While I had countless freak-outs at my previous desk jobs, I distinctly remember one especially profound existential crisis moment.
I call it my “Cubicle Panic Attack.”
The weirdest part is that, on that day, I didn’t have any big deadlines. No one had yelled at me, I didn’t have an impossible to-do list, and I wasn’t feeling inadequate or overly stressed. (Although, I certainly had all of those experiences at one point or another during my previous life in cubicle world.)
On that particular day, I was plagued by something even more existentially destructive — extreme boredom.
As we’ve written about before, being busy has the distinct advantage (for better or for worse) of distracting you from questioning whether what you’re doing is actually meaningful. It distracts you from the frightening notion that you may not know or be living your life purpose.
Boredom, on the other hand, gives you all the time in the world to focus on just that. It gives you wide-open mental space to realize that, if you don’t make a pretty drastic change, you could get stuck in your current situation … indefinitely.
And THAT is what sent me into full-blown panic.
I was sitting at my cubicle, writing what was probably my 27th direct marketing email that day (which was only a slight variation on the 26 previous emails), and I had a vision clearly form in my head.
I saw myself 5, 10, 20 years down the road, sitting at the same desk (except maybe in a cube next to a window by now!), at the same computer (a dated HP, of course), writing essentially the same marketing email … and it was like my brain shut down. Does not compute.
I started asking myself all the typical quarter-life-crisis questions: Is this all there is? Am I supposed to spend the majority of my waking hours for the next several DECADES behind a desk? Will I ever actually care about the work that I’m doing? Is it even possible for me to make a REAL difference in the world? Am I strong enough to risk taking the unconventional path?
My body felt shaky and I couldn’t make my eyes focus on the screen. I didn’t know how at the time, but I knew for certain that I wasn’t willing to spend my life in that cube, working for someone else’s mission. It was a massive, intuitive wake-up call. I knew there HAD to be a better way to live.
Ever since my cubicle panic attack, I’ve been discovering, and creating, and fine-tuning my personal mission so that I can do the three things that I now help my clients do:
Be myself. Make money. Feel free.
Now, I’m happy to say, my life is truly my own — I call the shots, and I get to make the kind of impact in the world that I know I’m meant to. I won’t say it’s been a smooth, easy process all along because that would be a straight-up lie. And unfortunately I couldn’t up and quit my job in that crisis moment — I actually stayed in the 9-to-5 world for another two years while shaping and building my own vision. But in the midst of the struggles, confusion, and uncertainty that’s come with refusing to do the conventional thing, I’ve felt more ME than ever before in my life. I honestly couldn’t do it any differently.
So now we want to hear from you. Have you experienced your own “cubicle panic attack”? Can you relate to Kristen’s crisis moment? Let us know in the comments below.
Kristen (& Rachel)
Wow – this happened to me yesterday! I’ve been at my desk job for 5 years now and the end isn’t really in sight. I’ve been building my business on the side for the last 8 months and have about half the client base that I need to have for a full-time income. Yesterday, I decided that I must do something different. Since then I’ve introduced myself and my services to 3 new people. I’m going to meet at least 2 new people every day this week.
Thank you for your continued support and encouragement!
Sounds like this was a perfectly timed post for you, Lauren! Congrats on starting your business and already building up a client load! It’s awesome that you turned your panic moment into inspired action. Thanks for reading!
OMG, I totally felt this too! Of course it was years ago now, almost a decade to be exact. I just KNEW deep down in my heart that there was something more. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was or how I was going to get there but I began forming my “escape plan”. And for me too, it wasn’t easy and I couldn’t just quit my job on the spot but with some courage to dream and take some steps in the right direction I can thankfully say 10 years later that it was one of the best decisions of my life. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding me that there are more of “us” out there! 🙂
It’s validating to hear that other people have had the same experience. And congrats on your courage to try something unconventional and escape the 9-to-5 world! Wishing you tons more success 🙂
I have moments like every hour when I work my retail job. Even though I work part time it still feels like pulling teeth each time I’m there and I go kicking and screaming every time. While I always keep it in the back of my head that this is only temporary while I build my dream life, I still panic because I’m growing inpatient that I don’t seem to have the “right” tools that are propelling me forward, despite my dedication to staying in action. I have no intentions of giving up though. It’s all about having an escape plan, which I’m still formulating!
It is encouraging to know though that you were able to cultivate this dream and get out of cubicle panic, thank you for sharing this : )
You’re right, Nikki, it makes it SO much easier to deal with a mind-numbing job when you have an escape plan! It sounds like you’re really dedicated to your next steps, though, so it absolutely WILL work out for you.
(Pssst … We’re actually in the middle of creating a new coaching program that will help you figure out the “right” tools for you so you CAN create that escape plan. So stay tuned! 🙂 )
That is super exiting to hear!! I’ve totally been wondering where to find an actual escape plan from those who have done it smartly!
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