where am i going & how the hell do i get there?

I remember when I got my last job, a marketing position at a global law firm in Atlanta. I thought I’d finally made it – a prestigious employer, a decent salary,  solid benefits. And most importantly, a clearly defined career path. But time passed & I soon discovered that I hated every moment of it. Finally, after working nonstop for a few weeks and having way too many emotional breakdowns, my boo suggested that I quit. I was horrified to do it – our rent wasn’t cheap and all of our bills were divided 50/50. I kept putting it off, knowing that we had a vacation coming up. I thought it would be enough to restore me. Little did I know, it would do exactly that, but not in the way I’d planned.

We went to San Francisco and Seattle for a whirlwind weekend, our first time in both cities. I reconnected with a dear friend in San Fran and had one of the most beautiful days of my life. I’ll never forget us driving down the California coast, windows down, stereotypical breeze in my hair. It was the first time in weeks I’d felt really and truly happy. I remember Dustin reaching up from the back seat at one point to touch my arm. It was a simple gesture, but I knew what it meant. Later, he confirmed it: “You looked so relaxed and happy. I haven’t seen you look like that in so long.” It made me cry. I knew it was true. So when we got back from our trip, I quit.

I’m so grateful to D for all the hard work he’s done keeping us afloat financially since then. He’s never once tried to make me feel guilty for my decision. I’m also keenly aware that we were/are extremely lucky to be in a position where I was able to leave that job, even if things are still tight because of it. And in time, I would eventually encourage him to leave equally toxic jobs. Again, we’re lucky we were able to do so. So many people in situations like mine don’t realize how privileged they are, but I’m grateful for the luxury of time away from the corporate world to figure out an alternate career path. I’ve never found joy in the typical 9-5. So I’m definitely #blessed (haha!) to have the opportunity to figure out what I want to do in life and to have an amazingly supportive partner by my side.

But it’s weird when you step away from the working world. You don’t realize how much importance is placed on your job title until you no longer have one. When most of your friends are thriving young professionals, your job is the typical topic of conversation. And it makes sense – it takes up a solid 40+ hours of your week. But when you no longer have that in common, you feel disconnected sometimes. “Oh, what have you been up to?” Uh, washing dishes & doing laundry & researching recipes & buying groceries. You know, the errands & chores you do in your off-hours. That’s my 9-5.

You can feel oddly resentful sometimes, even though you don’t envy their jobs or their successes. I’d resent feeling like I needed to justify my existence or the use of my time. Yes, I’m not waking up early and going to work, but no, I’m not usually lounging around & playing video games all day. (But some days? Hell yeah!) And so what if I did? Why do I have to justify my time to you? Don’t get me wrong, most people I know are amazing and would never make weird implications. A lot of the time, you just feel insecure and start projecting. But there have been a few people who made me feel kinda shitty about it, and that’s on them. My value isn’t determined by my career or lack thereof. It’s been a surprisingly hard lesson to learn, especially in American society where your career is so intrinsically linked to your identity. That’s a really stupid concept. I thought so before I was unemployed, and I believe the same now. (But I can’t speak much more on that subject in this post or I will never get to the slightly exciting news, haha.) Still, it’s been tough. I’ve had quite a few ugly cries over it.

It’s always been my plan to go back to work. I’m smart and creative and like to get shit done, but I know the typical corporate job isn’t a feasible longterm option for me. I loathe it. I flee. Rinse & repeat. So I’ve spent months researching different paths and options with no real success. I’d either find worthwhile projects that weren’t profitable, or profitable options that fit into the corporate cubicle above. I’ve always envied people with clearly defined career goals. I want to be a nurse. I want to be an architect. On & on. I’m pretty good at achieving goals, but it’s tough to set a goal for something intangible. Thus the cycle of frustration is born. I want a job – I don’t know what job I want – what about that job? – oh, I don’t want that job – okay, what do I want in a job? – I want a job that offers a, b & c – but what job is that? – I don’t know – oh fuck this, I’m going to nap.

This endless loop led to yet another crying jag last night and a little heart-to-heart with my main man. And for the first time ever, I feel like there might’ve been a breakthrough.

“But my interests & skills are random and unrelated…music, food, decorating, entertaining; writing, marketing, organizational/administrative stuff…”

“What about event planning?”

Oh. Well, uh, duh.

It wasn’t the first time someone’s suggested that career for me (not trying to sound smug, just keepin’ it real), but it was the first time I’d really thought about how it represented the intersection of my abilities and interests. I know professional event planning is way different & more involved than throwing your own holiday parties, but I’ve always taken my party planning pretty seriously. I’m neurotic about calculating food & drink quantities, making playlists, and finding ways to keep people engaged & entertained. Themed decor holds a special place in my heart, but I also know how to keep it classy if needed. I work well with tight budgets & I somehow genuinely enjoy the organizational aspect of throwing a party. From budget spreadsheets to grocery lists to hourly breakdowns of what I need to do, I get a little anal retentive when throwing a party. And all of this is after the hours of research I usually put into the food, decor, etc. It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but it brings me so much joy. I’m never happier than when I’m planning another party. I almost feel guilty saying this, but the weeks of planning are usually my favorite part of throwing a party. I’m weird, what can I say.

I know there will be a million challenges and obstacles on this career path, and I’m not naive enough to believe that working for clients will be the same as planning events for myself. Still, it is such a unique combination of my talents and strengths that I feel confident about it even despite the inevitable difficulties. (And for someone who gets anxious ordering at Subway or calling to make a doctor’s appointment, that’s saying something, haha.) Any career path will be challenging in some way or another, but I think it’s all worth it if you love what you do. And I do love event planning.

I have a lot of research and a ton of work ahead of me, so wish me luck! And, y’know, maybe hire me in the future. <3

4 thoughts on “where am i going & how the hell do i get there?

  1. Yancey says:

    Looks like a solid start, but it is a pretty cut-throat industry for networking and building a clientele. Kind of like a DJ, you know a lot of people who all want to pay you next to nothing for OODLES of work.

    Just your cuppa’, right?

    • Stephanie says:

      Making next to nothing for oodles of work sounds like every other job I’ve had in my life, honestly. I’m at the point where I’d rather try to make a little money for myself instead of making a lot of money for someone else & never seeing the fruits of my labor, financially or otherwise. Yeah, it may or may not work out, but I’m pretty sure I could say the same thing of every other position out there. I’d just rather try and fail than deny myself the opportunity at all. I appreciate the heads-up, though! I expect to do more “charity” stuff in the beginning, but I’ll definitely be mindful of it.

  2. Nicole Eloriaga-Murphy says:

    Hi Stephanie!

    I just read your post that I found via Insta. I just wanted to say I am literally going through the same situation and you couldn’t have worded your blog post any better than if I had written it myself. I’m trying to break into event planning and have no idea how to start. My husband is pushing me to be serious about it because I love doing it socially, and my recent wedding had been a true test. Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing about your progress. I hope we’re able to bounce off of each other as well so I’ll definitely pass along any interesting info I find!

    Good luck!

    -N

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Nicole!

      That is so exciting! I can’t imagine all of the work that goes into successfully planning a wedding. Well, let me rephrase that – I imagine planning a wedding way too often (shout out to my boo who will probably read this & die a little), but actually doing it seems like a challenging thrill. No wonder your husband is encouraging you to go after this professionally! That’s awesome.

      I’m happy to know someone else who’s looking to break into this line of work, so I will also definitely share any helpful info I discover. Thanks again for reading & for your encouragement! Best of luck to you as well!

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