When I was in high school, my mom gave me a wall hanging that said “Don’t Quit” in big cursive letters. I didn’t adhere to that principle as a teen, but found it relevant when I started my career as a young adult. It reminded me that when things got tough, I had to keep pushing if I really wanted to get to the next step.
That “don’t quit” mentality helped me create a new career path in my first consulting firm, to be patient when that company was bought and to persevere in the start-ups that I joined thereafter.
The first time that this logic broke down for me was in my romantic relationships. “Don’t Quit” translated to me trying to make a relationship work no matter what happened, even if it meant pushing for something that wasn’t working. When I finally “quit” the relationship, I realized it was the best thing I could have done for myself. I wasn’t giving up on something that was working, I was letting go of something that wasn’t.
Now it was one thing to apply my new thoughts to relationships, but applying it to my job was a hard NO. It wasn’t because I was tied to improving my salary or because I needed to have an end goal. I simply felt it was irresponsible to quit unless you were moving to a new company or had enough of a financial cushion to justify a “break”.
At some point in the last few years, my job felt less and less engaging and I was no longer able to visualize the next step in my career. Friends who were aware of my love for fashion encouraged me to pursue roles in the fashion industry or to take a break and explore. But, no matter how much research I did, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and was not willing to quit my job to pursue an unknown. It was just not an option.
Thankfully, starting my blog in Sep 2016 gave me the perfect distraction.
Two months later, in Nov 2016, my husband’s job opportunity to relocate to Hong Kong presented itself. As much as I loved New York, I thought if he got it, I could try to stay with my existing company, work on my blog, and have more time to sort out this career confusion.
The company I worked at was bought in Mar 2017 by a much larger global company, and confirmation of our move finally came in Aug 2017. As chaotic as it all seemed at the time, it was actually perfect. I could now apply to transfer to my company’s Hong Kong office and figure out the rest later.
We came to Hong Kong at the end of Sep to find a place. I dropped by my company’s Hong Kong office to meet some of the people during the week; it was great. All I had to do now was wait for the transfer to come through. We were in a good place.
Later that weekend however, a change in perspective suddenly struck me. The transfer came up in a conversation with friends and instead of rolling with it like I had in discussions prior, something in my brain very loudly said “STOP, I don’t want this!”
I say that it was a sudden change in perspective, but in hindsight, it wasn’t sudden at all. Since starting my blog, I found myself growing and expanding in ways that I hadn’t imagined. I was realizing for the first time that I was ready to explore the unknown, to use lessons that I had learned throughout my career and see if I could actually build something on my own.
I kept my distressed thoughts at bay until I got back to New York and met with my mentor. She had talked me off the ledge many times before so I thought this time would be no different. Instead she said, “Manisha, I think it’s actually time to quit. You’ve been saying that you want to build something for awhile now, and after hearing you talk about your projects, I think this is the perfect time to give yourself a chance to figure out what you want to build.”
I was shocked. Never could I have imagined hearing her say that. More importantly, was I actually capable at building something on my own?
I’m really not sure what you’re thinking as you read this, but letting go of a career path that I had focused so much of my life on for an unknown was not a direction I thought I’d ever take.
But my conversation with my mentor confirmed what I’d already known but wasn’t willing to say out loud. I was ready. As nervous as I was (and still am) I was ready to “build” something. Whatever it turned out to be, I was ready to fail or succeed in the process. I worked through a high-level timeline and budget with my husband, and later that week went into my office to do something I never thought I would do. I quit.
Blog edited by: Betty Ho