by Falon Malec
The other day, while listening to the Great Canadian Woman Podcast, as I do on a daily basis, I came across the episode about emotional worth. I found myself asking the question, “Am I ready to make some changes? Do I even know what changes I need to make?
I have been in the insurance industry for ten years this year. So many hours have been spent worrying about clients, account values and wondering, “Did I send that change request? Did I send it correctly? Did I miss anything?” I would lay awake in bed for hours with my monkey brain full of stress and concern. To say that I was dedicated to my career and my clients is an understatement. I wanted to be the best broker, I had to be. I was obsessed with it. It became a personal offense if my clients were not happy. My days would vary from ten to sixteen hours and many clients even had my personal cell phone – Does your insurance broker or agent do that for you? Not likely . . .
But . . . after a while I began to feel as though I didn’t belong. Feeling undervalued, unappreciated, and more like a number left me wondering what I was even doing there. Every two years or so I would get restless and find myself needing a new challenge. If I wasn’t able to find a solution with advancement, I was off to bigger and better things someplace else. Over the past ten years I have worked for seven different companies finally bringing me to where I am today.
Often colleagues of past offices post on social media about their advancements through education and investing in their career, reaching levels akin to a red seal in trades, basically opening the door to anything they could want in the insurance industry. They exploded with such passion and drive to accomplish these awards, but I would sit there, reading their posts, looking over their photos and think, “Nope. Not gonna happen.” Oddly, I have never really asked myself why. Why didn’t I have the drive and desire the rest of them have?
Many friends and family thought I was crazy for not pushing harder to achieve more in this career. There is A LOT of money if you work hard at it and dedicate yourself to it. I just couldn’t see myself doing this for the rest of my life. Several times I tried to make it so. Tried to do the things everyone said I should be doing.
By my fourth or fifth year into my career, I was making six figures and thought, “Yeah, ok. This isn’t so bad.” Money was no longer a struggle for the first time in my life and I could do whatever I wanted . . . If only I wasn’t always working. See, to make that six figure income, I had to work a lot of hours. Not just the regular 8-5, Monday through Friday . . . Overtime was a guaranteed schedule of three to four extra shifts per weeks, which included a 9-4 shift on Saturdays. Add to this the extra hours I spent visiting potential referral sources in an attempt to generate more sales bonuses. I would average between sixty to seventy hours a week leaving Sundays to do all the things life demanded. There was literally no time left for friends, family, or a love life with any substance. The closest thing to romance I could fit into this schedule was an affair with a car salesman. We would sneak a quickie in the back of a cargo van on the sales lot during our lunch hour. Yep, that happened. A few times. Also on his boss’s desk – but that’s another story for another day.
As great as this money was, restlessness took over. Insurance is easy and I am really good at it, but it has a loneliness to it. On my two year anniversary I quit my job and joined a new brokerage promising the potential for partnership if I do all the things they heard I could do. Seemed like a no brainer – and I shouldn’t need all the over time if they are going to match my income, right? Not.The.Case.
Doing my thang, I uncovered a mess of inconsistencies, errors, many missing policies and found many outstanding payments due to the company. None of which were going to be rectified if I only worked my 9-5 schedule. Staying late, skipping breaks and lunches I put in the effort to get the department caught back up, organized and properly functioning. Challenge received – be careful what you wish for.
My salary was not actually what I was promised, I was no longer getting paid for overtime or receiving quarterly bonus and my sales commissions were not paid at the end of the month, but every three. All said and done, I was earning $30,000 a year less, which meant I had to now work even harder and longer days to sell more to increase commissions.
Even moving up the ladder as the head of the department didn’t increase my income. There just wasn’t enough coming into the brokerage to give me a much needed raise.
I was pretty determined to make partner one day so I stuck with it thinking it was just short term pain for longer term gain. I told myself, “My friends and loved ones would understand. We’ll make up for it when I am rich.”
And the Universe laughed and laughed.
After a year and a half with this company, on a whim I bought a new car while visiting a dealership about sales leads. As anyone who has bought a car would know, this can be a long process. Like they think the longer you sit in their waiting room the more likely you are to spend more money on your new car. Silly car salesmen.
As a result, I missed some serious chunks of time from the office which also happened to be just before Christmas holidays. With some serious catching up to do, I was stressed out and overworking myself knowing I had some time off to recover with family.
A few days before I was due to leave while furiously working away in the office after hours, a friend of mine invited me for dinner that weekend. As badly as I wanted to join him, I put my work first and suggested we get together after the holidays. As always, he understood and wished me safe travels. I promised to make it up to him as soon as I was home.
I would never have that opportunity. Three days into my trip, he died of a heart attack at the age of thirty-two.
His death sent me into a wicked spiral of guilt and self-loathing. Resentment for my career grew as my heart ached over missed opportunities. Never in my life have I wanted to turn back the clock so badly.
Beat myself up daily I thought, “How could I put work and money ahead of someone I love? When did my priorities get so out of whack? Who am I anymore?”
It became incredibly clear that my managers and bosses had little to no empathy towards what I was going through. As far as they were concerned this was just part of life and “it happens.”
The more time I tried to take away from the office for myself and relationships, the harder they pushed. At one point during a meeting of the managers, they shared their desire to send me to a course by the name of “Rapport.” A course structured around military training to tear you down and build you backup to be “better and stronger than you were before.” Essentially they wanted their dedicated little soldier back and they were going to stop at nothing to make it happen.
Fortunately for me, the funds were not in the budget and I was instead enrolled into the Dale Carnegie course: How to win friends and influence people
Even though I was enrolled for the sole purpose of making me a better employee, I came out of it, not only with the affirmation that a work-life balance was important, but through divine intervention, I met the woman who was the catalyst for all the positive change in my life that followed. Although we are very much opposites, we quickly agreed we were Soul Sisters. She is my spiritual guide, my mentor and connection to all things “light.”
Through this relationship I learned just how truly unhappy I was, how inauthentic I was living. It wasn’t long before I found the courage to leave this brokerage and explore an entirely new concept within the insurance world.
Now that I work from home, I have more time to spend with family and friends. Being remote allows me to work from anywhere, which has made it possible to visit Ontario for months at a time – something I have never been able to do in the thirteen years I have lived in Alberta.
And yet . . . I am still unhappy.
For the past ten years I have been ignoring my inner voice. The voice that has been trying to show me the path I should be on, who absolutely loves literature, from reading, writing or picking away at grammar mistakes on Facebook. The voice that loves the outdoors, exploring all the beautiful things nature has to offer and views everything as a work of art. Each tree or rock a brush stroke on a canvas, aching to be captured for eternity and shared with the world.
A voice now incredibly pissed off and presenting herself in less than desirable ways.
What has been the cost of living inauthentically?
For me, it was missing the birth of my nieces, and soon to be third. Missing the chance to tell someone how I felt and exploring the possibilities of that relationship before they died. Missing birthdays and graduations of younger siblings, parents, cousins, friends.
The weight of the shame, guilt and regret is a heavy burden. An expensive price. Everything around me begins to suffer – relationships, careers, creativity.
Insurance, although something I do well, is not my calling. It is not my passion and it is not going to satisfy this voice inside me. No matter how many companies I work for, or how many times I get promoted, I will never be satisfied in the insurance industry.
And even though change can be scary and unsettling in itself, as the Great Canadian Woman herself says, “Change doesn’t happen if things don’t change.” So the only option then, is to make change happen. Be the change.
As afraid as I am to trust myself and lean into this voice, over the course of the next year I would much rather frequently change my shorts for a clean pair of drawers, then spend the rest of my life feeling as awful as I currently do, living a life without intention.
Here’s to a new year, with new intentions and following your intuition!
How much are you willing to pay?