Don't quit your day job. It could be worth a lot more than you think.
I'm a millennial. Millennials are notorious for having big dreams and wanting to get to the top as quickly as possible. I know because I am one. We like to be our own bosses, start our own companies, and list ourselves on Facebook as "CEO of (Insert company we made up here but don't have an LLC for yet.)" We joined the C-suite the second we graduated (whether or not that came with an income, who can say...) But speaking of incomes, many of us don't think too much about them. On most days, we just want to be happy. We live a life based on how we want to feel rather than how much we want to have: status, fancy cars or otherwise. We've de-stigmatized the whole "living on our parents couches" thing. Now, all the cool kids are doing it. At least until they realize they're going to go crazy if their parents call them one more time after work to see what time they're getting home. Eventually, many of us decide it's time to give in to "the man" to get out from under the poverty line. We apply for “real jobs", we get salaries and benefits, we move out. And then we become "corporate millennials", many of us bitter and wondering if "selling out" was the wrong choice. Some of us are even jealous of our friends with the freer lives. Our extra money from our bigger salaries is mostly going to the bar tabs that are numbing us out from having to think about what we're actually doing with ourselves. We planned on "following our real dreams" before and after work hours, but now we mostly we just want to have a drink (or a dozen if you're in finance...) and go to sleep when we get home. Our "real" ambitions start fading into the distance, and we spend a whole lot of time blaming ourselves for making the "mistake" of "giving in."
For too many people, this struggle is all too real. There are a ton of people out there who would be better off giving the old couch another college try. If life is so miserable that you need a bottle of grey goose and a pack of cigarettes you thought you weren't addicted to but now can't-be-seen-without, there's probably an issue. No amount of money is worth alcoholism, lung cancer and general acute misery. The money ain't worth it, my friend.
But then there are those with the big dreams that had to start somewhere. Maybe you're one of those people. Maybe you're a creative type, a writer or entrepreneur, and you know you could get started building your dreams "if you only had the time." For you, the day job you took because it felt like you had to is probably what you think is blocking you from pursuing those dreams. It's too hard to write a chapter in a week when you have three huge deadlines, and how are you supposed to start your own business when you have a non-compete? You're not getting totally sloshed every day after work, but there's a feeling of un-fulfillment and even slight failure that lingers inside of you each morning. "If I could only quit my day job and write/paint/sing all day...I would be so much happier."
It's those of you that I have a message for: your day job might be worth a lot more than you think.
In case you can't tell, I've had a little bit of experience with all/most of the above. I, too, took a day job right out of college (after spending about 9 months doing freelance photography and struggling to make ends meet) and wondered almost the entire time whether or not I'd made some horrible mistake by taking it. I dreamed of writing full time, being supported by a flock of advertisers and living on cup-noodles to make my dreams reality. Photography was supposed to be the perfect supplement to my dream: giving me another creative outlet and a temporary income that writing couldn't promise. But I wasn't making enough to continue, and I had to find away to support myself before I became a crazy Boston subletter living with 4 boys and 2 cats I was allergic to (true story.)
So I took my job and, as I said, spent years berating myself and thinking myself "undedicated" for "failing" to be a good millennial and starve it out while I chased after what I really wanted. I neglected to admit to myself that a lot of why I took the job I had was because it gave me a lot of the other stuff I really wanted: entrance into the "real world", money, job security, and a car and apartment to call my own. Those things were important to me, too, and it took a long time before I finally admitted that to myself. I didn't want to be a "starving" artist: I wanted to be a flourishing one. I had to admit that to myself before I could really take a next step that was more fulfilling than the stair I was standing on.
I also made a really important realization - the purpose of this entire blog post, in fact: What I failed to notice was that my day job was giving me more writing inspiration than I would ever get had I not been employed. I was having day-to-day work experiences that readers could actually relate to. I was meeting people who started reading my blog and thus I expanded my readership. I was supported by my office community and they even shared what I was writing on their Facebook page. My writing and my reach was getting better because of my 9-5, not worse.
Then, of course, there came a time when I was silent for too long. I had truly moved on from my posiiton and it was time for something different, something that incorporated more of what I am truly passionate about and gave me even more flexibility to go for my dreams. I'm not a full-time writer, and I like it that way. I see the value in being part of something bigger than I am, and I see that the more I give to it, the more I get back in return.
You might be feeling as frustrated as I was feeling several years ago, and your next step might be just around the corner. Write down what you want in life and in a job and let those things come to you, but don't be so hard on yourself in the meantime. You will make it to the next step, all in due time. You are right where you need to be and your work has helped you get there. And maybe you don't have to starve to be a success.