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Here's How A Career Shift Affected My Mental Health

'My career so far has not just been about becoming a better writer, but it's also a journey towards self-love and self-care.'
PHOTO: COURTESY OF MAIA
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My Communication degree didn't groom me for a career in writing. I chanced upon a job listing posted by a friend in a Facebook group. It was a callout for someone who liked to tell stories for a travel and lifestyle start-up I was very familiar with. It didn't require experience, and to travel and tell stories are my passions, so I thought it was perfect. I went for it, and luckily, I got the job.

As an eager fresh graduate, I was happy to take on whatever was assigned to me. I started writing for the hotel and dining categories and would get sent out for photoshoots every now and then to try our partner merchants' services. This was all too exciting for me, but I couldn't wait for the day I'd be sent out to travel locally.

Less than a year later, the company decided it would be a great time to start an in-house online magazine that focused on travel. I was thrilled. This was finally my chance to go on work trips and write about my experiences. My first out-of-town stint was a three-day trip to Cebu. I met merchants, toured the city, created new forms of content, and did my day-to-day office tasks at night, when I got back to our AirBnb. It was overwhelming to say the least. I was tired and I wasn't getting enough rest. I just wanted to get the whole trip over with. But then again, I knew this was what I asked for.

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I was relieved when we were asked to populate the magazine with content on the metro instead. While there still were travel features every now and then, none of them required having to get sent out anymore. Basically, that meant less trips. I finally felt I could separate work from my love for travel again.

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About a year and a half later, yet another shift in focus for the whole company and its other sister business units happened. This opened the door to new opportunities, so I took on the chance to be a fashion writer and helped out in producing shoots for my own stories, on top of my usual daily tasks. It was a nice change of pace that still took my other interests into consideration, while letting me separate work from travel.

However, the fashion arm didn't fly as much as we thought it would, so I was back trying to revolutionize travel and lifestyle instead. Shortly after, the pandemic struck. Again, priorities in the company shifted. Travel, staycations, and dining out were no longer in demand, and we had to work from home.

I was moved to our sister company, along with many other teammates. Most, if not all of us, had to work with beauty and health products—quite a far cry from the travel and lifestyle services we knew so well. Yet, we took on the challenge. Times were hard, but we were lucky enough to have a stable job with a sizable salary and healthcare benefits—something one wouldn't want to pass up on during a health crisis.

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Despite being privileged to have a stable job that saw no pay cuts and layoffs, we were spread too thin, morale was at an all-time low, and most of us were a step away from burning out, if we weren’t already. Management took notice and gave a company-wide offer to employees who wanted to take a break from work for the entirety of the fourth quarter. The current work situation, along with other problems concerning my career and personal life only made the offer so much more tempting, so I took it.

As someone who hates staying still, I was constantly in pursuit of something more exciting. Little did I know that what would spice up everyday life was something outside of work.

A good friend started teaching at a fitness studio near my office and convinced me to be a "guinea pig" for their program. While I attended the occasional spinning class, I wasn't sure I was fit enough for something that seemed a lot more physically demanding. Yet, after so much persuasion, I eventually agreed to take on the challenge. 

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I had to follow a nutrition plan made specially for me, and to attend classes at least thrice a week. I worked as hard as I could to stick to the program, and every day, I found myself getting stronger and better. I became more productive at work too, and had something to look forward to almost every day. 

Fitting my workouts into my work schedule wasn't a problem at all, and the change to having healthier eating habits, while difficult at first, became more and more manageable. I loved the changes I saw and felt in myself and thought: If this helped me the way it did, how many more people's lives can change because of this? I jokingly told my instructor friend that if they needed an extra hand in marketing, I could be their girl. I actually played around with the idea of helping out at the fitness studio. I thought: They changed my life, so maybe together, we could change more. After hearing I was resting from my full-time job, the studio's owner reached out to me, and offered me a part-time gig as their Marketing Officer. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, and I accepted the offer in a heartbeat.

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Throughout my break and freelancing stint, I couldn't help but think how many people are blessed with colleagues they get along with, and how I was given co-workers I could call family—we've gone through way too many things together to assure us that the friendships made will last a lifetime. That, coupled with the fear of not being able to make the same salary (if not more) through projects, made me scared to eventually leave my first job for good.

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But, I told myself that being afraid is never a reason to stay. I'm fortunate to have a supportive family who still helps out with my daily expenses, so at the end of my break, I tendered my resignation. That time, I was also awaiting results for a copywriting position at a newly-launched health and fitness app. It was a long shot, but after a long application process, I was named their Copywriting Consultant.

While I miss the bond I had with my first set of workmates, I'm thankful I'm able to make the same connections with some of my new teammates—they've made the leap not just into the fitness industry, but also into the freelance life, a lot less scary.

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My break from my full-time job allowed me to look back on how fitness has played such a big role in my life in the past year. I learned how to take better care of myself and thought I could make a living by still learning more. And so here I am, a freelance copywriter and marketer, with most of my clients being fitness brands. 

It can be scary not knowing if I’ll be able to earn enough in a month, but perhaps the most important thing I learned is that being scared is not a reason to stay, as you miss all the shots you don't take. So, I send out writing samples, ask friends if they have projects to refer me to, and just constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities.

Even if it doesn't always seem like it, I realized that timing is always on my side. Opportunities that have come and gone couldn't have happened at a better time—they're all the reasons behind why I am where I am now. 

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Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd end up mostly in fitness, after coming from an industry I thought I was so passionate about. But, like my story has proven, things aren't always what they seem, and that's okay. We always end up where we're meant to be.

Through the hustle of both full-time and freelance life, I've learned to work hard, but work harder on myself. Now, I get to manage my own schedule and workload. I'm able to indulge in my hobbies and other creative outlets. My career so far has not just been about becoming a better writer, but also a journey towards self-love and self-care. And while my roster of gigs doesn't always add up to what I was previously earning yet, the peace of mind I have now is something my old  job could never buy.

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