Thinking About Leaving Your Corporate Job? – Here’s Why I Left Mine

Since I started going to school, I have been shaped up for the nine-to-five life. My days were meticulously scheduled: I woke up at seven in the morning, sat in class for hours, took breaks in between, clocked out in the afternoon. Rinse and repeat. I pulled in my weight in class: I studied, answered questions during discussions, was made to take quizzes and then tasked to complete projects. I was rewarded with good grades and punished with low marks or reprimands—both served as carrot and stick to make me perform a certain way. But overall, it was that external validation waiting at the end of a task that kept me going: the higher the marks or the more positive the comments, the better I performed, and the more I wanted to perform so I could get that same affirmation again and again. Eventually, I realized that it bore in me a craving for validation and reward, and the sheer joy of learning and growing took a backseat in my life.

I took this fixation with me to my adult, working life. I worked a nine-to-five in the corporate world, operating in the same personal system I had been hardwired with since I was a kid: wake up, clock in, work hard, clock out. This time, the reward was not only positive comments but also financial security. I used to be convinced that I did love my job. “Because I am told I’m good at it and it pays the bills,” I would say at dinner with friends.

But my previous job made me feel like a machine more than an actual person. Our company had rigid rules and practices. To be fair, the system they had was pretty neat – it was the company culture that made the rules on time management and personal efficiency, but in my second year there they set these unwritten rules in stone through technology (like installing a room booking system for meetings.) But even then, it was this same system that made me feel like everything was choreographed in a way—all our movements were calculated and timed. Every day my coworkers and I sat in our cubicles doing more or less the same thing every gloomy workday.  Once in a while, someone would meet their quota or close a good deal, and we would lighten up for a moment. Not too long after we were back to our cubicles, re-entering the rat race.

Recently, I reached a point where I finally confronted myself with the fact that life is not supposed to be lived like this. All I do during coffee breaks is go on Instagram and sigh when I see pictures of people traveling the world, learning about different cultures firsthand and basking in the fresh breeze of nature—which is their whole lifestyle, not just a few days of paid leave. That’s the kind of life I long for—choreographed and timed by me, not a higher-up or a whole money-making institution that controls me with the promise of reward down the line. I’m letting go of the craving for validation and seeking out the feeling of true fulfillment.