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The coffee chimes, “done!” and I can’t even remember making it. Getting ready to leave for work has turned into a routine that deep down inside is killing me, but, I swipe on some red lipstick, heels, grab my coffee, and go!

I am numb.
I am trying to be grateful.
I am working for Rolling Stone.
I am a robot version of myself.

I turn up Oasis on my mixed CD and force all my thoughts deep down and take a drag on a cigarette. As I drive into traffic, I start to get into a groove and begin to feel good. I think about the weekend and start swaying into your classic car dancing. I stop for another coffee even though I don’t have time. I know I am sabotaging my reliability as an employee on purpose and wait in the long Starbucks line for my weekly splurge that somehow calms down my thoughts of heading to the airport and running away from life itself. I am not happy, and I have no idea how to fix it. Now I have to race to work!

Punching in the secret alarm setting after riding up 13-floors, I feel a sense of my own entrapment, and again I feel guilty for not appreciating what I have instead of what I really want. I don’t even know what I want/need; I just know THIS is not it. Though my title says “Manager,” I feel more like an intern as I make the first pot of coffee for everyone. As people begin to trickle in behind me (Even late I was still always first to the office.) I try not to think about how much I want to leave and take photographs of the trees that are covered in ice. It is Winter here in Michigan, and we just had our annual freezing rain spectacular! Everyone complains about Michigan weather, but this is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen, and on this day it is all I can think about while I secretly wish for a great cover story to take the day off!

I start planning in the back of my mind what I would be doing if I wasn’t chained to this gray cubicle of madness. All of a sudden I snap back to reality and have no idea how I’ve just updated the monthly report… again, I am on automatic. My default answer to everyone is, “I am on top of it!” and I know I am not because there is something else I should be doing with my life. I think about the college courses I have been taking and hope it is going to give me wings. Tonight I have a presentation in class, and I am not even done. The Detroit Auto Show is here, and I have been working over 50 hours a week trying to prepare for the editors coming. Everyone is frantic, and I act like I am not. My rebel kicks in and I feel an urgent need to tell everyone off and leave. It’s not their fault, but it seems like it is at this moment. I know I am getting sick but push that off too because it really doesn’t matter. Day after day, one-weekend blur party after another, this is the scene–I am on rinse and repeat in my own hell I have created. Why do I want to be like them? THIS isn’t me. I am ready for a change but can’t pull the trigger.

Fast forward to October, and I am much worse.

I feel imprisoned, and the Editor of US Weekly rings me. I answer with my default fake voice. She tells me, “You are laid-off, and the clients have broken our most significant contracts.” She is sorry but I must leave the office now, and Human resources would be in touch. Everyone is always sorry it seems, and it never makes us feel better. I have to say; even in that broken moment of mine, it was inspiring to talk with a woman at her level in a career I admire! break down into a black hole of despair following this event which I call my, “intermission.” Deep down inside I know something is finally right for a change even though it looks and feels like a HOT MESS. Sometimes, the worst things that happen to you are just the situations you have refused to face. The universe waited and waited for me to make the right choice, and when I didn’t, life became toxic and began to scream at me in a sense; it is why self-reflection is so critical to your dreams.

I don’t remember how long it took me to realize that my first step was going to be tackling my health. At some point, I decided to quit drinking alcohol, milk and began to heal my body. It took years before my spark for a life fully ignited again. I worked in low-level jobs, so I didn’t have to think as much. I wanted my life back, but first I needed my mind, body, and spirit to be ready for the adventure.

Sitting alone at my desk one day, I began feeling trapped. (again) I decided to take an early lunch and began to drive around town with no destination planned. I wasn’t, and the more I drove, the crazier I felt. It would be a matter of time before I would become a blubbery hot mess again. I had to pull over. I remember a soulful urge that I hadn’t felt in a long time, and it made me smile. The funny thing is I was so vulnerable yet filled with so much passion and a dash of rebellious anger that felt better than being numb as I had been for most of my life. Your emotions in business can destroy you.

I quickly found a gas station, and before I knew it, I was crying uncontrollably at the gas pump. As tears streams down my face, I looked up and seen the beautiful golden arches of McDonald’s. Lol! I knew I had to go in. Before I even got to the counter to order my pity lunch, I saw an old college teacher of mine and went over to say hi. I hadn’t also considered how I must have looked! It must have been dreadful, but I was happy to see anyone I knew from a time when I had some heart. I was grateful to be around another person who knew my talents. Of course, the first question he had was, “How are things going? Where are you working these days?” I could barely keep myself composed and told him the truth, everything was a huge mess, and I was unhappy with my career choices and lack of opportunities. You must know, this was a time when we hadn’t even recovered yet from the economic crash of 2008 here in Michigan. Jobs were a pipedream for so many, and people were working for much less than what they were worth. He was a prominent ad director at an agency here, and I thought I might get a chance at a job. I was wrong.

The next thing out of his mouth was, “Out of all my students I always thought you were going to excel, I was never worried about your career.” I felt electrocuted with pain and shame, yet I listened to what he was up to in his life. I learned that he was unhappy too. I couldn’t believe it! How could someone with such a great job and responsibility be unfulfilled?! (I quickly had forgotten the way I felt when I too had the same kind of experience working in publishing. Because it doesn’t matter how much money you make or what type of job title you have if it is not your souls’ purpose you will be in total misalignment in your life and it hurts.) Our conversation was brief, and I left with a new desire to try again. I almost drove straight home after this life-altering event but quickly realized I had a job and at this point, I had on lunch break for a couple of hours! Upon returning, I had to face the boss who was extremely unhappy with me. He was someone I respected, and this was not the typical situation between us. I think he knew something was wrong, but men tend to want to ignore these instincts and move forward instead of getting involved. Within weeks I wouldn’t see him or that desk again. Looking back I see how lost and found I was all at the same time on this day. I will never forget that day for as long as I live.

In the following weeks, I quit my job and began taking on creative design work again…it had been a LONG TIME. I felt more like ME and this time I was starting new with a clear mind and body. It was exciting but also scary! I felt alone for a long time in this stage and not knowing my future has always been a painful emotion to understand. It is easy to want to run and hide (and actually do that) in this very critical stage. Most people do not move ahead of this confusing and surprising transitional period because it is so hard.

As soon as I lit a fire and began moving towards my goals with clear and passion-filled intentions of getting what I wanted no matter what, my life started to evolve almost instantly! I finally was moving again, and I felt alive! It wasn’t easy but has brought me to a present-day realization that I can do anything I put my mind to and so can you. I did a lot of things that most people can’t do, and began proving to myself that I could rise to the top if I dared to!

I want this for YOU, and I believe in you so much even if we have never met! Because I know that anyone can re-build their life into something that represents their authentic hear and vision when they want to badly enough.

I hope I have inspired you to take some positive actions in your life before it is too late, and I’m grateful you stayed here for a bit to read my story. While it is hard to reveal these personal (and now public) truths, I am comforted by the fact that if I help even one person with this article, then I have done something important in this life. Remember, no one that rises to the top goes unscathed because that would be so boring! #unicorntruth

Alley Jean
Brand Identity & Web Design Unicorn