It was the start of February 2018 and I was at an all-time low. I was crying nearly every day, having panic attacks, stomach aches, and even suicidal thoughts. Going to work felt like going to the slaughter.

I had reached what I now know to be complete and utter burnout.

The talk.

When I finally mustered up the courage to speak to my manager about what had become an unbearable situation, I was met with a lack of understanding. I had worked at the company for nearly 3 years, I was doing great work, getting along with most of my colleagues, and yet I was miserable. The inevitable conclusion was that the problem was all in my head.

I thought about this over the weekend. I could think of plenty of reasons why I didn’t like going to work (and they probably did have some truth in them), but in the end the dissatisfaction with the situation was all mine. Could it be true? Was I the problem? Whatever the case, I didn’t feel like I could get out of this black hole I was in by continuing to work there. I decided to talk to the two people whose opinions I value most: my mom and my partner. Luckily they were very supportive of whatever I decided to do.

Just quit.

I’m not typically a quitter. I don’t like giving up. But quitting was exactly what I needed to do to heal myself. So the next Monday I called a meeting with my manager again and handed in my notice.┬áImmediately I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I still had to work there for another month as per my contract terms, but I didn’t mind it as much as I used to.

I had something to look forward to again. The day I would no longer have to work there.

Empty chair

As I briefly mentioned in my previous post, me quitting my job coincided with Peter (my partner) and I moving. Working on our new home was almost therapeutic. It was the fresh start I so desperately needed. Months went by and I gradually started feeling better. But money doesn’t grow on trees and I didn’t want to be financially dependent on my partner. I needed to decide what I was going to do moving forward.

What is it you do?

For a while I thought I’d continue my career as a user experience designer at a different employer. I had both the education and the skill to make it work. But the more I slaved away at my portfolio, the more I realized that what I really wanted, what would truly make me happy, was something else entirely.

I had already illustrated for the occasional client in the past, but up until now I’d always thought of it as a side hustle. A hobby. But when my illustrated phone cases started taking off on Casetify, I thought for a brief moment: what if I could make a career doing this kind of stuff?

I’m a freelance illustrator.

I updated my LinkedIn. Then my Facebook. Then whenever someone asked me what it is I do, I promptly answered: I’m a freelance illustrator! And as I said it I beamed with pride and enthusiasm.┬áI still have my bad days, and the life of a freelancer certainly is not all roses. My (ad)venture may even fail in the long term and I’ll be forced to find a ‘real job’. But at least I’m trying to make my dreams come true, and I’m excited about life again!

Mug filled with paintbrushes, books and some twine

A word of caution.

If you are thinking of turning your hobby into a career, I do not by any means recommend quitting your current job cold turkey and ‘just seeing how it goes’. It’s always best to have a buffer of some sort. Whether that is some money you’ve put into your savings, or working a part-time job while overlapping with your side hustle. I had both savings and a fairly steady stream of income coming in from product sales. Don’t make rash decisions, always talk them through with your partner or family member and make sure you have their support first!

Let’s hear from you.

Are you happy in your current job? Do you too dream of following your heart’s desire? Or perhaps you’re one of the brave and lucky ones and are already living the dream? Let me know in the comments below.