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I’m Not Supposed to Be Here: Knowing When it’s Your Time to Walk Away

The day I started my job, ten years ago, I was excited, proud, and inspired. I landed a job at one of the best HBCUs in the nation. I never thought in a million years that I would have the opportunity to be a part of a prestigious group of people. I knew then that I was in this job for the long haul, and there was nothing that will remove me from being the executive assistant/project coordinator for one of the best and brilliant professors in the world, in my opinion. She and I immediately became attached at the hip, and almost everybody on campus started associating us with one another. I looked up to her, and for a good reason. I was so in love with my job that I will report on weekends if my boss requested me to be there, although I was not required to work weekends.

I was the only support staff for the project, and my position was demanding but rewarding for the first five years. I oversaw handling the day to day operations in the office, managing the budget, being the first point of contact for students, and supervising work-study students. And that was only a few of my tasks. I worked all the time and rarely took any vacation days, except for scheduled doctor's appointments for my children and me. Eventually, I started to get burnt out, and my job started becoming less enjoyable. Not only did I not take days off, but I noticed that I was too comfortable in my role, and I held myself back from seeking other opportunities to advance my career.

Through the years, I witnessed many of my colleagues accepting promotions and advancing in their careers. I seen many of them leave the college for better career opportunities. They were stepping out of their comfort zone and moving up while I remained in the same position. That made me want more, and I yearned for change. Deep inside, I knew my time was up, but I still was not ready to accept it, and fought against my feelings. There were so many things keeping me from stepping out and excelling in my career. First was, I worried about my family. I had health insurance for me and my children, a retirement plan, and a steady income. I did not want to pressure my husband to be the sole provider for our family because we are a team. Not to mention, we had a daughter in college. Second, I ran the daily operations at the office, and my supervisor, students, other stakeholders at the institution relied heavily on my assistance. I was also worried if anyone can handle my supervisor's many requests and her unique multi-tasking requirements like I did if I should resign. I believed it was my duty to stay on-board to make sure the project runs smoothly for the sake of my director, the students and the college. From time to time, I will search for other employment opportunities, but I will never follow-up.

After eight years in my position, I very was unhappy and started to have panic attacks weekly. My spells will begin on Sunday mornings and last until Wednesday. By Friday, I will calm down, but as soon as the sun rose on Sunday, I will experience a panic attack because I knew work was the next day. I did not want to get out of bed most days, and I will lay down and practice breathing techniques.

When COVID-19 and the quarantine forced us to work from home, as many businesses and institutions, at first, I believed working from my home's comfort will ease my stress and decrease my anxiety. The first week working from home was good because I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. I began orchestrating a plan to jump start different projects and creating career goals. Finally, I started feeling like my life had a purpose, and I worked toward fulfilling a passion.

By the second week, everything started to take a turn for the worse. My supervisor was not used to the new working conditions with everything now virtual because she is not tech-savvy. Her joy was teaching and engaging with students in the classroom. For years, I have been her "go-to" person for everything, and it was hard on both of us because I was always physically available in the office, and it was difficult solving problems over the phone, especially since I am not an Information Technology professional. I started getting calls every minute of the day, making it hard to complete many of my essential tasks. My anxiety attacks began to get worse, and the breathing techniques seemed to work less. I felt like my mind and body were breaking down because of my job. My boss will call me late at night and on weekends. Finally, I had to break down and tell her that I can no longer take calls on weekends, especially on Sundays, because that is the time that I spend with my family, and at that time, I needed my family more than ever. I never thought my request for taking control of my weekends would cause an uncomfortable work environment.

I asked my supervisor for a Friday off the last weekend in July because I needed some time to getaway. I had over two-hundred hours of vacation time, so I did not think it will be a problem. She approved the request, but not without a long email scolding me for wanting to take time in the middle of a "crisis." The crisis was, she was still not familiar with how to access virtual content for the college, but the technology department did not schedule the training sessions yet, which will show her how to navigate through the virtual content.

That Saturday, I stayed in my room while my two friends hung out outside and enjoyed the sun while on our girl's getaway. Although, I was on vacation, I was still worried about my job and the response I will face on Monday when I return. Once again, I started having panic attacks. I began to pray and ask God to give me peace. In my mind, all I kept hearing was, "resign" repeatedly. I started talking to God more while giving every excuse why it will be a bad idea to leave my job now, especially in the middle of a pandemic. But all I kept hearing is "resign." As the sun rose on Sunday morning, I felt another panic attack brewing in my body. I knew I had to do something before the stress became detrimental.

On Monday morning, I logged into my messages and read the most disturbing email from my supervisor. I knew then that my work and presence had no value with the project anymore. I understood everyone was trying to adapt to a new normal because of the pandemic, but I could not take the stress any longer. I decided to walk through the door, I believe God opened for me. I emailed my formal resignation letter to the college and my supervisor. Immediately, at that point, a weight lifted from my spirit, and I felt free. I did not experience any more panic attacks.

I did not have any other job prospects lined up, and I told my husband that I am willing to work at our neighborhood grocery store while I continue to search for my next opportunity. Many people believe I was able to take that step because I am married and that could be far from the truth. My husband is my biggest supporter, and we are a team. I ruffled back and forth with resigning because, as mentioned, I do want to put all the pressure of taking care of our family on my husband. My job began to take a significant toll on my mental and physical health, so even if I were single, I would have made the conscious decision to resign.

In the meantime, I continue to search for promising career opportunities, and I am using this time to execute my vision of storytelling and walking in my purpose. I am perfecting my skills in journalism, and creating my own lane, so I am never unemployed. I will use this time to create a platform to allow people in the community to use their voices to speak freely and share their narratives without limitations.

Remember, always protect your mental and physical health and VIBRATE HIGHER!

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