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Personal Essay | What Happened When I Ignored My Heart: A Cautionary Tale

By Katie Baron

“The decision has been made, rather than giving you a choice.”

My stomach dropped. My body tensed. I kept thinking, “This can’t be happening!”

I was being switched to a position I’d said I didn’t want during my entire decade-long career there. I’d even mentioned it to this particular manager a mere five weeks ago when the topic had casually (or so I’d thought) come up.

Even so, I didn’t feel there was malice behind the decision. I believed her when she said management thought it was a great opportunity for me. But the second I was back in my cube, I closed off the entrance and started sobbing as quietly as I could.

This job was the exact opposite of what my soul was pulling me towards. There’d be no creating from the ground up. No schedule flexibility. I’d be on projects that were completely the wrong fit. Plus I’d have an increased workload with no increased paycheck. Lateral move? Yeah, right.

I made a long list of reasons why the job wasn’t right for me. As I respectfully went through it with the manager, she reasoned away every single objection. She did this with good intentions, clearly trying to get me past my “apprehension” so I would see the great opportunity; she just didn’t seem to realize that was never going to happen.

Instead, my concerns were addressed with noise-canceling headphones to reduce the loudness of my new environment. I was also told that if I hated the new job, I could return to my previous position (which later turned out not to be true).

That first week went by in a blur of barely-controlled fury and uncontrolled tears. I continued speaking up for myself, but it didn’t matter. Management just wanted me excited about the new position. They also wanted me to actually say I’d take it, even though it had been made clear this was happening. I felt completely unheard, disrespected, and betrayed.

Frustrated-woman

However, I realized their original declaration had been wrong: The decision had been made, but I DID have a choice. I could stay, or I could go.

I chose to stay.

The idea of losing my salary and benefits scared the hell out of me, and I gave in to the litany of fear-filled thoughts. Instead of resigning, I had sessions with my life coach. Clearly, this job switch was happening, so I wanted to start it with as open a heart as possible.

My heart stayed clamped shut. I should’ve known. Life coaching doesn’t make wrong situations feel right; it helps you follow your intuition, and mine was clearly telling me to leave.

Not ready to jump ship just yet, I started looking for jobs, stepped up the marketing for my own life coaching business, and crossed my fingers.

Meanwhile, I was quickly discovering that the new job was even more horrible than I’d imagined. On a personal level, things went from bad to worse.

I cried multiple times a day (and I’m normally not a crier). My shoulder started twitching, and sometimes the best I could do was minimize the intensity and hope no one noticed. Health issues that had been a moderate inconvenience started getting more severe, and new pains joined the party, too. It was a constant struggle to quiet the “I QUIT!” scream that so desperately wanted out.

After three months with no new job opportunities in sight, I was mentally, emotionally, and physically wrecked. My long list of self-coaching tools helped in the moment, but their positive effects vanished the second I got back to work.

I had so many medical appointments, I never worked a full week. Ultimately, my doctor and I agreed that I needed medical leave. Time away helped slightly, but I could still feel the massive stress of the situation as if it were an angry grizzly bear sitting on my chest.

After two weeks, I told my doctor I was ready to return to work, and she cleared me. As I left, a kind word from a nurse sent me sobbing and running back into the cold comfort of the exam room. Yet I still let the thought “I have to go back” override the message my soul was so clearly shouting at me.

At work, my stomach pain returned. The anger and frustration kept leading to tears, ultimately so extreme that during the drive home, I had to pull over to bawl/hyperventilate.

Eventually, I made it home. As I was standing in the kitchen, my mom said something that, had I been in a different state, would’ve annoyed me a little. Instead, it infuriated me. I yelled at her (unlike me), threw my water bottle (very unlike me), and collapsed into an inconsolable puddle of sobs and gasps.

I restarted medical leave and finally stopped fighting the inevitable. It was time to quit.

When I went back to the office, I felt calm and clear. My resignation was to be effective that day due to health reasons. Sure enough, within a few minutes of being there, a new, searing pain started shooting through my core and down my arm. My body was screaming at me to get the fuck out, and the only way to lessen the agony was to repeatedly promise myself I’d soon be gone for good.

Giving notice and packing up felt surreal yet right. But quitter’s remorse unexpectedly kicked in during the drive home. Variations on “You’ll run out of money!” started reverberating in my head. This time, though, the thoughts felt separate from me. I gave them free rein to voice their fears, and after five minutes, the regret was gone—forever.

*           *           *

I still believe management came from a good place, but their disregard for my vision for my career and their refusal to hear my repeated objections was incredibly insulting. The anger I felt towards them made complete sense.

However, the suffering I endured was all on me. I chose to stay. I chose to ignore my inner wisdom. I chose to allow people to treat me in a way went against the core of who I am. It didn’t have to be that way. I knew exactly why my health was declining and what I needed to do to change that. Yet I let the fear win over and over again.

Surprisingly, I wouldn’t change a thing. This was exactly the experience I needed to finally and fully understand that it’s not just important to follow my heart—it’s imperative. After many months, I’ve reached the place where I can see and appreciate the massive amount of good that came from my time with that company. And yes, that includes management. If it hadn’t been for them, I might never have taken the leap.

It hasn’t been easy since I left, but even during the hardest parts, I’ve never doubted my decision. My health is vastly improved. I’m freer, clearer, and happier than I’ve ever been. And regardless of where this path takes me, I know I’m living in my truth and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

And that, my friends, was worth it all.

 

Katie Baron is a life coach and freelance writer. She’s passionate about helping others learn to listen to their hearts and create more joyful, fulfilling lives. Katie also loves traveling, being in nature, animals, clever wordplay, and naps. For more information, check out Katie’s websites at baronlifecoaching.com and katiebaroncreative.weebly.com.

 

Photo credit: “Aaahhh!!!” by Evil Erin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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