What Broke the Camel's Neck and Other Thoughts on Change

On the last day at my job, a multiple-pound box of supplements fell directly onto the top of my head. After a moment of seeing stars, I looked around in embarrassment, somewhat thankful no one had noticed, as I scooped up the box and placed it back on top of the pallet from whence it came. Rubbing the jarred vertebrae at the base of my skull, trying to assess what damage was actually done, it would only come to me later that the box was a great metaphorical parallel (and merely a heavier version) of the straw that broke the camel's neck...I mean, back.

At that point, I was months deep into a work relationship that was far from healthy. I was taken advantage of daily - for the "good of the company", as most people I worked with were in the same boat - and I felt trapped by the security of my salary and benefits. I had started to feel beaten down, my boundaries were disrespected, I dreaded the sales circle-jerk of team meetings, and I loathed sitting on the phone with customers who had complaints about things for which I didn’t give a flying fuck. But thankfully, a very powerful, curly-haired force in my life taught me how to stick up for myself, and thanks to him, I was able to walk away at the end of that day and kiss my job goodbye.

While I'd love to paint a picture of spontaneity in this circumstance, the truth is that the day the supplements clocked me on the dome was already determined to be my last day of work for the company - the slight concussion being an added bonus. But that didn't keep it from being, perhaps, the most stressful day of my life to date. Amidst trying to pack a U-haul and saying goodbye to friends, after getting my neck delightfully compressed, I rushed home from Denver to finalize some supply chain paperwork, tears streaming down my face, as I - once again - found myself putting the job's needs above my own. But five o'clock came quickly, and after a flash of pleasantries and a strained, tangibly awkward goodbye wave to the CEO, I was in my car driving home.

18 hours later, we left Colorado. Embarking on a multi-day journey to California, as we drove out of Boulder, I caught my last view of Longs Peak in the distance and cleansed my already fatigued tear ducts with another round of sobbing. The next few days of driving, stopping, sleeping, and Zioning were somewhat blissful in their simplicity, as was the first week in California. But it didn't take long for the adjustment phase to start throwing up its usual, unwelcome doubts.

So, naturally, I was super hard on myself. I questioned why I wasn't adjusting easily, why I felt so out of my element, why I missed a place I was seemingly ready to leave, why I thought giving up my job was a good idea. Cuz ya know. I no longer had health insurance. I left steady work in an industry that was booming during a pandemic. I no longer had a salary. Money might not come in properly for many months. 

But most importantly, I could never make art my full time career before, so why would this be any different?

We're all really good at thinking we suck, and it's because we often keep ourselves in situations that affirm this thought process throughout our lives. Whether it's a job, a relationship, or a mental feedback loop of negativity, it's so incredibly hard to break free of these patterns - especially when they give us a false sense of security. Stepping back from them to see the ugly reality can help us to finally draw that line and say no more. Because in the end, nothing about leaving the feeling I got from that job has ever - even for a moment - felt wrong. It still doesn't. In a way, taking the last few months to focus on my artistic portfolio and laying more of a foundation for my business has felt a bit like charging my own positive energy battery after fully draining its power. I've found that I've been able to keep my head down most days and put a lot of time and thought into something that, until now, I didn't think I could actually do. And I am beyond grateful for having the ability and situational stability to use this time for the better.

Sure - there are still a ton of unknowns, a ton of moments where I find myself without a clue as to what I’m doing, a ton of work ahead, and the possibility for failure. But there also exists the chance for a better lifestyle, the ability to be my own boss, the time to create, and the time to nurture even more self-respect - something we all need a bit more of every once in a while.

If you are currently where I was at the end of October, trust that you'll find your own line to draw whenever the time is right for you. We all come and go through weird, hard times in life in our own way, and aiming to follow someone else's exact footsteps will trip us up. Remember no change is easy, remember to take time to enjoy the things you love, remember to not be hard on yourself, and remember to reward the progress you make - no matter how little it may seem. Life is too short to spend it strongly disliking something every day, so be sure to surround yourself with things that make you smile.

*Featuring a picture of me, doing something I love, and smiling.

Erin Holberg hiking in front of a lake and mountains

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