I graduated not long ago. I was beyond happy when they announced my final presentation result. Being announced as a Bachelor of Economics was all I could dream about when I was studying at university. Starting the new experience to actually earn money sounded very challenging as well as exciting at the same time.
Honestly, I had a high expectation of how my first job would be after I get my degree. I was one of those students in the class who always got an A when the other students had to struggle to get a C. I was the one who always paid full attention to what the teachers said in class. People counted on me to get information on the deadline of final project and how to solve the latest equation. When the exam period came, I organized a small study group so that we could learn from each other. No wonder, when a bunch of reputable companies came to our school to do a recruitment process for the fresh graduates, I instantly got various offers from many of them.
After several awkward interviews, hours spent waiting, energy-consuming writing test, and countless portraits of me wearing formal dress, I finally got my first job offer from a company. I was, again, beyond happy, because I could finally start working even before my graduation ceremony. The job description sounded pretty cool too, packed with a nice monthly numeration. Plus, the first visit to the office made my heart skip a beat because it just felt sophisticated; being a part of that dynamic team in a very growing industry. It’s something that I’ve always read in a novel, something that I’ve always watched in movie. You know the whole scene, right? Well-designed office in a high skyscraper, located in the most modern city of your country, completed with young and busy employers who talk about stuffs that sound unfamiliar to you. I just finished my exam, and now I had a new identity card as part of this team.
Little did I know that my first experience in a corporate would end in numbered days. The training process that I thought will train and equip me with new computer skills, turned out to be unorganized, and I spent more time Googling about how to do the task than actually doing the task because there was literally nobody there who was responsible for me — the new clueless staff. I had to work longer than the normal working hours — not only because I had so much things to get done, but also because they have to do the training session after working hours, otherwise they could not finish their own job. I thought the former team consisted of a bunch of motivated young employers who were passionate in what they did at work. They turned out to be regular people who did everything just because they had to do it, and they spent most of the times talking about the next employers who will stop working, and also the next company that they would be applying to because staying in that company was never their plan A. Complaints were everywhere. Every team needed more people to get things done. And there was always not enough people for every team. All I could feel was a massive negativity.
Just when I tried my best to accomplish one task — a task that my coworker referred as “too much to handle for the new kid like you” — and tried to talk to myself, telling my inner-self to be strong, telling my eyes to stay open and focus on the spreadsheet, something happened. They told me that in the following month, the only person in my team would move abroad and there was not much option for me rather than to replace him as well as his responsibility. I instantly thought that was a joke. I still couldn’t apply the right shortcut just to get the right formula. I still couldn’t fully comprehend how exactly the company managed their business process. I still didn’t even know the other staff’s name who sat next to and across me at the office. How could I possibly manage all the new tasks which definitely required more complex calculation, depth analysis, and coordination with all the divisions?
Knowing that it didn’t go according to the contract that I have signed before, I finally made the craziest decision ever: leaving the company even before the coworkers remembered my name. I sometimes wonder how they would refer to me after I quit. But, it’s either quit or become “the one who has to figure out all by herself how to do a job properly in just 3 weeks — a job that obviously would lead to long-hours working in the office where nobody cares about how stressful she is — and the one who would definitely create nothing more than an awful mess at the end”.
I was totally devastated. Partly because my first dream corporate job after graduation turned into a nightmare, and mostly because I chose to give up on that nightmare. I cried on the phone call with my boyfriend and my best friend that day. That was just too much for me. I once read one article that said, the only way to tell if you are just in a normal stress or you definitely need to stop working in a company, is by start imagining yourself getting a car accident so that you could be happy and stop working the next day. At that moment, I really wish I had a terrible car accident, terrible sickness, or whatever, as long as I didn’t need to come back to the office. People who know me well probably would describe me as a very hardworking and persistent person. I didn’t like the feeling of giving up. It’s not like the normal me. But in that case, I chose to give up.
A short phase after I quit, felt like a limbo. I still couldn’t believe what just happened. I took quite some time to think about “what was that” and “what I supposed to do now”. I turned down any other company’s offer because of this job. I even lost some of my music students because of this job required me to relocate. And now I didn’t have a job anymore.
After getting out from the crowd and hectic schedule, I started to do things that I genuinely like. I started playing music again. I started reading articles again. I talked to my family about what I was going through. I felt like I found myself again.
I decided to just simply apply the phrase “do what you love and the money will follow” to my life. I became a professional music instructor at a music school. I did audition, interview, training, and other stuffs as well. I try to give my best to teach my remaining music students at home so that I could have more of them. I also manage my previous start-up which was kind of being forgotten not long ago. And, in my spare time, I help improving my family’s business, which also aligns with what I love: kids and education.
So, do I earn more money now? No. By now I still don’t have fixed monthly income because I only have few kids to teach. I still haven’t passed the probation period. And everyone knows startup needs a lot of money at the early stage. I don’t make more money than an average fresh-graduate who work in a company. But I do make a fair amount of money; enough to make me happy, enough to make me proud of what I’m doing. And I believe I’m going to earn more.
And, am I happier now? Yes, one hundred percent. I can manage my own routines. I don’t feel horrible anxiety anymore when I check e-mail. I write more and more pieces of articles. I become nicer to people around me. I am not tired all the time. I have more time for people I love. I can hear more melodies in my head. I don’t feel the constant need to check my watch. I can even have my own staffs and pay their salary. I complain less about life.
I realized a valuable life-lesson from this experience: “You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.”
And, by the way, I am still a hardworking and persistent person. I just selectively pick the battle that I love most.
originally published in Medium.