Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago, I announced that I would be quitting my job in tech. Today was my last day, and I’m feeling…strange…to say the least. Since returning my Google badge and laptop this afternoon, my thoughts have oscillated between “what the fuck did I just do” and “holy shit, this is about to be the best adventure of my life”. I’m fine.
While it hasn’t fully hit me just yet, I know this day is momentous. So, I wanted to document how I got to this decision and set intentions for the days ahead — both for me and for those of you who have considered, are considering, or will consider something similar.
Have you heard the story of the Four Minute Mile?
It goes something like this: people thought no one could run a mile in less than four minutes. Then some guy comes along and does it, inspiring a bunch of other people to also do it.
Of course, this isn’t just a story or some vague folklore. It’s real. This actually happened.
His name was Roger Bannister, and he ran the first ever sub-four-minute mile in 1954. His time was 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.
At the time, running this fast was broadly and academically accepted to be humanly impossible. It’s wild to think that someone defied these expectations, but it’s even wilder that countless others have done this previously “impossible” thing since.
For context: before Bannister, the previous world record of 4 minutes and 1.4 seconds was held for nine years by Gunder Hagg. That’s right, for nearly a decade, no one broke this record. But after Bannister showed the world it was possible, someone else broke his record in just six weeks.
This piece of history teaches us a lot, but the greatest lesson it teaches is to question the impossible. When we make the impossible possible, we redefine what we’re capable of on an individual and collective basis. Meaning, we not only set new expectations for ourselves, but also for those around us.
The decision to quit my job and take an indefinite sabbatical might be my personal equivalent of the Four Minute Mile.
But Shivani, aren’t sabbaticals pretty common these days? What’s so special about yours? Are you really about to compare yourself to world-class athletes?
Let me explain.
Why Did I Quit My Job?
In my family’s history, no one has ever chosen to step away from a stable income in exchange for time to explore and wonder. More accurately, they’ve never quite had the opportunity to make that kind of tradeoff given their immigrant struggle for the American Dream.
For so long, each generation of my family has been optimizing for an “up and to the right” life, maximizing for a single variable to push us in that direction — income. Just like the sentiment around the sub-four-minute mile, I grew up believing that optimizing for any other variable was impossible.
But in the last few years, I’ve learned that perhaps the next variable to optimize towards is “happiness”. Fulfillment. Wonder. And living to our full potential.
As a first-generation American, I’m uniquely positioned (relative to my immigrant family) to take certain risks that they could not. Taking time away from corporate life to bet on myself and pursue my creative interests is exactly that.
I plan to use the next year to focus more on my writing as well as learning about acting and filmmaking — things I’ve been passionate about for so long, but have never made the space to truly explore.
In a best case scenario, maybe one of these areas takes off and turns into a new career for me. Maybe I’ll find a way to spend most of my days on my true interests and the things that make me feel alive.
But at the very least, it will be a year (or two or three) that I’ve dedicated to wonder and play, a luxury that others in my family haven’t had. I will have put my money where my mouth is and exchange income and stability for time and adventure. That in and of itself will be a win in my books.
My hope is that this serves as the first of many examples of how we can develop a mindset around living, and not just surviving. I hope it can be a gentle nudge to my family to believe that they deserve the world. That they deserve to live the life of their dreams. And that they can, in fact, conquer their own sub-four-minute mile.
We all can.
For more Stories by Shiv content and to follow along on my journey, you can find me on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. I’ll be documenting it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Ok I did not quit my job, but I am also exploring the arts this year in a way I haven’t before. I wanted to be a Broadway actress growing up, and now I’m taking voice lessons and sing everyday. It’s brought so much joy into my life! I’ll be excited to follow your journey. Good luck!
So excited for you!!!