them lately how much their work was appreciated?
I believe that we are our best selves in our “work” when other areas of our lives are balanced, too. Nurturing our creativity, passion and wellbeing outside of an office environment helps us flex that muscle inside of an office. Without going completely Pollyanna, during those last few months at my job, I stepped into my version of that role, and I did my best to exude positivity. As always, I looked for how I could help problem solve at the office, but I started to go beyond just those issues involving everyday matters such as schedule or budget. Were people fulfilled? I wanted to know. What was going on in their lives outside of the office? I wouldn’t instigate beyond a simple “how are you?” but when my colleagues would open up to me – and they started to open up to me – I would listen fully and intently. I let my entire heart hear them. I did my best to ask questions, and, when they would speak, I would deeply pause, creating the supportive space to hold their full expression.
For some time, my new role of being extremely present with my co-workers had the added benefit of carrying me through my own inner turmoil. Perhaps it was the feeling of my own misalignment that allowed me to see it in others as well. And, on the flip side, it was then that I was also able to notice when someone was on top of their game, sailing through, making everyone else’s lives easier around them through their dedication and insights.
Still, despite the satisfaction I was feeling by living consciously and presently, I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I made the bold decision to give my notice anyway. And as I winded my way out of an exceptional job that had given me so much for a decade of my life, I refused to accept any offers for interviews in production. I took a look at my monthly expenses and my savings and, realizing I had the runway, I gave myself the gift of a 180 into the unknown.
My inner voice said, “Jordana, you don’t have to do anything or be anyone for anyone else right now. The only message that has been clear to you is that this isn’t the place for you anymore! So let it go. You’re so good at planning, and at getting ahead of yourself. What if you didn’t need a plan? What if you trusted in what you might do, what you might create in the world, or what you might create within yourself? There’s a lot to learn outside of the parameters of that windowed office with your name printed neatly on the doorway. What’s the next right thing?”
That has become my mantra: What’s the next right thing? I won’t deny that I still have maps of everything, but I’m doing my best to look right in front of me. I don’t have to create an enterprise; I have to follow what feels right, right now. And if following that feeling leads me astray, well, that’s what ten years of hard work is for. If you planned the way I did, it’s what savings are for. This knowledge freed me to make choices that will, and have already, led me to where I can enjoy and experience more deeply.
Not being crystal clear on what’s next and letting go of a huge part of my life – my job that didn’t fulfill me – was my 180. And, let me tell you: The unknown is scary as f*ck.
But in embracing that very real fear and in not letting it stop me, I opened myself up to opportunities that are in line with my life’s values. What I want for myself right now is the freedom of time and the ability to travel with a focus on both self-care, and on work that gets me excited. What gets me excited? Adding my own creativity, storytelling and strategic abilities in the areas of body movement, consciousness, music and natural foods.
Caveat: I claim to have nothing figured out except the next right thing for myself. Again, that is my mantra.
So, what happened?
The next right thing strategy led me to paid project roles with clients in the areas of storytelling, health and philanthropy, and a lifestyle where I’ve been able to choose where I work.
For example, a meeting over juice to catch up with an old acquaintance led to me designing a business development role at his production company that I love. Going to a free class at an acting studio led to doing social media strategy for a movie in exchange for one-on-one professional coaching from a top teacher.
This isn’t a break from working, but I’m realizing that I wanted play to be a huge part of my “working” life. I also wanted boundaries for myself: I wanted to see what it would be like to work in a way that frees me up to do hours of morning yoga or have a mid-afternoon walk to the co-op where I stroll up and down the aisles, striking up a conversation with an old lady who opens the door to an invite to tea with her family from Peru. It’s fun and I’m laughing with joy about it. I’m grateful.
I laugh more today than I did before. I laugh seeing the humor and the goodness in life, often when you least expect it. I laugh when I think of how things work out… or how they don’t. I see each day as more than adventure, but as an opportunity for magic, for unlikely conversations, and for surprising connections. Sometimes I find the magic and sometimes I create it myself, but that wonder and awe that’s come back into my life is, it turns out, exactly what I had been missing.
I’m pretty sure that no one will ever say, “You need to make a million dollars a year to be happy.” And by the way, it’s not that I won’t make a million dollars a year – it’s that my focus has shifted. Yes, I want to support myself financially, and so I do that. But beyond numbers, the question is no longer: How do you make millions? Now the question is: How can you add more joy today?
And, of course: What’s the next right step for you?