I never thought what I did for a living defined who I was until I lost everything – just one reason why I’m never tying my self-worth to my career again.
At the age of 21, my byline started appearing in major newspapers. Before I hit 30 I had interviewed world leaders, and covered stories on some of Hollywood’s most fabulous stars.
I quickly built up a name for myself back home in my native Bahamas where working on TV instantly gave you mini celebrity status and for many, meant you had a good job.
Even after I transitioned from broadcasting to marketing, I kept working in the media, hosting a radio show and regularly appearing on media round tables to dissect national budgets or weigh in on the latest political scandal.
At the time I was connected and paid. But, I wasn’t happy.
The career that brought me attention also brought me isolation.
I knew early on that I wasn’t in love with what I did. Chasing politicians for soundbites didn’t fulfill me. I was good at reporting. It’s what paid the bills. It fed my bank account, but not my creative soul.
One evening after work while scrolling on YouTube, I stumbled across an old episode of the now defunct daytime show, The Real. I remember listening intently as one of the show’s cohosts, Adrienne Houghton recalled a time when she lost her job and felt, in some respects, useless.
It was a total aha moment. Not only did I relate to what Adrienne was saying, but I knew that it was just a matter of time before I experienced the same fate.
Leaving Behind The Island Life For The Big City
At the time, I was preparing to relocate to Washington, DC and would have to leave my jobs and professional network behind. The Bahamas was a little pond. I knew about survival there.
But, DC? DC is a great, big treacherous ocean. Not only is the competition extreme, but it’s a place where the politically connected and motivated land the best opportunities.
I knew I would have to start from the bottom. I’d done it before, so I had no qualms doing it again.
I was moving to a city I knew nothing about, with zero friends and no professional network. Even though I thought I was mentally prepared, I really didn’t understand the full scope of what to expect.
When things didn’t work out as quickly and as easily as I expected them to, I started to doubt my abilities.
I remember sending out and tracking dozens of resumes and job applications. I got one response and an interview from a major radio network. They wanted to send me on to the second round, but, the pandemic hit and everything fell radio silent.
Even when the world started to rebound I continued to submit resumes. No response.
Then, another opportunity came from a major radio network. It was the break I had been waiting for. But, my excitement quickly dissipated when I realized that I would be betraying myself for this role. I knew that if I went down that road, I would be right back in the same place I started – an unfulfilling career that didn’t make me happy.
The recruiter tried her best to convince me that it was a terrific opportunity, and it was. Just not for me. I backed away.
At the time, I was paying the bills by freelancing. Freelancing sounds sexy, but it’s extremely unreliable and nerve-wracking.
There are clients who happily pay on time every time and others who need threats to fork over your hard-earned money.
And What Do You Do?
At the time I remember dreading meeting people because I didn’t want them to ask me what I did for a living.
I’ve always had the feeling that people ask you what you do so that they know what box to put you in. Either you’re someone important who deserves their time, or you’re a nobody who should be ignored and dismissed.
I’ll admit that while I never felt like I was more important because of the job I did, I did feel valued . . . respected. My job made me feel worthy.
Because of the unreliability of freelancing, I took on a second job in a retail store. I remember running into an old colleague from back home. He looked at me the way one stares when they discover their old college buddy is living on the streets.
I found humor in it, but also remember feeling a wave of embarrassment following our encounter. A quick chat with my family helped me to snap out of it.
I then started asking myself why I felt ashamed. I had left behind everything and everyone I knew to take a chance somewhere new. I stepped into a great big ocean to compete with the world’s best. Few people would leave their comfort zone like that. Few people would humble themselves to take on a job that paid beneath their experience and qualifications, but I did.
There was no shame in what I was doing. I was making good, honest money that supplemented my income and I started valuing myself for who I was, not what I was. Journeys have ebbs and flows, mountains and valleys. I reminded myself that I was in the middle of my book and that it was far from over.
But, my time in the valley taught me five powerful lessons that I am so glad I learned.
Who I am is way more important than what I do. My core values, my belief system and the way I treat people all hold more value than a job title with salary and benefits.
God is excellent at removing earthly crutches so that we become solely reliant on Him. That way we will know that everything we have is because He gave it to us, and that’s better than any six-figure salary.
I’ve learned to separate my self-worth from my job. It’s a dangerous headspace to be in and one that I hope to never enter again.
I’ve learned the importance of filling my schedule with things that make me happy that aren’t work-related. Work used to be my everything, which is why when it was stripped from me, I felt like I was losing everything. Now, I spend my time in nature, visiting museums, blogging and exploring my new city for my YouTube channel.
I’ve redefined what success looks like to me. Success looks like achieving the crazy goals that I’ve set for myself – goals that would make some of my contemporaries laugh, goals that scare me and goals that will reap significant benefits in the near future.
I hope that this blog post helps you take stock of your life, dreams and goals. More importantly, I hope it helps you understand that you have tremendous value and potential even if you’re not where you want to be right now. Just remember, your days in the valley are numbered. The mountaintop awaits.
This Bahamian Gyal