How a cheese stick made me realize I had to quit my job.
By: Devin Santamaria
Yesterday, I left my comfortable corporate job to take our digital creative agency full-time. WEBPRISM came through serendipity - my decision to leave the corporate world did not. It started with a baby and a cheese stick.
This story will seem like it's about the pursuit of money - it's not. It's almost the opposite.
When I graduated from business school, I was sure that climbing the corporate income ladder was the path to financial security, thus peace. Not a terrible assumption, but the 4 years of higher-level education and 2 accounting classes taught me nothing about the nature of money, happiness, or living a peaceful life. The following 3 years of post-grad life were exactly what you might expect - rented an apartment slightly too expensive, in an area that was too expensive, and my fiancee and I got jobs that barely (so we thought) paid the bills. Two and a half years, and one wedding later, we were in about forty-thousand dollars of credit card debt - almost 1 year's salary when I first got out of school.
Finally realizing how deep in the hole we were was devastating. It took about 18 months, 3 pay raises, and a steep cut to our restaurant habit to climb out. Right near the end of the process, with maybe 3 or 4 months left, we found out we were going to be parents. Queue another financial freak-out. I needed a new job, that paid a lot more if Ashley was going to potentially not work, and something with significantly more flexibility - there was no way I was going to leave my wife and brand new baby home to travel - little did I know a pandemic would make that a non-issue.
So I found a new job with better pay, our beautiful son was born, and we moved to a new apartment with more space for the baby, and paid off the last of the credit cards, and breathed a sigh of relief.
I didn't realize how emotionally stunted I was until my son was born. The littlest things made me break down in tears of joy, amazement, in awe of the beauty that comes with a helpless little part of you existing.
As I started to realize what was happening to me - that my son was opening me back up to the beauty that children see the world with, I couldn't help but focus on him. On the life happening right before my eyes. Having my son look me directly in the eyes for the first time, seeing him smile for the first time, watching the tenderness of my wife as a mother, hearing his first laugh, watching him take his first steps - each milestone slowly rewired my brain. It fixed my sense of what was important. The list of things that could take my attention from my family became shorter every day. I found that happiness, and peace, were right where I was - I just had to be broken open to accept them.
The Final Straw (or stick)
On a day like many other pandemic days before, my first conscious action out of bed was joining a Zoom call - a quarterly all-company meeting. My son had just started eating solid food, and cheese sticks were (and still are) one of his favorites. On a cold winter day, in our subterranean walk-up apartment, my son and I sat on the concrete floor, in front of our lit fireplace, slowly sharing that cheese stick. Sitting there, with my AirPods in my ears, completely ignoring whatever was being said by one of the C-Suite/VPs/Directors/whomever, watching my son completely demolish every piece of cheese stick I handed him, something broke in me.
Sitting here on the floor, sharing this cheese stick with my 9 month old is infinitely more interesting than whatever I'm listening to right now.
It hit me like a train. I had to find a way out of anything less important than spending time with my family, with my son. I, especially, had to find my way out of any type of work that I could easily say is less interesting than sharing a cheese stick with my kid.
Making more money alone wouldn't solve this problem. Climbing the corporate ladder would mean less time with family, not more. So we went the other way - figuring out how to design our life so that we could live on less. Over the next 10 months, we overhauled our life. In August, Ashley left architecture to help me build WEBPRISM. Yesterday, I left the corporate world.
Serendipity, or maybe being open, brought me everything I needed to build WEBPRISM. Clients started to reveal themselves to us. Referrals came at just the right times. My day job started "taking care of itself", and lent me the freedom to pursue building a business based purely on our passion for creating and building on the internet. It fits into our lives - around the beautiful parts of being a father, a husband, and being alive. Yes, I still have to make choices that take me away from family every so often, but they're on my terms. We draw the boundaries. If it's not more interesting than sitting on the floor eating a cheese stick with a toddler, we're either delegating it or just saying "no".
Last updated: 11/16/2021