Just six months ago, I reached a peak point of stasis in my life. Something wasn’t working and I couldn’t carry on the way I always had, just because on paper it made sense. By all accounts, I wanted to feel more grateful. My side hustle of being a filmmaker was going well - I had successfully launched my first web series, which had had a sold out local screening, received extensive media coverage and even been nominated for a couple of awards. My day job was a permanent one in the television industry that had benefits, offered excellent work-life balance and I had a good working relationship with my boss.
And yet, I was feeling sick, both emotionally and physically. By this point, I constantly felt inexplicably nauseous. My neck and back were hurting terribly and the thought of continuing to sit behind a desk felt physically impossible as a result of that pain. I asked family and friends who had quit their jobs without back-up plans: how did you know when to go? And I realized that after all these years, I did not and had never liked the idea of a 9-5. I did not like grey cubicles and carpets, awkward elevator rides and sitting in the same spot for hours every day. I did not like the obligation to sit behind a desk and pretend to work when I had completed my tasks. I was tired of being constrained by workplace hierarchies/norms and as a creative person, I frankly couldn’t hack this lifestyle any more.
_I didn't want to literally burn any bridges behind..._
I had spent so many years pushing away that niggling voice inside my brain that sometimes shouted, “I hate this!”. Because what else could I do with myself? I wasn’t good with my hands. I had tried working the long hours of the film industry and that also felt limiting, albeit in a different way. Every job description that I looked at, with my background in communications, sounded quite dull. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter what they paid, because the work always sounded the same: roll out a communication plan, manage social media, write articles, blah, blah, blah. No job description I looked at ever talked about the big picture, which is what I cared about. How did my role connect to something bigger and more meaningful?
My father told me he knew when to quit his comfortable, well-paying day job when he stopped asking everyone else what they thought. My grandfather had told him this. I carried that advice with me until one day the switch in my brain went off too and I suddenly didn’t care what anyone else thought or what came next. When my husband came home that day I said, “I’m really sorry, but I can’t carry on this like anymore. I have to quit my job”.
To be continued next week…
Amen Jafri is a documentary filmmaker, producer and creative coach. She spent 10 years in communications and HR in the federal public service, before pivoting into film and television production. She got her start on the feature thriller Penthouse North before working on Radio Canada’s Toi et moi: malgré tout and in Acquisitions at the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Her latest project, The Secret Lives of Public Servants, is currently on the festival circuit and she is directing Creatorland, a documentary series on entrepreneurship. She is also a 2018 fellow for Hot Docs’ Doc Accelerator Emerging Filmmaker Lab. Visit amenjafri.com for more info.