forever over.jpgThe first time I entered the UT Southwestern medical school library for a class in my library science graduate program, I KNEW IN MY BONES that I wanted to be there. I wanted to work in a medical library, and I was on FIRE.

And I did. After an internship at that very library and a year-long stint at an oil company I landed a job in the medical library of one of the largest hospitals in my metropolitan area. It was my dream job…until it wasn’t. After several years I realized that I had to leave. There were a number of reasons beyond my desire to leave that job, and out of respect for the company I’ll keep those reasons private. As much as I KNEW I wanted to work at UT Southwestern I KNEW IN MY BONES that I had to quit this hospital library job.

It was a heartbreaking realization and a yearlong process to find another job. I told no one other than my parents of my deep dissatisfaction and desire to get out. It was difficult to suffer in silence and alternate between the nervousness of changing to a new environment and the dread of staying where I didn’t want to be any longer than I had to. I didn’t love or even like my job, or the library profession itself, any more. I wasn’t progressing, and I knew I would stagnate and regress if I stayed there. But what would I do if I left that job? I got a master’s degree in that field so I could land a job like that. As much as I want to eschew profession as part of one’s identity, that job was a part of who I was.

Luckily I landed a job within the same healthcare company in the training and development department. It wasn’t easy at first. There was a learning curve and poor management (those people are no longer with the company). I wondered more than once if I’d made the wrong decision. I had zero experience in org/leadership development, but I worked hard to learn and carve a space of my own in that department.

Fast forward nearly eight years later, and I don’t regret it at all. I’ve grown up in that job emotionally and professionally. I developed new talents and skills and have flourished. I’ve had more opportunities and more exposure in the organization, and it has proven to be MUCH more lucrative than staying in the library world. (Hint to companies–pay your young librarians more. Maybe they’ll stay longer.)

I tell this story to make my point that falling out of love is sometimes a slow process with aching, ever-growing clarity. I didn’t hate my old career or anyone involved. No one did anything wrong to me. It just wasn’t a fit anymore for who I was at that time or who I knew I had the potential to be.

And that’s how I feel about my taekwondo school. I’m not in love anymore. I continue to go to class out of some lingering, dwindling sense of loyalty, identity, familiarity, and fear of political repercussions if I quit in a public way. I’m afraid to leave because of possible repercussions, but I am not growing. I’m bored. I don’t like the new location. My potential is stunted. I don’t see a “lucrative” future in terms of training and opportunities. There are other reasons for my dissatisfaction, but like my old job, I want to keep those reasons private out of respect for and privacy of the other people involved.

One could argue do we have to be “in love” with everything? No, of course not. A job is a job. We don’t have to all “follow our passions.” I like my job, but my main passion is paying off my mortgage. I don’t have to love taekwondo; it could just be an activity I do once in a while…but that’s not my history with it. I fell hard and fast. I was in deep.

I know this drastic change in my relationship to taekwondo has affected my mood and emotional waves this past year as I have withdrawn from my involvement in the school’s current version of itself. More often than not, I don’t look forward to going to class. I don’t care anymore. As a result (possibly), I get more stressed out and overwhelmed in general more quickly, and I’m on a shorter fuse. I let myself become more emotionally involved at work, which I detest because I’ve always enjoyed a relaxed sense of detachment from the more silly parts of the corporate world. I’ve lost a big part of my identity that has been such a positive force for the last several years.

I do have my moments of excitement and happiness. I enjoyed very much getting to lead a black belt test we held in April. I had a lot of fun with my fellow black belts and students this past week. Taking an old familiar taekwondo class and getting to wear my black belt and uniform is a lot different (and still more emotionally fulfilling) than the Body Combat class at the gym. Maybe I just need an extended break, like I took from work a few weeks ago…but I know that will just be a bandage over a larger, deeper problem.

But it’s just not the same. What we had for the last several years (our camaraderie, our shared goals, our school) is gone, and part of my challenge this year has been accepting that loss and finding the positive in what exists now. But do I have to accept it? Did I have to just accept that library job (and salary) and say, “Okay, this is my career for the next 30 years”? I’d like to think that I’m still a black belt and retain all the mental, physical (although that’s dwindling because my training is minimal), and emotional prowess that comes with it, no matter where I go or what I do in life. I’ll always be a black belt. But I might be a black belt without a home.

11 thoughts on “Falling Out of Love Can Be a Slow, Sickening Process

  1. I had that happen at a gym I use to go to and it changed locations which I didn’t like and many people scattered elsewhere. I hung in there but it wasn’t the same, the motivation was lacking and the atmosphere was drastically different. When the time was right, I left for another place and on to another place after it closed down. I use to feel as though I owned and I knew just about everyone but these day I feel like the new kid in town, I talk to a couple of people and basically stay to myself and workout hard. The camaraderie is a thing of the past when that gym closed its doors and my being the social butterfly and party planner went with it too. Those were good times but they changed and it’s nice to live in the shadows once you get out of the lights. No pressure to perform or conform to the picture that others have in their mind as to who I am and how I act.

    1. Thanks for sharing your input and your story. I’m feeling the need to “live in the shadows” and quiet things down–maybe because my job requires me to be social a good bit of the time. That starts to wear on an introvert like me. Same with my tkd school–I just don’t want the responsibility any more. I just want to train.

  2. Your story sounds so familiar. Last June, I walked away from the mat after 15 years. I felt burnt out – training, teaching; and my personal and professional life was also a bit in chaos. My peers – those that I had trained with during the color belt years had moved on. Many of the newer black belts in training were much younger (not supposed to make a difference on the mat, but it does). It took me a while to work up to sitting down with my instructor and telling him. But once I did, I felt a huge relief off my shoulders.

    Fast forward to about two weeks ago. Within a period of 3 days, I have 4-5 different, unrelated people ask me about taekwondo. The last one said something – “I’ve never seen your eyes light up like this. Or get so excited talking about something” – that got me thinking. What did I really walk away from? I am normally a very introspective person and I know I did quite a bit of pondering before I had made my decision. But sometimes there is a fog or haze caused by other events that can hide the real issue(s) – and the real solution(s). Within a brief time, my subconscious came up with my real issue – and I have the realization that I will likely go back, soon.

    Give yourself a break. And remember you aren’t really walking away – once a black belt, always a black belt! Maybe you just need time.

    1. Toby, thank you so much for your amazing and heartfelt comment! That means a lot, and your advice makes perfect sense. I can’t walk away from tkd entirely—it’s in my heart too deeply, but a break may do me some good.

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