Part 5/5: A Lesson in Giving Myself Permission

bryan-minear-317365-unsplash.jpg

By the end of my trip to Texas where I practically rocked my own world by learning acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion, I was so excited to get back to work so I could give my long-awaited notice. The day that I told myself I’d quit my job, Monday, April 9th, had finally arrived.

Like every morning I go into the office, I got on the 8:15am shuttle that took me out to our offices in New Jersey. I remember feeling anxious because I just wanted to shout to the whole world, “Hey, everyone! I’m quitting!” But obviously, that couldn’t happen. I preoccupied myself on the ride, listening to my health coaching modules and checking out the avalanche of unread emails and the meetings I had for the day. I wanted to tell my manager first thing in the morning, but then I saw that we were both in a three-hour long meeting starting at 9am (the worst!).

Once I got settled, I logged onto my laptop and immediately sent my manager a request to talk later in the afternoon, and I masked it as a “touch base.” I thought that wouldn’t look suspicious since I was out of pocket for a good two weeks. He accepted it, and so it was.

Oh, the suspense. I thought I was going to die! I couldn’t stop thinking about what I planned to say, the tone I would use, how honest I would be about why I’m leaving. Every so often, the thought of how I would financially support myself snuck into my mind, but I tried not to dwell because that wasn’t part of the deal I cut for myself. I was leaving because in my heart I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be where I was.

In my favor, the meeting ended 30 minutes early. “This is my chance!” I thought. I practically sprinted to my manager across the board room and asked him, “Hey! How are you? Do you have time to chat now?” I don’t even think I even gave him the opportunity to respond to my first question.

We went into one of those tiny “phone booth” rooms. He kindly asked me about my trip to Texas, and I kept my response brief because I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. It had been over 100 days since I made the decision to leave.

I dropped it on him like a bomb. I told him in the kindest way possible that I think corporate just wasn’t for me anymore and that it’s time to phase out of it. I intended to just tell him that I want to consult on my own, and that would be it. But, I ended up telling him more than I planned.

A few days before I left Texas, I had this app idea that came to me which was to make networking at events more effective and efficient. I was eager about my idea and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I kept noodling and it became more defined. I was looking forward to making it happen. I even looked up tech accelerators, researched competitors, and created a roadmap to launch this baby. I didn’t intend to tell anyone at work about this because it was still so new. But I ended up purging it all to my manager.

He was super supportive, expressed that he wished I could stay but understood that I had this other passion. We agreed to tell the rest of the team later in the day after the upper-levels of management got the news first. So, I went on with my day feeling immense weight lifted off of my shoulders. I was still clueless on a lot of things, but it just felt so good to break out of the closet.

Later that day, a team meeting popped up on my calendar. I was preparing myself to tell everyone that I would be leaving in the next few weeks. That is, until my manager IM’d me, asking if we could speak privately. I had no idea what it was been about. I simply expected to alert everyone, wrap up loose strings, and hand off projects until my last day. Things got interesting.

After news broke to upper-management, I think they pow-wowed amongst themselves with my manager to discuss what can be done to accommodate my new life goals. So, they came with two other options for me to consider before I called it quits. They asked if I would consider 1) moving to another category, which basically meant just marketing a different type of product or 2) going part-time. I imagined option 1 came about because they wanted to see if I was maybe just bored with what I was doing. I was working on a men’s grooming brand, managing its deodorant category, which was like <insert the puke face emoji> for me because I came from working in beauty, and not functional personal care. But option 2 seemed like a fertile territory to explore.

When I first heard this, I was floored. I think my body actually went into shock because I had zero expectations of this. I was flustered and overwhelmed, so I told my manager that I needed some time to think about it. What I remember thinking was, “Is this for real? Why is this happening? Part-time? How is that supposed to work?”

I went home feeling the effects of an out-of-body experience. I was flattered and confused at the same time. Confusion came because, to me, leaving my job was the big prize and reward for the inner-work I was doing. And it seemed like that wasn’t what God was putting in front of me. Regardless, I still felt privileged that a company as large as the one I worked at would even propose the option of going part-time. I never heard of that before in my line of work.

Later that evening, things got even more interesting.

I had a call with someone who I met at a health and wellness event. She lived in Boston. When we first met, she was working through an app idea, as well, and I thought hers was really cool. We had chemistry, so we agreed to stay in touch. I also volunteered myself to be one of her sounding boards when it came to the brand and marketing part.

We touched base every couple of weeks as she progressed in making her app happen. By this point, she had just gotten into a tech accelerator she applied for just a few days before, so I expected that the call we had on this evening to be the usual update with some celebratory remarks.

Turns out, the purpose of the call was for her to ask me if I would join her in her accelerator program to build the foundation of her app. It would have meant that I would move to Boston for the summer, build a network in the startup space, match with mentors, and learn what it’s like to build an app business.

Again, I was flattered and confused at the same time. I didn’t understand why this opportunity came about. It felt like I was just getting roadblocks (albeit, these were really good ones to have) that were going to require me to reassess my decision to start a new chapter in my life. Again, what I envisioned in my mind before starting this day, April 9th, was that I would tell my company that I’m leaving and then work on my app idea. But clearly, that wasn’t God’s plan for me because why else would all these dizzying options present themselves?

By bedtime, I had a range of emotions. How could the day that I dreamed of and planned for months have so many surprises? I felt like my day of freedom and celebration I was looking forward to was hijacked and, instead, I became crippled with choices that I didn’t want to make. I mostly didn’t want to question my own plans.

A week went by…

I knew I needed to make choices. I ended up pursuing the part-time opportunity and declining the invitation to join the tech accelerator because I really thought that I shouldn’t give up precious time to someone else’s business idea. Thinking about my own app is what drove me to making those decisions. I was happy to have better clarity on what I’d be approaching ahead of me.

At work, there were a couple of administrative tasks that needed to be completed for me to be officially on part-time status. I couldn’t seem to decide on what day I would start my new hours. I had the liberty to choose on what days and hours I would work as long as I fulfilled a minimum of 20 hours a week which would give me my benefits coverage in full. The plan was that I would start at the end of April.

By the end of April…

The paperwork and formal approval were still at a standstill. Plenty of verbal approvals were given, but there was this block in the process. Since I had the flexibility and loved the idea of still getting paid my full-time salary for just a little longer, I offered to stay until the end of May. Because of Memorial Day weekend, those last two weeks are pretty vacant in the office which meant I knew they would be easy, quiet weeks.

Then, June rolled around…

There was still no movement on the paperwork. I started following up more often to give friendly nudges. At this point, it was already two months since we aligned that I would go part-time. During this transition period when I was basically in purgatory between full- and part-time, those feelings of living everyday like Groundhog’s Day started to happen again. Everyday became mundane and boring. My energy and spirit were dimming, and I becoming pessimistic and negative. I fell back into that feeling of getting squished into the square box that I didn’t fit into.

My enthusiasm for my app idea also started to wane, so I decided to shelve it indefinitely. I was a little uncomfortable with letting it go at first because the idea came to me so strongly, and I thought it was a sign. But as more time went by and I investigated further, it became more of a burden and my desire to be a startup founder diminished. Starting a business is already challenging, and I worked in business for so long already. I was totally okay with giving it up, and refocusing my energy on finding what really brought me joy and happiness.

At the end of June…

I went away to San Diego for a bachelorette party. I was really dreading going back to work. Most of all, I was annoyed that I hadn’t switched to part-time yet. How long could it possibly take for one last written approval to be sent in? I tried to bite my tongue, put my head down, and just wait patiently. The week went on as usual. I already put into practice working my proposed part-time hours, so I was looking forward to dedicating that off-time on other things. Even though, I wasn’t working on certain days of the week, I still always had my work phone and watched the emails coming through. It was hard to pay all of my attention to my passion projects, but getting the full-time paycheck was really comforting.

On Wednesday, which was my first day back from San Diego, I received a request for an ad-hoc task that was above and beyond the scope of part-time work my manager and I aligned to. Now, I mentioned that I was already somewhat working my part-time hours because my manager gave me his permission. So, this extra request made me lose. my. shit. And it triggered the hell out of me. 

I felt disrespected because it didn’t feel like I was being asked to do a favor, considering the agreement. Instead, it felt more like a volun-told situation. What sucked even more was that I didn’t feel comfortable pushing back because I was still getting paid as a full-timer. I felt helpless, frustrated, and disempowered. I so badly wanted to go into a rage and blame everyone for making me feel so shitty. There wasn’t much I could do, so I decided to sleep on it and just wait until the next day to game plan how much I wanted to press this issue.

The next day…

I still felt angry, but I didn’t want to it to linger. I called for help from my mastermind friends. Thank goodness someone was available.

My dear friend, Denise Gaffney, who is a (damn good) Certified Professional Coach, called me. We worked through my situation together, and she helped me uncover the root of what was blocking me. My boundaries were violated and I felt that I wasn’t being seen or heard. For the first time in my career, I saw how much of myself I had given up by pleasing others, taking on the burden of someone else’s work, and feeling guilty if I said no. And my whole life, I had been waiting for someone to give me permission to say enough is enough, but that doesn’t exist unless you give it to yourself. This frivolous task triggered me in a way that I felt voiceless and powerless. But none of that was true. It was all an illusion in my mind because I did have a voice and power. I just needed to give myself the permission to use them.

And there it was – my longing for permission is what I needed to let go because it no longer served me.

At that moment, it was crystal clear. I felt a pain that I could no longer tolerate, and no amount of money, title, or status within a company would’ve compensated for it. That night, I spent my time journaling and further processing what I unpacked. I finally found my voice, and I knew in my heart that it was time for me to start showing up as my true self. That meant leaving corporate and exploring my calling, whatever that may be.

The next morning on Friday, June 29th, I gave my second and final notice that my last day would be today, July, 27th.


The chain of events that occurred since April was long-winded, but it’s clear that I needed these three months in between to learn the lesson of giving myself permission.

In April, when I was presented with my part-time option, I was extremely flattered and grateful because money was still a worry of mine in the back of my head. Also, instead of letting my ego takeover and be fearful of judgment that someone might think I chickened out of actually quitting my job (because this is what I thought of myself in my mind), I gave myself permission to take the Divine safety net and extra time I was given.

Then when I was offered an opportunity to check out what it’s like to be in a tech accelerator, I gave myself permission to stand up for myself and be confident that I could figure it out on my own. I took a stance on who I was and what I was capable of. I definitely had moments when I heard the whisper in my head, “Sorah, you need to go to Boston because you could avoid looking dumb when you’re in your future accelerator.” Rather, I didn’t trust that voice of fear in my head and permitted myself to not worry about being perfect, even when it seemed like I could plan that perfection for the future.

And lastly, the bow that wraps it all together was the most recent incident around a work task that I felt shouldn’t have been asked of me. I confronted myself and saw that I had been waiting for someone to give me permission to enforce my boundaries and use my voice which is what spiraled my emotions. And further, I was waiting for that same someone to permit me to stand in my power and create the life I desire. I, once again, was reminded that that “someone” was me and that I was the only one in my own way.

I never thought I had an issue with boundaries or giving myself permission before. Most people would say that I’ve always been very good at vocalizing what I wanted. But the truth is, it was all a façade. Deep inside, I still had a desire to please others and, in return, receive their validation. I didn’t actually permit myself to show up as I was because of the fear that I wouldn’t be liked.

Today, I know better than to make judgements when it comes to others’ feelings about me and when I don’t receive the validation I was seeking. My responsibility in this lifetime is to find my true self and happiness without the reinforcements of others. Wanting someone’s validation, even just a compliment, would just be exacerbating the bad habit of seeking for permission that I worked hard to break through.

Looking at my journey over the this series of posts I wrote, I’m incredibly proud of how far I’ve come. I shed a lot of tears, had moments of extreme anxiety, and times when I felt alone. My journey still continues, and I’m most excited to live this next part feeling awake, empowered, and inspired. Most of all, I am so happy to feel as though I am reborn and ready to show who I am with a lot more authenticity and a lot less of the ego I used to hide behind.

With my corporate career now behind me, I will be dedicating myself to finding ways to serve people. I have a hunch that I’ll be transitioning into health and wellness and that’s where this service will happen, but I really don’t have all the details yet. And for once, I am perfectly content with it.

I hope you enjoyed my 5-Day Countdown Blog Series recounting my journey to quitting my 9-5. My purpose in writing these posts was to capture this once-in-a-lifetime era because I’d love to come back and read them one day. And of course, my efforts had an underlying mission of helping anyone who might come across my blog to heal and grow. If this has helped you in any way, I sincerely feel honored that my words made an impact.

And as always, my lines of communication are open for everyone  

Xx,
Sorah

Sorah Kim