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Last week, we spoke to a room full of 75 professionals at a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion conference hosted by Auburn University. The conference was designed to bring together thought leaders and practitioners from all sectors to discuss effective Diversity and Inclusion [D&I] strategies.
Our talk was about how work, as we know it today, is broken.
We spent an hour walking the audience through some alarming trends and paralleled that with the growing interest in the Financial Independence movement. Our message was essentially that one of these things is more “extreme” than the other (and spoiler alert: it’s not saving your money). We left them with a single question…how does your workplace attract, retain and lead a financially empowered employee? Click To Tweet
We were close enough to the audience to see lightbulbs coming on and cobwebs clearing in their heads via their facial expressions. We felt really good about it. Afterwards a corporate recruiter came up to me to ask a question. In her job, she almost exclusively recruits for entry-level roles best suited for new college graduates. She agreed with everything we said and even mentioned that she’s been hearing more students talk like we [r&R] talk but confessed it was a barrier to moving forward in the interview process.
“When they start talking about wanting a ‘laptop lifestyle’ in 5 years, I just turn my ears off because I know I can’t put them in front of the hiring manager. How do you coach students to still interview well, even though they have this conflicting goal?” she asked.
I nodded my head because it was a well-meaning question. Then I told her, as gently as I could…”we don’t”. Instead, we share how my pursuit of Financial Independence has actually made me a better employee and that I wasn’t alone in my experience. Our conversation was quick, but her comments have stayed on my mind because looking back, she asked the wrong question.
In the last 18 months, I’ve taken on a new job with more responsibilities and survived two more rounds of layoffs, but I didn’t come out unscathed. Despite being able to do the job in my sleep, work became less predictable which made the pace of my life feel more frantic. I found myself falling into familiar unhealthy habits.
I was less present and would become irritable on Sunday nights, dreading the Monday commute. Meanwhile, it’s been about 18 months since Julien left and I hardly recognize him – in a good way. But the widening gap between how we experience the world has created a wedge. His perspective has rapidly evolved and I’m convinced it’s because he’s had more time to sit with his thoughts. He’s become more creative, daring and about as blunt as a pickaxe. One of the reasons I married him was for his sincerity, but lately I’ve heard it more more as a confrontation than refreshing honesty.
Like the recruiter at Auburn University, I felt stuck because I was asking all the wrong questions. If I had spent more time grappling with questions like “what’s really at risk here?” or “what kind of person is this job teaching me to be?”, I would have made this decision a year ago.
But still, improving my marriage isn’t THE reason I’m leaving. I feel like I’ve been doing mental backflips trying to explain THE reason. I told my boss, my reason was “more flexibility”. When I told my mom-friends, I said “more time with my baby boy”. Even in writing this post, I stared at a blank screen longer than any doctor would recommend trying to figure out how to condense my rationale in under a thousand words. Everything I came up with felt like a half-truth.I'm finally at a point in my life where I can choose me. My job was creating friction because the traditional workplace isn't set up to support employees who can make that kind of choice. Click To Tweet
The whole reason we started this journey was for this level of freedom. Our very definition of ‘rich’ involves how many options we have in any given circumstance. If something needs to change, we change it. Over time, we’ve become better architects of our own lives but, the thing is, you can know something is intellectually true enough to create a blueprint and still not believe it enough to take action and start building. I spent most of 2019 digging deep into my fears until I believed that reclaiming my time was an option that didn’t have to wait another year.
You wanna know another reason? I quit because it’s time to support my local Girl Gang. Black women are the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs and Atlanta leads the nation. Many of us are opting out, unwilling to continue to participate in a system that doesn’t work for most of us. We have a long history of carrying movements forward, and my plan is to stand in that legacy and further contribute by introducing them to FIRE.
But I also quit my job because it’s time to be fully present.
As I join Team r&R full-time, I’m reminded of how many of my favorite memories were diluted because of my job demands. I remember how I skipped lunch and took this interview in a vacant conference room instead. And how I fought traffic, barely making it in the door 5 minutes before we recorded this podcast. This video was shot after a half-day of meetings and a trip to urgent care and the one below was on the tail-end of a 4 day business trip. I’m tired of the unnecessary double duty and I’m done with playing small ball.I've spent almost two decades shrinking in the name of "professionalism" and now I'm ready to be kinder to myself. Click To Tweet
I look forward to confidently rocking my hair even when it’s frizzy, to get dressed in a carefree manner unbothered about which curves may be accentuated, and to only use my ‘Customer Service’ voice when I actually need Customer Service! These may seem like little things, but they’re not.
I can tolerate the discomfort that comes with believing in myself because when I look at the alternative, one of these things is more “extreme” than the other…