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This is a guest submission by Lindsay from TheBoomerangKid.com

When people ask me why I’ve lived in 7 cities, 5 states and 3 countries in the last 10 years, I typically make some joke about having a quarter life crisis. If a quarter-life crisis is about reevaluating your priorities and changing your direction, then I’ve been having a quarter-life crisis since I graduated from college 6 years ago.

You might that think that someone who graduated with honors from an Ivy League university would know how to think independently and explore all the options before settling on a career path.

Instead, I learned from my peers, advisors and professors that there was a certain “path” that any intelligent and responsible graduate should follow.

Step one was to find a corporate job. I studied, learned how to interview, purchased a business suit, schmoozed at career fairs and before I knew it, I had landed my “dream” job in Midtown Manhattan.

Living The “Dream”

I quickly discovered that my dream job wasn’t as glamorous as the corporate recruiters made it sound.

I’m expected to eat dinner in the office every night?  I have to sacrifice every current and future relationship to build Excel models?  When I’m not working on client projects, I’m expected to contribute to the company by going out to happy hour, organizing charity auctions and volunteering on the weekends?

In case that wasn’t bad enough, I wasn’t able to spend any time in my expensive New York City apartment.  I lived on airplanes and in hotels when I wasn’t pulling all nighters with the janitorial staff at the office.

I felt guilty for not appreciating my corporate job or the grand opportunity I had to travel and accumulate frequent flier miles and tell Fortune 500 companies how to run their businesses.

I had no energy for my hobbies or relationships. I felt perpetually tired. And it wasn’t surprising that I gained the “consultant 15” from eating out every night with no time for exercise.

Burned out and tired, I needed a change.

The next step along “the path”

What did I decide to do?  What every intelligent and responsible alumnae of my university would do–switch to another corporate job where I could pursue my career with a more reasonable lifestyle.

I accepted a job with an e-commerce company and to make the change complete, I moved from New York City to Seattle.  Surely, this would be the change I need to feel motivated, challenged and excited.

Right?

The new job kept me busy and motivated initially. Then the recession hit and endless corporate reorganizations changed the scope of my position and left me working for people who were only interested in their own success at the expense of others.

They told me to be patient.  They told me to ride out the uncertainty.  Meanwhile, I found my only excitement at work came from organizing foosball tournaments with my fellow cube-mates.

I had work / life balance, but the cubicle life was still sucking out my life.

Beginning to question “the path”

Everyone kept telling me that I was at the stage where intelligent and responsible alumni go back to school get their MBAs.

The problem was that I didn’t want to go back to school for a degree and $100,000 of debt that would propel me back into the corporate world.

I finally started to question “the path” I was on.

Should “the path” be sucking the life out of me?  If I was patient enough, would I find satisfaction in my cubicle?  Did I need the sexy MBA from a top-notch school to propel me into a challenging position where I could develop strategic partnerships that would create synergies and new paradigms to leverage out-of-the-box thinking? (Yes, I’m an expert at corporate lingo.)

One foot off “the path”

I didn’t have a clear direction for my career, but I thought that perhaps I would be happier working in the nonprofit sector where people cared about missions and not just the bottom line.

I made a decision that many of my intelligent and responsible friends did not understand. I quit my high-paying job in the middle of a recession and moved to a third world country to work as a volunteer for a microfinance organization.

Living in a third world country wasn’t easy, but I learned to step out of my corporate world to see another perspective.  I was forced to slow down and work at a different pace.  And I learned far more than I would have from organizing foosball tournaments.

Jumping back on “the path”

When I returned to the US, I was convinced that I would be able to find my dream job.  I spent months looking for a job where I could use my business skills in the nonprofit space.

After much consideration, I accepted a job with a consulting company in the nonprofit space.  It was consulting again, but they weren’t a traditional consulting company.  They cared about the mission of nonprofits and wanted me to have a work/life balance.

At least that’s what I thought.

After only a few weeks in the company, I started to seriously question my decision.

Was it really okay for my boss to call me at 11pm on Friday night?  Was it normal to be so nervous and stressed at work that my hands shook?  Should I have a pit in my stomach every time I had to speak to my verbally abusive boss?

I tried to convince myself that things weren’t so bad. I was stressed because it’ was a new environment.  I was zapped of all my strength and energy because I was adjusting to a new style of work.

Then, I almost got arrested by the TSA on a business trip because my boss yelled at the guards. I finally started to realize how crazy the work environment was and knew it wasn’t the place for me.

Instead of sticking it out in a place where I was extremely unhappy and where my health was declining rapidly, I decided to make a change. But this time the change needed to be a radical one.

Stepping Off The Treadmill

With each career decision I made, I thought I was making progress along the path of career success. It turns out that I was running on a treadmill.

I worked hard, but the changes I made were only adjusting my pace. I wasn’t moving forward and never took the time to step off the treadmill to see what options I had missed.

I quit my corporate job without much of a plan. I moved back in with my parents and started seriously evaluating what I wanted in my career for the first time.

I craved a job that would allow me to be creative and independent.  I wanted flexibility. I knew I needed a career that would challenge me to continue to learn.

Forging A New Path

Once off “the path”, I finally started using my brain to explore nontraditional careers. I joined the blogging world. I started learning about entrepreneurs. I read books and blogs and eBooks and tweets.

I began to discover a whole new world that I never knew existed. My head was full of possibilities. I finally learned that “the path” I learned about in college isn’t the only path or even the best path.

Over the last few months, I’ve been writing, researching, reading and meeting people online and in person. I’m in the process of starting my own business. It isn’t easy and I’m working hard, but this time I’m actually moving forward. In many ways it feels like forging my own path and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

When I quit my job, I told myself that the cubicle world will always be there if I need to go back. And that’s plenty of motivation for me to make my new career path a success!

Lindsay is a Boomerang Kid who escaped the confines of the corporate world to start her own business. She writes about how Millennials can pursue meaningful careers and why moving back in with your parents isn’t the end of the world. Follow her on Twitter @theboomerangkid.

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