Oh no!
It looks like you aren't logged in to the Ethel community. Log in to get the best user experience, save your favorite articles and quotes, and follow our authors.
Don't have an Online Account? Subscribe here

The Benefit of Decelerating After a Fast-Track Career

How I'm now savoring life in my slower lane.

Comment Icon
Pink chair and slow sign, pink background
Domenic Bahmann
Comment Icon

Working as a senior editor at CNN Travel was my dream job, and I was devastated when I learned in the fall of 2020 that in a few short months, it would be taken from me. The company was reorganizing yet again, and this time I was on the chopping block.

The first few months post-CNN were erratic As I worked to get my bearings and navigate my new normal, I perused job postings, put out feelers to people in my network and started freelancing to stay afloat — and keep busy. Although I’d dabbled in freelancing, I’d never considered it as a full-time career path, certainly not while I was on top of the world covering travel for an international company.

I suppose I felt attached to all that comes with having an “important” job. I put the word important in quotes because, after all, I wasn’t on the breaking-news front, though that changed to a large degree with the pandemic when all manner of travel, near and far, became a hot topic as the world shut down.

Instead of editing a story about a scenic bike tour in Spain, I was interviewing epidemiologists about whether it was safe to go on a hike in one’s own neighborhood. We covered a lot of these types of stories.

Honestly, it was depressing and exhausting. But it was also urgent, every story pertaining to the epidemic tinged with a heavy importance, the pace of my role never letting up in spite of the sudden travel halt.

I was sick with grief when I learned my time at CNN was coming to an end.

Friends and colleagues shared job postings and said things like, “I just picture you as a high-powered editor somewhere amazing.” Whenever I started to float the idea of slowing down and doing my own thing, I found myself wondering if they were right.

Shouldn’t I get back on the horse as quickly as possible?

Randi Levin, a transitional life strategist who frequently works with women, is clear that pursuing a different path, even one that feels like a downgrade, “is only a setback if a woman feels like she is letting herself down.”

Success can be defined in many ways, and sometimes it takes redefining it during a career shift, explained Levin. “When a woman feels that she is at a crossroads in her career between what she has achieved in the fast lane and her intuitive ideas regarding a new and different career path, it is time for her to ask herself two questions:

"What does success mean to me now?

"From the perspective of today, what is most important to me?”

Levin’s questions put things in the perspective of the person making the change. It shouldn’t have mattered to me what other people thought I should be doing. Sure, it was nice to hear their praise, but I needed to stop interpreting these compliments about my skills as their way of saying I ought to be striving for more, that I ought to be climbing the ladder.

I should only be returning to the fast track if it’s what I truly wanted. Still, it was difficult in the beginning to get over myself and what other people thought of my freelance move.

“The single longest relationship any woman will ever have is her relationship with herself,” Levin said. “Thinking about this change in career as an opportunity to pursue what we ‘get to do’ rather than what we must do reveals a subset of elevating possibilities. That was then and this is now. What is possible?”

Psychologist Deborah Vinall agrees that love of self — and self-respect — are key in pursuing this alternative path. “When you come to truly believe that you are worthy regardless of the recognition of others, you become free to listen to yourself and follow what you truly want. It becomes okay, even good, to honor your own heart's desires, and do what is healthy for you in mind, body and spirit.”

Even as a successful freelancer, I still struggle a bit. It’s all too easy to compare and contrast my accomplishments with others', noting who has enviable bylines and who’s winning awards. But these tendencies come from our performance-based culture, Vinall explains. “We may confuse our intrinsic worth with that which can be measured and publicly applauded, thus enslaving ourselves to a career track that may not be right for us.”

To be fair, I didn’t feel enslaved at CNN. I really and truly loved it, for a time. Was it perfect? Of course not. And these days, I wouldn’t want the workplace politics and the 9-to-6 schedule where I checked emails outside of work hours because that’s what’s expected of you at a 24/7 company.

What I hadn’t realized until I was making my way on my own (with an extremely supportive husband) was how stressed and on edge the job was making me. Perhaps the pandemic exacerbated these feelings, but I also believe they are par for the course — part of being on the supposed fast track.

Although I didn’t have a chance to contemplate my next steps before being laid off, once I found myself on this other path, I had a chance to be honest with myself about what I wanted next. Vinall advocates for this contemplation and honesty as well as taking a “courageous leap from what society demands,” if you determine you’re ready to make a move.

“Know that it is normal to feel anxious when making a big change. Let yourself feel your feelings, breathe deeply, connect to your inner power and strength, and step into the life you deserve,” said Vinall.

I still hustle most days, the constant feast or famine mindset of freelancers deeply ingrained in my psyche. I also take time to enjoy my freedom. The other day I took myself out to lunch and a Broadway matinee. I knew it meant the rest of the week would be a little busier than normal, but the pace was just right for me.

Have you left a fast-paced career behind? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below.

Editor's Picks
Find money-making endeavors that are personally satisfying.
, July 18, 2024
Here are the ones that top the list.
, July 18, 2024
Breaking up could be the best thing one can do.
, July 18, 2024