This isn’t your traditional “IRA Challenge” post, which are all awesome in their own regards. Rather, it’s a cautionary tale of what could happen when you put money in front of your health.
I was a couple of years into my career in the Finance industry. It was nothing that I was ever passionate about; I kind of just fell into it. It was at a point in my life where I didn’t know what I wanted. I just knew that I wanted to not smell like tacos when I came home every night. (I worked at a Mexican restaurant at the time.)
It turns out that the benefits of working at a major U.S. bank were pretty sweet. I was almost making twice as much as I did at the restaurant, I got 2-weeks paid vacation, pretty awesome health insurance, and the company would match my 401(k) contributions up to 5%.
Wearing a suit and tie to work instead of salsa and cheese home every night was a welcomed change. It’s crazy how clothes can drastically change your confidence.
It’s a good thing that the health insurance was so great but we’ll get to that later.
The first year or so wasn’t so bad.
That’s probably because I had other distractions to keep me busy; mainly school. A quick promotion didn’t hurt either. I was moving up the corporate ladder just as I had planned.
Corporate politics made other co-workers come and go, but, it never affected me so it didn’t matter.
My manager liked me so I was safe.
But then came my first promotion to a new branch. This branch was the big show and I just got called up to the majors. They were consistently the top-performing branch in the market, the management carried a great deal of weight, and the clientele to put lightly, were very, very well off.
This is where my career will really take off! I’ll learn a lot and I’ll build a great reputation here!
Or so I thought.
This was my first taste of corporate bull crap and I became jaded for the first time.
After 6 months of being nothing but a glorified teller and not really being trained to do my new position, I was told that I was being shipped off to the consistently worst branch in the market. With a demotion. With no choice. Either I accept it or I don’t have a job.
The reasoning? A combination of hiring miscues and the fact that they were downsizing the position that I was just promoted to.
This was the beginning of the end for me.
I’ve never been in such a hostile work environment.
It was a good thing that we had bullet-resistant glass. Why? Because if we didn’t, we’d probably be spit on by the customers. I’ve never dealt with such ignorant, nasty, abusive people, let alone customers, in my life.
This was the first branch where I had an exploding dye-pack in my drawer just in case we got robbed through the bullet-resistant glass.
Yeah, it was that bad.
After a while, that kind of environment will start wearing you down. You become a shell of yourself. You figure out a way to numb all the nastiness. You become extremely paranoid. You become wary of everyone…”are you going to try to scam me?” “Am I going to have to hit the silent alarm?” “What kind of drugs are you on?”
And then there’s the corporate pressure to sell your soul. You’re expected to get these people to get a credit card even though they’re already $20,000 in debt or they only get a Social Security check of a couple hundred bucks at the beginning of the month and that’s it. The majority of the customers were borderline in poverty, how can you expect me to consciously do this?!
It drains you mentally and emotionally. You’re always on edge. It’s no way to live.
I got an ultimatum: Either suck it up and improve my performance and keep my job, don’t improve and get fired, or go out in a blaze of glory and put in my 2-weeks’ notice.
So I gave my 2-weeks’ notice a couple of weeks earlier than planned.
I just couldn’t take it anymore.
I was so desperate for a change that I was almost set on taking a 10-week unpaid internship selling life insurance. Yuck!
I decided to decline the internship 2 days before I was scheduled to start. It just didn’t feel right.
Running out of options, or not really having any options, I ended up back at the bank a couple of months later, but at a branch with a completely different work environment and clientele.
It was a chance at a fresh start. A second chance of sorts.
I went into it slightly refreshed with a different attitude. It was now only a means to an end until I found a better alternative.
In hindsight, I was looking for a better alternative in all the wrong places. I pigeonholed myself in the financial industry, since that’s what I’ve done for the majority of my professional life, plus I recently got a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance.
After my 3rd manager in 3 months of working at that location, I was almost at my wits end again.
Something had to give. Unfortunately, it was my body.
It was a relatively slow day in the middle of the week but I went home with tightness in my chest, trouble breathing, and high blood pressure.
Off to the Emergency Room I went.
After blood work, a CT scan, x Rays, and an EKG, the results were inconclusive. But my blood pressure being around 180/120 when I arrived in the E.R. told a different story.
The conclusion that the doctors arrived at was that this discomfort was caused by the tightening of the muscles in my chest which could possibly be caused by stress.
Either way, not good for a 26 year-old. My primary care physician wrote me a script for blood pressure medication. I shouldn’t be dealing with stuff like this.
In retrospect, all the energy drinks I drank to deal with the monotony didn’t help. All the time spent in front of the computer didn’t help my waist as I was the heaviest I’ve been in my life. All the stress, the depression, the uncertainty, and corporate pressure to reach my goals didn’t help. The 30-minute commute to and from work each and every day didn’t help. Working 6 days a week didn’t help. Being ridiculously short-staffed didn’t help either.
Something had to change.
Yet, with all the adversity, I didn’t know how to change. I wasn’t going to be able to do it on my own. It was going to take something drastic that was out of my control to get me out of there.
So the best thing that could have ever happened to me happened.
I got fired!
There was no turning back now.
Luckily, one of my friends owns an event rental business and they were going into busy season so they needed some help. This was supposed to be a short-term thing. Something to bring in some income while I figured out what I wanted to do next. Somewhat crazily, the manual labor combined with the ridiculous Florida heat was just what this ex-banker needed.
I’m in the best shape that I’ve been in a while and I’m off the blood pressure medication. I work somewhere that values my hard work. Some days are more stressful than others but it’s nothing like how it was at the bank. I’m working somewhere where I can see myself having a future; it’s not just a means to an end. I’m actually happy again!
I probably make a little less money now, but the much-improved health and lifestyle more than make up for it.
Never again, will I put money before my health and well-being.
I hope that you never will either after reading this.
If you find yourself on the wrong career path, quit. It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder that you want to climb than the top of the one you don’t. It’s not worth risking your health and your happiness. If it’s not right for you, it’s just not going to work. It would be like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Not gonna happen.
Don’t trade your soul and your sanity just for a paycheck. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to rough it for a while financially while you figure things out. There are some things that you simply can’t put a price tag on.
Don’t sell yourself short. Just because you’ve done something for a while or have never done something before, it doesn’t mean that you can’t change and that you won’t be good at that something else too. Try new things. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failing is good because that’s where growth happens.
At the end of the day, we don’t know how long we have so we might as well make the best of things, right?
A bad job is simply not worth the stress and poor health for a paycheck, no matter how much it is.
Instead, find something that you actually enjoy that adds value to your life. If the pay isn’t what you’d like it to be, make some changes to make it work. It’ll be worth being happy again!