A New Chapter in Life: Career Fear

This week, I’ve been two floors up and a mile high in Denver, helping my company transition another employee into my role. My last day is on Friday, and I’ve never been more terrified in my entire life. Well, maybe one or two other times… but this one’s pretty bad, too.

I’ve had my ups and downs here, like pretty much 110% of the population and their respective jobs. Still, it can’t be denied: This is the longest I’ve been employed anywhere. I have the most supportive boss I’ve ever had, and he’s always gone to bat for me. I’ve increasingly taken on more responsibilities, and actually enjoyed it when I wasn’t having mild panic attacks and mysterious stomach pains. We’ve won awards. And most importantly for me, I know the lay of the land. People ask me questions. I have the answers. I know everybody, and everybody knows me. I can do this stuff in my sleep.

This is very powerful for somebody like me, an egotistical perfectionist with an inferiority complex. Ask FI, or any of my friends, or my dad, for that matter. I do better when I know what’s going on. And when I don’t know what’s going on, I pretend I do. Which never works out well.

But the fact of the matter is for me, after 5 years in the same role, the job becomes less challenging and more frustrating. I feel like I know everything there is to know, and my self-imposed misinformation on this point leads me to despair and stagnancy. I do nobody any good, including myself.

So on Monday, I’m starting a completely different role, moving from editorial work to marketing. My coworkers keep wishing me luck on the dark side. My replacement told me he’s sure there are happy marketers, just like there are happy plumbers. Hey, I’m pretty excited, but I’m also scared out of my pants. I won’t know what’s going on. Nobody will know me. I won’t know anybody. What if I fail? What if everybody sees I’m a fake, I don’t know how to do anything, and I have to crawl back on my hands and knees? And then they say no, you left, sorry, and I die alone and penniless?

Because that’s always what my fear ends in: dying alone and penniless.

I’m jumping in with both feet, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotion this week brought. It’s been such a mixed bag that, at one point, I almost changed my mind in a bizarre streak of panic, hunger, and altitude sickness. But I know that would be stupid, because this new opportunity came to me for a reason. It’s my responsibility to run with it, even if it ends in disaster, even if I am exposed as a nincompoop, even if I have to crawl back on my hands and knees and I’m still denied. Because who am I to say where I belong?

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