Choosing Happiness

In one of my favorite classes I took for my MBA, Leading Change, we learned that if you want to affect change, you must first change yourself. The simply underlying premise of that is that no one will be willing to listen to your ideas about change unless they see you actively participating and willing to make changes yourself. I finally decided to make a personal change: I chose happiness and quit my job.

An example of how I spent my time at work…running in several directions.

This will come to no surprise to those that know me well, but I had been miserable at my job for quite some time. During my time in UNR’s MBA program, whenever we had to give our short introductions at the beginning of a new class and semester, I would always say where I worked and for how long (this was a requirement). When most people heard this, they would always say “congrats” as I had been at my job for over seven years when I started the MBA program in January 2014. My response to these “congrats” was always to give a very heartless reply of thank you or some sarcastic comment like “not really.” Considering that that had been my response going back four years, I am really surprised it took me that long to quit.

I was already unhappy with my job when I started the MBA program. I was working long hours with little to no appreciation. One of the reasons why I decided to go back to school and get my MBA, although a minor reason, was so that I would stop working overtime (it wouldn’t be unusual for me to put in 10 hours a day, and even come in over the weekend). I also used to jokingly state that no one, not even my immediate boss, fully understood what I did at my job. However, directors of multiple departments all knew who I was and would often come and talk to me because they knew I had answers. But how sad is that? Feeling so unappreciated but knowing that, essentially, everyone at your company knew you and knew you had answers to their questions.

The stress of my job was also incredible. There, in all honesty, was enough work for three or four full time employees in the Reno office, and for two full years of the last four I worked there, I was a team of one. There was another team that did what I did in another office, but all the decisions (I mean ALL decisions) and test review all funneled through me regardless of where the testing took place. There was a lot resting on my shoulders and I really didn’t have a support system in place to help with it.

The first of the last major straws was when the only other person on my local team was laid off early last year. She was a tremendous help with corralling the other remote teams as well as leading the way to unifying our program testing and firmware request tracking portal. Quite frankly, she babysat those teams quite a lot. I was also completely hands off with the new tracking system we were going to use for a couple reasons: she was there and would most likely be tackling it and because I had effectively and efficiently handled everything through email for many years. However, when she was let go, now I had to not only do my job, which was already too much at the time, but I also had to take over babysitting duties and figure out this new system. It was the babysitting duties that really got to me.

I am not exaggerating when I call them babysitting duties. Super simple questions bombarded me constantly. I will not go into them in-depth, but several of them were along the lines of “Hey, there’s a new bill coming out soon for Argentina. Should we prioritize Argentina firmware?” If they would have spent five seconds thinking about this, they would come to the correct answer of yes, we should prioritize firmware that covers a new bill being released. But, instead, they would spend more time asking me this question and questions like this every day, multiple times a day even. This was by far one of the most infuriating aspects of my job.

Another major point of contention, that was along a similar note, were other departments asking me the same questions repeatedly. Or, my favorite, asking me to make decisions that were completely outside my actual duties and were the responsibility of the department that was asking. Compound this regular occurrence with my frustration at having to babysit professionals who supposedly knew what they were doing and held in regard as such, and I was basically a pot that was boiling over. But, I kept with it all the while falling farther and farther into anger and depression.

During this time, and shortly after I graduated with my MBA, I started streaming video games over twitch. I chat with myself constantly while I play video games and I figured other people might enjoy my commentary. I did aspire to becoming a twitch partner and eventually making some money through it. However, money was never the main driving force as I only ever envisioned making $20 or so bucks a month playing games on twitch. The main reason for starting this was to have fun. And, in the beginning I was having a lot of fun.

I even branched out to streaming tabletop roleplaying games and board games. It is quite difficult to get a full group together for tabletop roleplaying, especially when most people involved already have another dedicated group. But, we were able to get a couple sessions together and it was quite fun. With streaming board games, however, I really felt I had found my niche. If we are to gauge success in streaming with the number of new followers you get over an amount of time, then board game streaming was my most successful endeavor. I got about the same number of followers in less than half the amount of time it took by streaming video games alone. I truly felt that that was going to be awesome; streaming video games on some days and board games on others, all the while entertaining those that chose to watch me/us play.

However, the anger and depression would also come to ruin that. I started streaming video games less and less. I just didn’t have the energy or desire after work to do anything but sit on my ass and veg in front of the TV. I’d do this instead of streaming one day, but then it would span into two then three. I sit here now, writing this all down, while several months have gone by without a regular planned video game stream. I have had the random ones here and there, but there were pretty much one offs, and I haven’t gone back to them.

Board game streaming has been another struggle. I had a consistent group for several weeks in a row, but there were only three of us. While we had a lot of fun playing and streaming, we all would much prefer to find a consistent fourth of even fifth player. And here’s where my anger and depression really came to a boil over point. I had planned a massive combination of stuff. I was going to do a huge, lengthy board game stream over a weekday I had off (President’s Day), do an unboxing of a brand, spanking new board game I kickstartered (Rising Sun),

I went all out with the Rising Sun kickstarter. I think I bought most of the extras.

and bring in a couple new board game streamers (though they are expert board gamers as it is). However, due to some miscommunication and a winter storm it didn’t happen. Not only that, but I took it personally. Very personally. So personally, that I wrote emails that basically said I’m done with our friendship. Yeah, I took it too far. My friends, who are very dear friends to me, did not deserve that. I was way out of line and I realized it.

At this point, what could I do to make a change that will break me out of this cycle of anger and depression? I knew, and had known for quite a while, that I wanted to quit my job. I had gone as far as I could in my current position with my current company. I knew I wouldn’t be able to utilize my MBA there and I also had a strong suspicion that I wouldn’t get promoted again. Basically, I felt I was at a dead end. I knew that quitting would help reduce the stress, anxiety, and anger I felt, but I was still hesitant to pull the proverbial trigger.

Family that I visited last summer in Minnesota knew that I wanted to quit then and encouraged me to do what would make me happy. My parent, who I visited for Christmas, also knew that I wanted to quit and encouraged me to do what would make me happy. Friends from Japan that I visited in Las Vegas for New Years also knew that I wanted to quit. It seems that whenever I hung out with or around close friends or family, how miserable my job was making me and my desire to quit was obvious. However, I still didn’t.

The tipping point, I think, was when a trusted co-worker, and someone who I greatly respect as both a co-worker and mentor, came to chat with me about strange behavior one of my vendors was expressing. He sat down and asked the usual “How’s it going?” Obviously, my response wasn’t very masked because he then asked, “How’s it really going?” I hadn’t seen him for at least a month or two at work, but he immediately knew something wasn’t right. He told me that no job is worth my health and that I probably should find another job. This solidified what I knew I had to do, quit my job. You always know that your good friends and family will have your back when it comes to making large decisions when they, and you, know it is for the best. However, when someone who you haven’t seen in a while immediately knows that you need to make a change and voices that, it is time.

So, I finally hit my breaking point and chose to be happy. It was the correct choice for me to make. I have been wearing a smile ever since I handed in my letter of resignation and a rather large, heavy weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Without needing to worry about work, I finally got back to the mountains for snowboarding.

In anticipation of my eventual resignation, I have been going through salesforce training which I really enjoy, hoping to pursue a career in that direction soon. However, I also made sure that I had a few months of expenses saved up so that I could take my time and decompress. It’s been barely two weeks since I quit, and I have finally started to relax and stop thinking about work. I do feel that it is going to take a few more weeks before I completely break the mental chain that is still tethered to my old job, but I know that I will get there.

I can finally say that I think the future is looking very bright for me. And after so many years of living in the dark, I am not sure what I am going to do with myself, but I do know that I will be much better off for it.