The best time to plant a tree
Friday was my last day of work at the immigration law firm that employed me for the last 8 (!) years. Over the last year, I started to feel the need not just for a new job, but for a deliberate career change, and I determined that the best way for me to achieve this would be to make a clean break with my job, live off savings for a few months, and make room in my life for new plans and goals.
A little over ten years ago, I moved to San Francisco without much more of a plan than "get a boring day job and spend my free time making/seeing theater." Vague as those goals were, and despite all the ups and downs of the last decade, I think I succeeded at it! But all plans eventually need revision, and now that I'm in my thirties, the reality of spending every weekday for a decade working at an office job that I kind of fell into due to financial pressures and recession-era Craigslist ads has worn on me. I am smart and capable and obsessively interested in many things, so why wasn’t I working at a job that more fully excited my passion and wit? Why did I still have the Great Recession mentality that “jobs are scarce and young people are lucky to have them,” rather than recognizing that this is 2018 in San Francisco, and I have a good degree, ten years of work experience, and a rent-controlled apartment in a tech boom town? Why did I think that having playwriting or creative ambitions precluded also having ambitions for my money-earning career? Theater is and will always be part of my life, but it is not my whole life, and I am a better writer and citizen when I feel contented and empowered on my workaday weekdays.
It takes a lot for me to change. (Obviously: what other millennial stays with the same employer for 8 years and in the same apartment for 10 years?) And it's hard for me not to have some regrets about the time I wasted: I should have realized sooner that I was neglecting my career and that it was making me unhappy, I should have made more deliberate choices rather than drifting along with the status quo. But, as they say, "the best time to plant a tree was thirty years ago; the second-best time is today." So I have decided to give myself the gift of time and freedom—time to figure out what comes next.
I'm not planning to leave San Francisco. As I said, there’s lots of opportunities in this town, and I don't like change! I cherish the friends and community I have here, and feel no need to start all over again in a new city. Not all of my life needs rebuilding—just the career aspect of it.
So now, with this decision, my future is more wide-open than it has been for ten years, since I moved here as a (naive, arrogant, insecure) 21-year-old. That sense of freedom is a little scary, but it is also exhilarating. It is the vertigo of standing on the running board of a cable car as it makes its controlled plunge down Nob Hill. I don't want to sleepwalk through the next decade of my life. I want to awaken to sensation and possibility.