Lose Your Title, Save Your Life. - Christine Kane

Many years ago, I had a panic attack at a Ford dealership.

I was dropping off my car for repairs, and I had to fill out an intake form. One of the blank spaces on the form was labeled: “Employer.” This is what started the panic attack.

The day before, I had given notice at my first “real” job out of college. I had worked up the courage to quit after a year and a half of being unhappy at this job. I had decided to take a leap, go overseas for a while, and then pursue my dreams of writing and music.

At that moment, my fears weren’t about money or security or benefits. My fears were about appearances. It was all about my ego. Until that day, when anyone asked me, “Where do you work?” I had an answer. Never mind that I was miserable. I’d proudly say, “Ogilvy and Mather.” I loved saying that. I loved the raised eyebrows and the quick nod they’d give me. I loved the little noise they always made — kind of a three-note trill. “Oh-oh-oh.” It was the “approval jingle” of parents and college professors. I lived to impress these people. And “Ogilvy and Mather” sounded so impressive at the age of 22.

So, as I stared at the space marked “Employer,” I came face to face with my newfound unimpressiveness. I was terrified. I was insignificant. I had no idea what I was doing.

And on that day, at the Ford dealership, for the first time in my life, I wrote the word “Self” in that box, and that has made all the difference.

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19 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • sarah

    about 18 months ago I went to my boss and said I am not coping can you change my job or I will need to leave. A job was created under flexiblw working and now I love what I do. sometimes you can just ask for some help and it happens! PS I have been self employed twice – and each time the business grew to a size that was more stressful than being employed, so I think its about work / life balance not just who or how you are employed? enjoy the site and peoples experiences- thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Carrie

    I am a designer for a large industrial plant. I absolutely hate my job, as a matter of fact I took a test to see how much I really needed to quit my job. I am having such a hard time letting go. It has been 6 years and all I want is to get out. My concern is security, I am a sole provided for one child. I don’t have the finances to support to long of a leave, but I know I will find something down the road. Right now I just want to take time out to breath, and get well.

    Loved you response, I just know I would be able to be a much better person if I would just leave.

  • Eleanor

    I know this is an incredibly late comment for this blog entry, but I just had to comment. Today, I handed in my resignation at work. It’s my first “real” job and I was petrified of leaving to say the least! Now I can say that I’m self-employed, and although it makes me have butterflies in my stomach I know it’s the right thing.

    It makes all the difference to take that step. It enabled me to breathe again!

  • Christine Kane

    hi david! you know, you’re not actually quoting a songwriter (formerly an O&M employee) when you write “leap and the net will appear.” you’re quoting a zen buddhist from way back. that songwriter just ripped him off! ๐Ÿ™‚ What you’re describing in your manifesting and moving on is a state of presence and awareness that I didn’t have way back when – but I totally understand now. Thanks!

    Thanks Lexi! And good for you for going for it!

    Seventh Sister, thanks for the note. (of course, now we’re all wondering what QMRP is — Quiet Men Reading Papers? Queen Mary’s Regular People?

    Hey Nancy, So glad you like the DVD! (and your son too) Happy Spring break!

    Susanne – you’ll learn to ignore other people’s questions. And once you get stronger in knowing yourself in your profession – those questions will disappear. (or cease to trigger you!)

    Thanks Joy!

    YogaJenn, You’ll have up days and down days. And days where you’re clear and days where you’re not. Just really stick with your vision. I can’t remember a turning point or one “event.” It’s truly a gradual thing. Baby steps. And you never actually feel like you’ve “arrived.” (I sure don’t, at least!)

    Leah – just commit to saying it. and say it. it’ll get easier.

    Thanks Judy and Leanna!

  • Leanna

    I love putting “self” under “employer”.

  • Judy

    I found the transistion was one of not having other people define me. My job, my title,…what I did
    and what I called it was completely up to me. I had to take charge of my life in a way I never had to before
    when I was employed by others. It was scary, but I would never go back.

  • leah

    oh god, I know that feeling. I’m newly self-employed and I’m still struggling with that label thing…what do I call myself? Artist. It’s scary to stand tall and say it, but that’s what I am, not just as a job, but as a person.

  • yogajenn

    Very timely… I am stuck in a transition and floundering & flailing. I don’t know which way is up, and am struggling with a huge lack of self-belief. I suppose I need some ‘how-to’ manuals, beginning with ‘how to make a decision’! I sure appreciate your insightful posts… Looking back now, can you identify significant turning points and what allowed them to occur? Just curious. Thanks.

  • Joy

    i loved this blog – a few words delivering a clear and powerful message.

  • Susanne

    Yes, losing the title makes all the difference. In my case also for the better. Though people keep asking me, “So, you’re working for a music school then?” “Um, no.” “What, you’re just teaching students in your home?” “Yes.” “But that’s not much of a job, isn’t it?” “Um…”

  • NancyCz

    It’s always empowering to listen to/read your thoughts on your big leap. Here’s to writing “self” in the employer box on the great application of life! Oh, my… can you tell it’s the first day of Spring Break?

    In other news: received the DVD bundle on Saturday and immediately sat down with Kris, Spike and Mugsy to watch. Everyone enjoyed it greatly. I hadn’t told Kris about the guitar lesson DVD and I was really shocked at his enthusiasm (I knew he liked you… I know which songs he can’t resist… but I didn’t quite realize that he was really dying to learn how to play some of your tunes). After trying to explain to him how to tune to open G (I’m a pianist and he’s a self-taught guitarist… this causes musical communication glitches) I figured out how to do it so that it made sense to someone who is NOT a pianist and he was off and running. We had so much fun! And Mugsy is thrilled that we have added a new song to those we sing to her. My dog is SPOILED…

    Thanks for the entry AND the dvds!

  • seventh sister

    I have been writing ‘self’ in those blanks for nine years now. It is very liberating. I never identified with a job title very much. Mine was QMRP which few people knew about and looks so weird that everyone asked what is was. It is one of those things that is not easily explained so it was always a pain to try and do so. I was overjoyed to get rid of it on so many levels.

    I like the new site. When I met you you had the short, spikey hair so it is nice to see what you look like now.

  • Lexi Sundell

    I was struck by the fact that you did write Self in the answer. If you had not thoroughly committed to the change you were making, you could easily have decided you still had two weeks to continue claiming Ogilvy and Mather as your employer.

    Taking the leap for self employment can be difficult for many reasons. I grew up with a self employed father who was a good man but not a good businessman. After that experience I figured being self employed was the last thing I would ever do.

    Enter a divorce with a toddler, and I changed my mind so that I would not have to hand my distressed child off to daycare. What now seems eons ago I reluctantly chose self employment, but these days I would never want to go back to working for someone else.

  • David

    As Kathy said, I don’t think I’ll have identity issues when I leave IBM at the end of the month, still I feel like a diver who has been deep for along time, I need to decompress. I am wary of my mind being boxed in by old labels, and not open to the possibilities that surround me. But awareness is the first step. It is amazing the opportunities that have come to me in the last few weeks. In the past, whenever I have pushed in a direction, the future leaped away from me. When I quietly listened, the next step came to me.
    Making a brave change in your life is like walking at night with a flashlight. You can’t see far ahead of you, and if that scares you, you stand still. If you take a step into the light, the light will move, and you can see the next step. Or, to quote a songwriter formerly from O&M,”…leap and the net will appear.”

  • Christine Kane

    Hi Kathy, I actually thought of David at one point during this writing. I can imagine that the shift he’s making will cause a bit of uncertainty. But that’s good. And if I had stayed at O&M, I’d probably have an alcohol problem by now. I’m glad you like the Holosync. Make sure to tell them I sent you! (They don’t have an affiliate program, so I’m not linked to them in any way. Still, they should know that they are being promoted by bloggers!) Thanks for writing!

  • Christine Kane

    Hi Jer – Of course, not everyone has this need to be impressive. It’s just interesting that it was SO totally important to me at that time, and how taking that leap wasn’t just about finding a new life — it was so much more about letting go of what my perspective of success was. And that was the big lesson. Even when I have “down” times now, I still know I’ve been successful, mostly because I got over myself! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the note!

  • Kathy

    With David about to retire after 30 years at IBM, this is a timely post…as many of yours are I might add. I think it’s fabulous to have the courage to step out of the familiar and go after something much more meaningful. Not that David has identity issues wrapped up in IBM – he’s much healthier than most – but it will be odd for him I bet when he goes to fill in that box on his first post-IBM form. And you! Can you imagine where you’d have been if you stuck it out at O&M all this time? Yikes! The world would be so much less rich without your focus on your music and healing…..never mind your own state. Congratulations to you for not only doing it yourself but helping others find their path too. By the way, I just got and listened to the Holosync demo and immediately ordered the program. I can’t wait to begin! Even the demo with all the talking over the sounds helped me sleep better last night.

  • Jer

    so you worked for Self Magazine? …kidding, kidding…

    my first out of college job was with “The Center for Advanced Power Systems”, which was pretty impressive to say. my current, “Office of Institutional Research” doesn’t have the same ring to it. so i just say “web designer”, or “webmaster” if i’m feeling particularly confident.

    being self employed would be great, and as a web designer it’s definitely a possibility, but like a lot of people, i’m intimidated by the business side of it. and maybe even more so by the customer relations side of it. i’m not good with…people.
    a friend of mine (with a wife and kids) recently quit his miserable job to pursue the opportunity to be self employed. it’s pretty inspiring to see, too. he has leaped, and hopefully the net will appear.