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The End of An Era (Part 1) – Why I Left Corporate America

This is the first of a two-part update on some major changes in Mack’s world, and exciting things to come for the Mack the Maverick experience.

The past twelve months have been a complete whirlwind from top to bottom. Around this time last year, I got married. As the euphoria of the moment wore off, I immediately felt the pressures of my newfound responsibilities, in addition to my number 1 stressor – my job.

The short story: I ended up in my previous industry by accident. Much like this year’s graduates, I graduated from college during a recession. I tried my hand at finding employment in my field of choice without immediate success, so I worked a couple of semi-odd jobs and started temping for a large insurance company. A series of events led to me being hired permanently, and thus began my corporate odyssey.

The Long Way Around – My Corporate Detour

When I started my corporate journey, it was meant to be temporary for both me and the company. I had big dreams. I wanted to be an artist and had trained to be one. But security and circumstance set in. I was in a position where I needed to support myself, and my childhood had made me afraid of ever being broke again, or of taking risks that would put me in that position. So, I took a career detour.

I always felt like a round peg in a square hole. The hard worker in me played the game, but the creative in me never fit in. I also come from a long line of entrepreneurs, and I always saw myself following in that tradition. So, the minute I walked in the door, I started thinking about my exit strategy. I promised myself that health insurance would be a job, not a career.

Optimism and gratitude helped me survive. I made the best of the first few years, growing as much as I could, focusing on commutable skills and working on other pursuits in the background. I found wonderful mentors in my managers, with whom I remain friends to this day. Some of the best friends I have came into my life at work. One of these friends would lead me to my husband via a few degrees of separation. However, the limitations of my trajectory (and pay grade), as well as the claustrophobia and fatigue that comes with working in an office began to wear on me. It was also the first time stress started to show up in my hair.

I ended up moving on to another company in the same field. Working from home gave me a new lease on life, and allowed me some flexibility to work on my longterm goals. Going into this new position, I vowed to protect myself better. I learned to view myself, not as an employee, but as an independent contractor selling my services to a company for an agreed-upon fee. I promised myself boundaries that would preserve my sanity and my identity.

My skill set, work ethic, and demeanor allowed me to advance in the industry without much opposition. It also landed me in increasingly stressful situations. The nature of the work required me and my colleagues to be jacks of all trades amidst an ever-changing, extremely regulated environment and complex variables. We were also given great amounts of autonomy and accountability for our decision-making and outcomes.

That’s my politically correct way of saying we diffused proverbial bombs all day, every day. Ninety percent of the job was fighting fires, except where a firefighter would have an ax and a fire hydrant, we were given a butter knife and a solo cup of water. And after we still managed to save the people inside the building, we would have to stand in front of a firing squad and explain why we couldn’t save the furniture.

Security v. Sanity

Working at a job you don’t like is the same as going to prison every day, my father used to say. He was right. I felt imprisoned by an impressive title, travel, perks, and a good salary. On the inside, I was miserable and lonely, and I felt as if I was losing myself. I spent weekends working on reports no one read, and I gave presentations that I didn’t care about. It made me feel like a sellout and, worse, a fraud. Now set free, like any inmate I had to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Kathleen Flinn

One year passed by. Then five years passed. Every year that went by made me feel more and more like a failure. I felt like my job was killing my career. Moments would come where I would be mad at myself for still being where I was. I was killing myself trying to meet the demands of my job (and later my family) while fighting for my destiny. I would cling to the gratitude I had for being able to support myself and finance some of the things I was working on, but I also fought so much inward negativity about my situation.

Around year eight, things came to a head. Things were changing rapidly in the industry and within our company. We had never had enough people to do what was being asked of us, but things got increasingly worse. We had little fires everywhere, and the company was growing. Meanwhile, my teammates were quitting faster than they were being rehired. Our company was squeezing turnips – our team – for blood. At this point, the only thing that made me want to keep showing up was that I adored my coworkers and admired my managers.

I had moments where I saw my God-given purpose be put to use, but I also understood my season was up. Deep down, I knew that year ten would have to be my absolute last in insurance. I heard the Lord tell me that March 2020 would be the end. My husband and I made a plan for me to pull my boat close enough to the dock to jump.

The final stretch was the worst. I physically hurt all the time and gained 30 pounds. My energy was always too low to enjoy my free time and my tolerance became increasingly low. I was often depressed and irritable. I ended each day sweating and in pain. I dreaded getting up in the morning because I felt like the company owned my time and I had nothing to look forward to. Admittedly, I questioned my life choices and was quite unkind to myself concerning them.

Leave Like Your Life Depends On It

When I got ready to leave, I had saved money and made the necessary preparations. Then there was COVID-19, which impacted my household financially. Reasonable fear caused me to second guess my decision to leave. When I looked at my life (and my thinning hair and edges) and remembered what God told me, I knew my life depended on it. I understood that my disobedience would cost me more than any risk I would take. Nothing out, nothing in. As long as I held on to what I had, I would never receive what God promised me, or realize my potential. I can always go back to work for someone else, but I may never have the opportunity to blossom on my own again.

At this point, I’m a bit anxious about what the future holds, but I know this is the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m embracing my newfound freedom, and I’m so excited about the success that lies in my future…and in the future of this blog. This month, Mack the Maverick is getting a facelift! I’m also working on some tools that will help us get our lives together, and a couple of very special projects with my momma! (Check out the pilot episode of Sidebar Sessions below.) Regardless of how this year started, I am stoked to finish strong.

Stay tuned for the second part of this series, where I’ll share more about my first month of detoxing from corporate America. Have you made major changes in your life this year? Or been forced to take a risk? Share with us below!

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