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)