Bye, Bye to Heartbreak City

How I turned down a dream job because I’m worth more.

I said no to a dream role last Monday. I was in the candidate process, and a job requirement crossed a hard boundary: it wasn’t remote and required relocation somewhere I don’t want to live.

My 8-year-old self screams at me. Like in the corner throwing a full-on body tantrum with tears streaming down their cheeks and pointing at the posters on their walls as if to explain to me what a fool I am.

My 23-year-old self glares at me from their daily commute up and down I-5 from Tacoma to Renton and back again. Reminding me how our job requires us to photoshop in “sexy” white or Asian women on email marketing and banner ads.

My 30-year-old self loves our job and team, but this would be the one opportunity they think we should snag. A breakthrough into an industry we aren’t part of and something we have loved our entire lives. Passion means you’ll never have to work a day in your life, right? (Wrong.)

But here we are. I wished the recruiter good luck, and she asked if she could pass along my resume to other remote teams hiring for similar roles.

Why did I say no? Because previously, I never allowed myself to have boundaries and hard nos at work. I didn’t know some of those boundaries existed, and some were just the things capitalism and growing up in the United States trains us to accept as absolute truth.

Hard work, particularly the kind you did with your hands and that you did proudly, meant a lot to the people who raised me. I followed my grandpa around on construction sites with my tiny hammer as a child, and I went to work with my grandma and got to play on the office computer. I learned to fill out deposit slips, account for bills, and help with payroll while also learning algebra in middle school. My mom and I shoveled so much animal manure, I cannot even.

Of course, I applied this hard work to my marketing and community work. Especially easy within the tech industry that believes in meritocracy or that they’re remaking work. A few extra hours, meetings, self-assigned roles, team building after-hours events, networking events, more swag items to wear, new programs that make your company look perfect.

Then I couldn’t anymore.

When I realized, when I looked around and went — “This is the Bad Place” — after things outside of my control happened and a light shined on my situation. My 30-year-old self saw a career regression. My 23-year-old self wanted to burn it all down and everyone involved. And my 8-year-old self threw a complete tantrum.

With privilege, I’ve taken time to sort out my boundaries with work. To figure out what I want. To figure out what I need and what actually gives me life. This is why I could say no on Monday instead of, oh my god, I will do anything and everything for you.

Ultimately, this wasn’t a dream role because it hit against a rigid boundary. There’s no reason for this role not to be remote. Except for whatever team environment the hiring manager imagines in their head. It’s currently remote due to the ongoing pandemic, and the corporation can easily afford to allow for in-person gatherings when they’re needed.

Perhaps, in one of my favorite songs, “The Promised Land,” the Boss said it best:

Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted

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