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Is your mental health worth a pay cut?

When I moved to Florida (one year ago) I had a position as managing editor of a high-quality publishing company. The position offered almost 3 times what I was making in my last position, it was "work from home," and sounded like a complete dream.


Work from home in Florida? Yes. Please.


My partner at the time worked on the beach, just two blocks from our little apartment, and would come home smelling of salt, sand, and water.


I'd spent the day... sitting at a computer.


I convinced myself that I should be grateful that I am indoors (out of the extreme heat), get to eat when I want to eat and whatever I want to eat (this too became a problem), and that if I wanted to wear yoga pants all day.. I could do exactly that.


But my BODY, my SPIRIT, my MIND, weren't being stimulated or nourished in the way they had previously. I began to crave my early twenties when I was guiding mountain expeditions, trekking through the desert, and just spending time outdoors. A lot of time outdoors.


Working from home was stifling my spirit, creativity, and all-around happiness.


I was sad - and LIVING IN FLORIDA.


How can one be sad when they're LIVING IN FLORIDA???


I wasn't sure, but my performance definitely showed. I wasn't happy feeling chained to a desk, working from home, and supposedly living the dream but defs not feeling like I was living the dream. I started hiking over to my partner's beach at the end of the day and helping him haul chairs just for my own damn mental health.


"You don't need to help us," his 19-yr-old coworker would say.


I'd be all sweaty, hauling chairs with a knee-bent grip, and say, "No, trust me, I'm happy to help."


He'd just shrug and say, "Okay."


There was also a host of issues running behind the scenes of this life, for example: knowing that I needed to leave my relationship and not doing shit about it, and knowing that I am unhappy in my current role but telling myself that "it's good money and so so so good for my career."


But why should I have to sacrifice my mental health for my career? And money?


Working from home might work for some but it wasn't working for me. I had to sit with myself and be brutally honest-- I needed change.


I called a friend from Minnesota and told her how unhappy I was.


She said, "Em, I was just watching a TikTok of this girl who worked from home and making bank with this tech company but was super depressed and so she dropped it and went to work at COSTCO."


She continued, "She's way happier at COSTCO."


Days later, I got the worst performance review of my life.


My executive editor called in one of the owners of the company and sat down across from me (through a screen but still intimidating) and, said, "What do you think you bring to this company?"


That's never a good question to be asked. Like, hello HOT SEAT.


I told him my honest truth. I was in a managerial position and didn't like managing people or systems. I wasn't spending as much time writing or working on creative projects as I thought I would with the position. Writing and editing, I said, is what I'm better at than managing people and systems.


He responded, "That's interesting," he said, and then went on to belittle my previous position as the editor of a lifestyle magazine based in Minnesota.


"I'm sure in your small town in Minnesota you basically just wrote about the same things over and over, small town things?"


"Our content covered northern Minnesota," I said, "so, yes, a lot of the content was reflective of that area."


He looked pissed, and I was so confused.


"I am going to be honest with you," he said, "I don't think you're a talented writer or editor."


This was just months after I'd published my first book, which he had no comment to make.


After that meeting, I was completely torn apart and feeling like I should call the hundreds of people who had already purchased my book and buy it back from them. Maybe I really wasn't good at this whole writing thing? How embarrassing.


I called my publisher.


He answered and I immediately said, "Can you tell me if my writing is shit?"


"Where did that question come from?" he asked.


"I was just given the worst performance review of my life by some old white man who said my writing is shit and I need to know from you, who I have high respect for, if my writing is shit."


He took a breath.


"The first thing I'll say is we wouldn't be publishing your book if your writing was... he paused... shit."


"Listen," he said. "There's two types of writers: people who write articles and journals and they're content with that-- and then there's authors: these are the people who want to be consumed in the craft of writing. It is their life. You are one of those people. I suggest you find a different job, perhaps working at the dive shop or outdoors somewhere, and when you get time to write -- you write well."

(The above is obviously recalled from memory and might not be word for word but that's the gist of what he said.)


As fate would have it, I was mulling over all these upcoming life changes and how in the world would they land gracefully, while I was waiting at the dive shop. Another guy was also waiting at the dive shop. I asked him what he was waiting for-- and he said, "Swim lessons."


"Oh, nice," I said.


"What are you waiting for?" he asked (little did he know that question was much weightier than he knew it to be).


"I'm waiting for the divers to get back, they said they just got off the boat."


"Gotcha," he said.


"Why are you taking swim lessons?" I asked.


"Because I want to be a beach lifeguard."


I was immediately interested.


"What does that entail, exactly?" I asked him.


"It's a pretty sweet gig," he said. "You've gotta make these swim/run requirements, they train you on the medical side of things, and certify you with the US Lifeguard Association."


Two weeks later, I applied to be a beach lifeguard. A month later, I was certified. A week after that, I was dressed in red and on the beach with my buoys, rescue gear, and ATV. In the sand, sun, and supporting a mission.


And just like the COSTCO girl, I'm much, much happier.







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