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Why I Quit My $50K Salary Job to Intern for $10 An Hour

Okay, so…I have a Bachelor’s in English and honestly, I don’t know where to begin writing this. 2017 has been one hell of a year for me. A hellish rollercoaster, if you will, of some decent highs and undoubtedly, the lowest of lows.

The year started out on cruise control. It was my senior spring semester, and I was doing what I’d done for the past three years: studying, drinking, and being the average college student. It was an easy, blissful bubble I did not realize was about to pop. I’ve never been good at transitions, like from middle school to high school, high school to college and now, apparently, college to adulthood. I was not prepared for what I was getting into.

I accepted a desk job in Orlando, FL. The appeal of this HR position was that it offered a location not too far from my hometown, a good salary, and independence. Working for a big firm and getting my own apartment seemed like my only option upon graduation. I felt I had to validate going into debt for my Master’s degree in business by getting a “real” job. How wrong I was. In the six months I worked there, I experienced a level of anxiety like I had never known. I’m talking waking up in the middle of the night, losing 15 pounds, call your mom every day, fight back tears kind of stuff. I was bored, ill-trained, lost, and losing it — both mentally and physically. I’d unintentionally tied my self-worth into my career, my job performance, and this crappy position I was ill-suited for.

A few things that kept me going were my family, friends, counselor, medication, and my faith. I’m not kidding when I tell you I would go to the bathroom, try not to cry, kneel on the floor, and pray on my knees. I felt a desperation so deep I let go of the pride I unknowingly clung to. Pride that kept me from expressing my faith, my feelings, and my fears. My closest peers at work knew I wasn’t happy and wouldn’t be there long. Being my first real job, however, I didn’t know how to properly communicate this to my manager. Truthfully, I should have keyed her in much sooner than I did, but honestly, I knew I didn’t have a future there the day I stepped out of training and onto the floor.

So what did I do to prepare for my impending exit? I saved and saved and saved. I stashed away 60% of my paychecks. At times, these few thousand dollars were my biggest comfort because I knew if worse came to worst, I could quit my job and still cover my rent. I eventually did, and I was able to accept an internship position that’s much more in line with what I want to do. I saved with a few steps:

  • Keeping my rent to $530 with everything included. One of my three roommates had the idea to turn our apartment into a model apartment (the one they show potential new leasees). This saved us $100/month, and all I had to do was keep my room clean for the first time in my life. Easy peasy and totally worth it. I had coworkers paying upwards of $1,400/month in rent just to live alone. It made no sense to me, and I wouldn’t be where I am without that cheap apartment. 

  • Not going clothing shopping. I’m not a big shopper at all, but during this six months, I literally bought myself one new work shirt. Since then, I’ve dropped around $300 this month on Christmas sales, but during that time, I definitely kept this category in check. We all know how easy it is to find cute stuff and drop a quick dime.
  • Shopping weekly at Aldi. This place is amazing, y’all. I spent like half of what I would at Publix because their off-brand foods are good and cheap. I’m all about that. Also, thanks to anxiety I wasn’t eating much — but that is clearly not healthy or sustainable (thanks a ton, Lexapro!).
  • Taking my paycheck and putting 60% into savings automatically and living off the rest. My biggest expenses were rent, gas, food, and entertainment. Considering I binge watched ALL of Game of Thrones and drove home a lot to seek comfort from my parents, I didn’t spend too much in the latter department. 

The level of transparency in this article may be alarming. It also may make me seem like a total loser. I’m 23, now live with my parents, and make $10/hour for God sakes. I used to think this made people losers, too. But A) it doesn’t and B) I’m happier than I could have imagined and C) circling back to that loss of pride thing, I’ve realized life is too short to suffer in silence, and I won’t ever do so again. And I don’t want anyone else to either. I’ll say it loudly for the people in the back: Your career does not define you or your self-worth. All I can say is: ask for help, plan financially, and quit that job that’s killing you. As long as you have a solid Plan B, you’ll be fine, Boo!

Riley Richards is a small business consulting firm intern and dog lover. For more, check out her very mediocre blog that she need to update here

Image via Unsplash

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