“The opposite of anger is not calmness, its empathy.” —Mehmet Oz
At 25, I had been working full-time for four years as a marketer within the corporate world. This was a career that my soul didn’t really sign up for but fell into due to financial responsibilites. I was drowning in student loan debt and the gig paid well— a giant b2b software company with a really great boss, good benefits and free travel every now and then.
But my spirit was dying on the inside. And then I started to live in fear.
I began to wonder if this was all there is to life— go to a job that doesn’t bring you joy, sit in traffic for an hour (or more), come home mentally exhausted, eat dinner, watch tv quietly with your partner, sleep and repeat until you die. I was deeply afraid of this permanence and I still am if I’m honest with myself. As a kid, I always imagined a very exciting adult life. But here I was, a marketer for a software company who was caught in the same daily boring routine. I became fearful of signing up for a life that I knew I didn’t truly want.
One day after a very long commute, I came home emotionally drained. My boyfriend as sweet as he was, had dinner ready for us. We started to chat about his day and afterward I decided to talk about a work event that happened during my lunch hour:
There was an event today with the Chief Marketing Officer. It was a panel where she shared with us her story on how she became a CMO. Everyone was so excited about the event. Everyone in the room wanted to be like her. My peers all desired to become CMO one day of some company. But I wasn’t excited. I didn’t care. It was really hard to care. The CMO gave pretty generic advice — you work hard, you network, you get notice, and you take risks. These are things I know already about life but I don’t want to apply them to become a CMO. I really just want to quit my job and become a traveling journalist or storyteller.
My college sweetheart responded with, “ yeah, but you need to stay with this job until you pay off all your debt.”
And I just completely lost it.
I started crying. I felt so alone. I didn’t feel understood by him. In my last post about mirroring, I think that if he tried mirroring my feelings it would have helped deescalate the situation. But as he defended himself, the sadness transformed into a raging frustration. I started to express how unhappy I was with the relationship,which escalated to how I believed we didn’t want the same things because he wanted to get married, have kids by 30,and settle down in a nice quiet suburb. I didn’t want any of that. I wasn’t sure about children but I was sure about wanting to fly around the world. The meltdown intensified. I felt trapped, out of control, and helpless. At this point, I was on the floor of our living room just sobbing hysterically. He eventually left me alone to process these things on my own.
Looking back, the meltdown would have happened regardless of mirroring. If the meltdown didn’t happen that evening, it would have happen either the next day or the next week. The ugly truth was that I needed a mental health professional to help me process the existential anxiety and general unhappiness I felt inside. Putting that burden on my college sweetheart was unfair to him. Though he tried lovingly to be my voice of reason, he couldn’t “fix” or help me. That was something I needed to do on my own with guidance from a professional.
But I was young, naive, and didn’t have access. Therapy wasn’t something my friends immediately thought about or talked openly about even if they were seeing someone. Back then, mainstream media didn’t broadcast mental health stories in the positive way it does now. I didn’t know what kind of support was available or what kind a therapist, counselor, or psychologist could offer me. I didn’t know where to start or how to ask for help. My parents weren’t very helpful. They had misconceptions about counseling and thought it was only for “crazy people” or people with “real problems”. They didn’t think I had real problems. My parents are war survivors. None of my present-day problems in the modern world will ever be big, crazy, or real enough because of their experiences. I’m not resentful towards them for believing these things, but it did a lot of damage to my personal growth.
After that meltdown, my spirit wanted to burn it all down and tear it all up. A few months later, I ended the 7-year relationship with my college sweetheart and asked my boss for a relocation. The request was approved within a week. Shortly after that, I was on a plane headed for the San Francisco Bay Area to live out my California dreams.