How many times do you have to up and quit your job, and in how short of a time frame, until you begin to seem unstable? At twenty-four, I realized I have a low threshold for bullshit and resolved to stop tolerating it from my employers, colleagues, and friends. But there are a lot of assholes out there, and years later I am beginning to feel like maybe I am running away from something instead of bravely taking a stand. I can’t tell anymore. I just know that the days I spend in an open-plan office, using my phone voice and editing emails for “tone,” leave me feeling grimy and exhausted in a way that really hard work never does, a filmy layer of smarm I feel the need to sweat off in the gym or wash away with a cocktail.

I adjusted quickly to a freelancer’s life, buckling down to work at 7:30 every morning, still in my pajamas, drinking a whole pot of coffee before lunch. I would spend the afternoons still sweaty from my mid-day workout, showering at 3 or 4 in the afternoon before my husband came home, eager to share the ups and downs of my day and the funny things the cats did. I was happier than ever and endlessly productive, but I worried incessantly about money, and cursed with competence and the inability to say no, I glided back into steady employment while my passion project became harder and harder to keep center stage.

Two years later, I am tired of business casual. I miss having control over my day and my workflow in a way that a nine-to-five and a workaholic boss don’t accommodate. I find myself once again contemplating quitting my job. A job I never really wanted, but felt compelled to take. A job with a steady paycheck, a desk cluttered with paperwork, an inbox that’s never quiet. This isn’t what I set out to do, the first time around, but somehow I found my way back, like an addict who wakes up on the street days later in an unfamiliar part of town, unsure how they let it happen again.

A part of me still wants to take the safe route. Raised by two well-educated parents who have held down stable corporate jobs since 1980, the uncertainty of contract work and income fluctuations seems foolish. “It would be so great if you could find a job you really wanted to stay in for five years,” my mom tells me one afternoon when I have left the office to preempt a panic attack. My father praises my husband for sticking with a job he hated, because it eventually (and improbably) paid off. I get it, but I also wish they got me. They too had the drive to achieve more than their parents. They too chose to think outside the box they grew up in. I wish they knew how to be proud of me for doing the same.

Where I go next seems bound to factors I can’t plan for: how quickly my business will grow, how the trappings of my life might change, the swing of my own moods and desires. After a year of tragedy and change, I have learned that you can never know what is coming next, but I am also beginning to find that there is always work, if I trust myself and I lean into opportunities. And I am trustworthy, even if quitting my job implies otherwise. I may not know what comes next, but I know what I want my life to look like. I want to be the woman on the plane in jeans and a t-shirt, surrounded by suits but working twice as hard. I want to run meetings from the comfort of my couch. I want to travel and speak and conquer.

I want to be all boss, no bullshit, every damn day.

Kelly Siegel-Stechler

Kelly Siegel-Stechler is an educator and entrepreneur living in New York City with her husband and two cats. She loves food but hates mashed potatoes, and her favorite Power Puff Girl is Buttercup.