Disaster or Blessing in Disguise?

After a year of agony I can finally work a full day without any pain.

It’s been about a year since I suffered a crippling work injury that led to a medical leave of absence before I made the decision to quit my job, leave tech sales, move to San Diego and start a business as a career coach. I’m happy to say that everything has changed for the better over the course of the past year. Most importantly I am pain free for the first time since my injury which means I can finally work a full day again and I no longer have to worry about my ability to maintain a job that requires a significant amount of time using a computer.

I suffered what is called a repetitive stress injury or RSI which resulted in intense pain and fatigue in both of my forearms (kinda like carpal tunnel but not really). I came into work on a Monday after having an amazing weekend at the Northern Nights music festival in Mendocino only to discover that after 30 minutes of sending emails and entering details into Salesforce that I couldn’t type or mouse without this burning pain shooting up both arms.

That’s when it hit me that things needed to change.

Now let’s fast forward to the end of the quarter. It wasn’t pretty. I was struggling just to keep my head above water each day. Somehow I managed to get through each day, hobbled as I was. Fortunately, I had a prescription for anti-anxiety meds that seemed to magically ease the pain for long enough that I was able to do enough to show that I was at least trying to keep my job.

It wasn’t until the start of the following quarter that I realized something was seriously wrong. Three months had passed, and I was just as handicapped as I was when I got the injury, and taking Xanax each day at work just to get by was not a sound long-term strategy. A change needed to be made. And not the kind of change that requires an updated resume and a round of interviews. I mean, like a major life change needed to be made.

The worst of it.

Tech sales was destroying me. The stress, the pressure, the physical demands of the role where you’re expected to be in the office by 7am each day and breaks are non-existent over the course of the day. The cracks had been there all along. I had flirted with disability previously at my last tech company, but I was able to throw a band aid on it (armbands for tennis elbow) and power through it.

This wasn’t even the worst of it though. Before any of the physical ailments began to manifest I was dealing with a much more existential dilemma. No longer could I ignore questions like what am I doing with my life?? Is this really worth it? I knew what the answer was yet I felt completely trapped. What choice did I have? I was well-paid and established in a career that I worked incredibly hard to advance in. What was I going to do? Start over again? That just seemed like an awful lot to throw away just because I didn’t like my job very much.

A plan is conceived.

After meeting with my doctor we decided that the best thing for me would be to take a medical leave of absence in the hopes that some rest and relaxation might help restore my arms to health so I could get back to work once and for all. After a couple weeks off I noticed slight improvements but nothing that told me that I’d be anywhere near 100% by the end of the four week break. It was at this point that I got serious about crafting a plan to right the sinking ship that was my life.

I knew a few things for sure. Tech sales would continue to destroy me – and any other corporate job that required me to work at a computer all day doing work that wasn’t aligned with my values or interests. So I went back to the drawing board to consider other alternatives. That’s when I remembered this idea I had tucked away collecting dust in the corner of my mind which was to work as a life coach. I picked it up, dusted it off and then began exploring it seriously for the first time.

Meaningful work becomes a real possibility.

Pretty soon it started to make sense. It would be a job where I could spend much more time on the phone or video conference than on a computer. It would allow me to work at my own pace on my own schedule at a level of intensity that felt appropriate. Most importantly, however, was that it would give me the best chance of doing work that felt meaningful and personally satisfying. I’d been geeking out on psychology and personal development since I was a teenager and coaching was the perfect way for me to put all my knowledge, training and practice to use.

With a plan in place it was time to get to work.

So that was it. After I’d done enough soul-searching to understand that if there’s one thing I’m passionate about, it’s helping people overcome obstacles that had dogged me for so much of my life. I loved working one on one with people in sales but my heart was never in it. Now I could leverage all of the skills and experience I’d gained over the years in combination with my psychology and neuroscience degree in a way that would be personally satisfying.

The plan was hatched, and the wheels were set in motion as soon as my roommate told me he was moving out. With the cost of living continuing to escalate in San Francisco, I knew that I couldn’t stay, and that I was going to need a dramatic change in lifestyle in order to fully recover from this injury that was largely stress-induced.

A chance to start over.

Cue San Diego. It had a really nice ring to it. I’d been fantasizing for years about starting a new life spent on the sun-soaked beaches of this laid-back SoCal city. I’d only visited once previously on a short work trip eight years ago but it was long enough to fit in my first surf lesson and get a real sense for just how relaxed life was down there.

Thanksgiving rolled around and with my family in town I let them in on my not so little secret. I was about to quit my job and leave everything behind in order to start the next chapter of my life as an entrepreneur, aspiring life coach and resident of San Diego. A couple of weeks later I loaded up a U-Haul truck and drove ten hours straight down route 5 to my new apartment in downtown San Diego.

Reaping the fruits of my labor.

For the past year I’ve been hard at work building my business, settling into life in this new environment all the while continuing to receive regular acupuncture treatment for my arms. I’m happy to say that I had my last round of acupuncture for my arms last month (now it’s just acupuncture for eye strain – the lesser of two evils), and that through it all I’ve been able to establish a thriving business as a career coach helping people who have found themselves in their own dire straits.

I share this story for many reasons. I hope for it to be a cautionary tale for anyone who, like me, may be noticing and ignoring the warning signs of what could ultimately be the precursor to something much worse. I also hope that it serves as inspiration to anyone who may also be feeling like they are not in alignment with the right kind of work, and they’re fed up with it.

What if you happen to feel stuck in the wrong line of work?

Not everyone is going to have the same experience as I had working in sales or the corporate world. I know many people who enjoy it and hope to continue in sales for many years. But some will. There are so many different types of personalities that may or may not jive with a particular profession. This is inevitable. The question is, if you’re the person who recognizes you’re not in the right line of work, what are you going to do? Do you know that change is possible? Are you aware that the right line of work exists for everyone if they can just figure out what it is and how to make it happen?

If any of my story resonates with you then I’d love to hear about it. My mission in life is to be the person that people can turn to in their darkest moments of grief and overwhelm. I intend to be a beacon of hope for people who feel beaten down by life as I had. It gives me such joy and satisfaction to know that I’m able to make a difference in someone’s life.

Consider the possibilities.

As far as careers are concerned, all it takes is an adjustment. An opportunity to take a step back and look at the big picture of a person’s life to re-assess what’s most important to someone in order to course-correct. Just like for an airplane pilot, if I’m able to influence even just a one degree change in a client’s trajectory then I know that I’ve also just influenced that person’s destination to a degree that you can’t even measure.

The good life is very much possible. It isn’t easy – recovering from my injury and building this business has by far been the most challenging period of my life – but it’s so worth it – this has also been the most transformative period of my life, leading to so much personal growth and professional satisfaction.

If you commit to change you’ll never regret it.

All you have to do is commit to making it a reality. To take a chance on yourself and doggedly pursue your hopes and dreams with no consideration for what others might think or say. That’s it. And hopefully you’ll do it the smart way and hire a coach to be in your corner as you navigate the unfamiliar terrain of your new life.

I invite you to email me if you feel inspired to have a conversation about your own hopes and dreams. I’d like to hear about what obstacles and roadblocks may be preventing you from creating the life you know that you deserve. I really don’t care if you decide to work with me or not. What I do care about is that you give this serious consideration. Work is not worth suffering over. It’s supposed to be fun.

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