A Blog Not Limited

to web design, standards & semantics

Moving On

Apr 12, 2010

Published in

Just over five years ago, I started an exciting new job as a web designer for a software company. The opportunity arose after getting laid off as a government contractor and spending eight months moving from job to job in search of the right one.

And there is no doubt that I found the "right" one. The work was challenging and varied. My boss was open, engaging and expected the very best from me. My skillset grew, as I learned more about CSS, accessibility, semantic markup and SEO. And then the added bonuses of business casual dress and a 15-minute commute.

Then about 18 months later, this software company was acquired. And everything changed. Granted, it changed slowly, but it soon became apparent that our little three-person web team wasn't going to enjoy the same ability to set standards for our web site. We weren't going to have as great a say in the direction of our site and web-based efforts. We were going to be fighting against a bigger machine that didn't embrace the web the way we did.

But, I sort of saw it as an opportunity to show the machine our passion and enthusiasm and make it contagious. And my boss was just as hopeful. We had the skills of some of the best in our industry, we just had to show our new employer what that meant and how it could benefit the company.

Sixty-four months later, those hopes are gone. I no longer have any faith that I can affect change. I don't believe the company wants to embrace the web and strive to be the best. But even worse, over these five years, I've become bitter and apathetic. And I've become the kind of person I never wanted to be.

It Means Nothing If You Don't Do Something

I readily admit I have a tendency to bitch. Whether it is about the douchebag on the road who thinks using his turn signal is a sign of weakness, or it is the ongoing crap with certain members of my family. And, like many people, I bitch about work … the little stuff, the big stuff, and everything in-between.

I also, unlike many people, tend to be open, public and vocal with my bitching (thanks, Twitter). But what I've always taken pride in is the fact that while I do bitch, I try very hard to do something about what it is that has got my panties in a bunch. Not with the lame stuff like bad drivers, but with the big stuff.

And I tried to do this for several years at my job. Constantly bringing issues to my boss's and his bosses' attention, constantly trying to educate the internal clients I worked with about best practices and goals. Even filing complaints with HR and escalating issues to the top of the food chain, when things got particularly bad.

But I eventually gave up. And I turned to just bitching and whining, and not doing anything about it. Sure, there'd be moments of hope when I'd fall for the corporate party lines, but I was always proven a sucker eventually.

And yet I stayed. I stayed far too long.

Scared Shitless

Fear had somehow become my companion. Fear had convinced me that I needed that very decent salary; that I needed the paid benefits; that I needed the security of a paycheck every two weeks.

Part of the fear, I think, is that I moved to Albuquerque three years ago (one of the nice perks of my employment, I must admit). And Albuquerque does not have a good (or even a sorta okay) job market for experienced web designers. I had looked for a job before moving with no success. And since moving, I hadn't heard of any opportunities that were up my alley.

But Albuquerque offers me so much more in terms of quality of life, and that love for my new home became tied in with my fear. I didn't want to move. I didn't want to leave the friends that had become my family, or the community that sustained me.

And so I justified my fear and staying in a job that made me miserable. And I justified my bitching without action.

I Control Me

But last week I had enough. Work got to such a bad point for me, and my frustration level was at an all-time high, that it gave me what I needed more than anything else: a big ole slap upside my head.

I saw my decision to stay at this soul-sucking job for what it was: fear of the unknown. And there is one thing I will not do, and that is let fear control my life.

I can't do anything about fear, and that makes it all the more scary. But I can do something about whatever may happen with my future. If I struggle financially, I can do something about that. If I need health insurance, I can do something about that. If I need to relocate for another job, I can do something about that.

Fuck fear. Because I know I am strong enough to deal with whatever comes my way. I've done it before. It is who I am. I just forgot along the way.

I Won't Settle for Half-Assed

I remember who I am now. I am a person with a strong work ethic. I have passion and excitement. I am talented and, even more than that, I want to work hard to be even better than I am today.

I can no longer work in an environment where those wonderful qualities are squashed like a bug by the huge corporate thumb. I can no longer tolerate paralyzing bureaucracy. I can no longer be a part of a system that rewards incompetence as long as it is accompanied by ass-kissing.

I want to be amazing. I want to work with other people who want the same thing. I want to feel inspired and challenged again. I want to be back to that place where I get to learn new things, rather than spend hours making HTML emails and fixing vendors' shoddy work.

And so I gave my two-weeks notice on Friday. I quit. I quit without another job lined up. I quit without any concrete sense of what I'm going to do.

Best Decision?

Was quitting the best decision? Yes. Unequivocally yes.

Sure, my practical self is screaming at me for not knowing what is next. That ugly fear is whispering constantly in my ear. And I have no idea how long it is going to take me to get to where I want to be.

But I can deal with all of that. I know I'm going to freak out along the way. I know there is going to be some struggle. But I can take care of me. I know this. I have the utmost faith in myself.

From the moment I made the decision to quit, I knew in my heart it was right. I know in my heart that over the long-term, this will prove to be the best decision of my life. Because today, I've never felt more powerful or hopeful.

All Things Happen for a Reason

I've come to believe that every decision in life ultimately takes you to where you need to be. And there is no sense in questioning why it took so long. It took as long as it needed to. I needed to get to my rock-bottom in order to give fear the finger.

This journey is best described by a poem from Portia Nelson I stumbled across many years ago:

Moving On: Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
  1. I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in.
    I am lost … I am helpless … It isn't my fault.
    It takes forever to find a way out.
  2. I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don't see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can't believe I am in the same place again, but it isn't my fault.
    It still takes a long time to get out.
  3. I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I see it is there.
    I still fall in … it's a habit.
    My eyes are open … I know where I am … It is my fault.
    I get out immediately.
  4. I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.
  5. I walk down another street.

What's Next?

Other than finish out the next two weeks (or until I piss someone off with this post), the obvious is what's next. I need to find work. I've never thought of myself as someone who wanted her own business. I never really wanted to be a freelancer. But maybe that is my next challenge to conquer. To redefine what I've thought of myself professionally and try something new and scary.

And, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I still do want the security of a steady paycheck and paid health insurance would be nice. So, I will remain open to working for another company. I will just do my damnedest to make sure I won't be walking into another environment that isn't suited for the kind of person I am.

For now, I'm focusing on updating my resume and redesigning my portfolio. And I'm going to tackle the 10–idea–long list of blog posts I have. I'm going to follow through with the connections I've made locally and globally to see where there may be opportunities.

It will be interesting to see what happens … and I'm looking forward to it.

HTML5 Cookbook

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P.S. Don't forget my book Microformats Made Simple is still for sale!


Share the Love

Bruce Floyd's Gravatar

Bruce Floyd opines:


Good for you!

You’re talented and there’s no good reason why a company like that should have access to your abilities and let them lie dormant.

Way to break free!

Heather Meadows's Gravatar

Heather Meadows opines:



You are going to kick ass and take names. I can’t wait to see the great things you’re going to do now that you’re unfettered. :)

J. Albert Bowden II's Gravatar

J. Albert Bowden II opines:


What a similar situation I find myself in. Kudos to you. For having the balls, 2x over, to do it and to write this. You rule. Fuck fear.

Ian Pitts's Gravatar

Ian Pitts opines:


The team is sorry to see you go but I’m certain you will be happier out on your own and either working for yourself or for small, close-knit design shops.

Kevin Dees's Gravatar

Kevin Dees opines:


Congratulations, I hope you find what you are looking for.

Best to you, go kick it!

Esther's Gravatar

Esther opines:


Wow, you’re awesome! Congrats on your newly rediscovered freedom :)

John F Croston III's Gravatar

John F Croston III opines:


Congrats and best of luck with your new endeavor!!!

Andy Thornton's Gravatar

Andy Thornton opines:


Congratulations, well done on your decision.

I know great things will come from this move as you have removed a limitation on your ability to be a success.

2010 will be a great year for you :-)

Chris Coyier's Gravatar

Chris Coyier opines:


Definitely the right move. Being happy with how you spend your time is more important than how much you earn while doing it.

Some of the best times in my life were made during financial hardship and struggle. Not that that’s what will happen to you, but hey, if it does, it just makes your life story all the more interesting =)

Emily's Gravatar

Emily responds:


Thanks so much everyone! Your support makes this decision feel that much more right :)

Wilhelm Murdoch's Gravatar

Wilhelm Murdoch opines:


Work to live, don’t live to work. You’ll do great; there’s not a doubt in my mind. :)

Rob Wilkerson's Gravatar

Rob Wilkerson opines:


Congratulations and best of luck, but for those of us who enjoyed reading about them, may there always be fucktards in your life. For your sanity, perhaps not with the same degree of influence, but fucktards nonetheless.

Boyink's Gravatar

Boyink opines:


I think you’ll be amazed and overwhelmed at what work will come your way, and surprised at where it comes from.

Best of luck on whatever it is!

Michael Goddard's Gravatar

Michael Goddard opines:


You’ve got balls kid! :)  Congrats and only the best of wishes to you and the bright future you have coming!

Pankaj Jangid's Gravatar

Pankaj Jangid opines:


You are definitely an asset for whoever you work for.

I must congratulate you on this decision. And I am sure you will get to work on the things that you desire.

Maria's Gravatar

Maria opines:


I came to this exact crossroads three years ago and while the road since has been HARD, I never regret leaving. You will do great and this is going to open up so many other doors for you. Just be flexible and open. Congrats!

Tim Kadlec's Gravatar

Tim Kadlec opines:


“I want to be amazing. I want to work with other people who want the same thing.”

Amen. Congrats on the move Emily.

candiRSX's Gravatar

candiRSX opines:


Congrats to you! You have done what a lot of people wish to do but fail to do so.  It is truly an inspiration.  I’m sure this will help people realizes to forget the fear and take control of their lives. I know I will.  Good luck in your future endeavors.

Andrew Hedges's Gravatar

Andrew Hedges opines:


This might sound cheesy (and, knowing you just a little, I’m pretty sure you’ll think so), but the Universe rewards action. Making the decision to “fuck fear” and step out into the unknown is going to open so many doors it will make your head spin. As others have said, you’re talented, good at what you do, recognized in the field, etc. I predict you will very soon find yourself in the position of having to decide which opportunity/ies to pursue. Good for you, Emily!

Jeff's Gravatar

Jeff opines:


Congrats and good luck! Change is always scary at first but it’s obvious that this isn’t a decision you’ll regret.

Vincent Thome's Gravatar

Vincent Thome opines:


Way to go Emily! I did the same thing in January 2005, except I forced the Man to fire me. That was the last J-O-B I’ve ever had. Four months after, on unemployment, I was diagnosed with nearly inoperable benign brain tumor. Since then, I had the surgery, got divorced, remarried, and become my own boss. Self-employment can be challenging and rewarding. The best facet is picking and choosing who I will work with and for. You will overcome and you will excel. I’m happy to advise you or just offer a shoulder. Go get ‘em girrrl!

Patti March's Gravatar

Patti March opines:


I quit my last job 18 years ago and never looked back.

You know you “Can Do That!”


Beth's Gravatar

Beth opines:


Way to go!  Brave, bold and very Emily. :-)

Jen Strickland's Gravatar

Jen Strickland opines:


Emily, Yahoo! is hiring.  Maybe that would be a good fit for you?

Virginia's Gravatar

Virginia opines:


I have no doubt that you will land on your feet thinking that this was the smartest thing you ever did. I know this because, Emily, you kick ass!

Kat's Gravatar

Kat opines:


You are an inspiration!

Beth's Gravatar

Beth opines:


Emily, Everything you just said is everything I have been thinking about for the last year at my job. I want to blockquote the entire post hahaha.

It’s really hard to finally take the leap and say I can’t change this bullshit, but I can change my situation by leaving.

You’ve already done the hardest part, and I have full confidence awesome things will be coming your way :)

It’s sad, but I’m really beginning to think big companies are just not a good place for designers, or anyone who cares about doing better than “good enough” or “fast and cheap” at their job. One of the best qualities about people in our profession is our constant thirst to do better and learn more, and this goes largely ignored in big corporate culture.

Anonymous Coward's Gravatar

Anonymous Coward opines:


Beth nailed it with her comment:

It’s sad, but I’m really beginning to think big companies are just not a good place for designers, or anyone who cares about doing better than “good enough” or “fast and cheap” at their job. One of the best qualities about people in our profession is our constant thirst to do better and learn more, and this goes largely ignored in big corporate culture.

Keith's Gravatar

Keith opines:


Best of luck Emily! I’ve no doubt you’ll rock wherever you land!  Enjoy the ride… I’m sure it’ll take you somewhere awesome.

Michael Montgomery's Gravatar

Michael Montgomery opines:


Good decision.

Best wishes, and let me know how I can help.

Reinhard Borchardt's Gravatar

Reinhard Borchardt opines:


Wow! You got guts kid. I admire the shit out of you for your decision. That took some serious vulva.  Seriously though, I think you’re going to be fine.  As long as you are a producer and not a taker, I believe that the universe will reward you appropriately.  I’ve followed your progress for years and (albeit from a distance) am blown away by what a professional you’ve become.  Emily, you are going to do great things.  I know I’ll buy your next book.  :)

Chris Harrison's Gravatar

Chris Harrison opines:


Emily, I’m proud of you for taking destiny in your own hands. I wish I had been able to do the same. Leaving my last job and going freelance has been the best thing to ever happen to me professionally. You’ll be surprised at how much happier you’ll be when you’re not in an environment that makes you miserable everyday.

Kevin Silver's Gravatar

Kevin Silver opines:


Emily, good for you. And it’s about time!

Emily's Gravatar

Emily responds:


Wow, everyone! I’m completely overwhelmed with all the messages of support.

Thanks again for making me feel so loved and supported!

Nick Finck's Gravatar

Nick Finck opines:


Go kick some ass!

Chantal Foster's Gravatar

Chantal Foster opines:


Emily, this is wonderful news! Definitely, definitely a good move. In fact, I bet you’ll find yourself exploring and expanding in creative ways you never had time for before.

This is exactly how I found the time to start Duke City Fix and also how I ended up starting my own firm. Both fruitful and positive decisions for me.

Go boldly forward! You are definitely someone who will make your dreams happen.

Eric Renz-Whitmore's Gravatar

Eric Renz-Whitmore opines:


Congrats and… I look forward to seeing your unfettered amazingness!

Rick's Gravatar

Rick opines:


So go ask Zeldman for a job. What’s he gonna say? no?!?!? ;-)

Good Luck!

Sean's Gravatar

Sean opines:


I’m a little behind on my RSS so am getting to this late. There’s nothing worse than working at a job you don’t like. Quitting, while scary is often the right move. all the best to you.

Jason Beaird's Gravatar

Jason Beaird opines:


Wow! Congrats on taking your career into your own hands. No matter what you do, you can’t go wrong by following your desire to be amazing! Look forward to hearing what the next chapter brings.

Elizabeth's Gravatar

Elizabeth opines:


Hey there—- I just linked to this post from a facebook link so you may never see this comment but felt I HAD to say YES—to you.  Your words here echo precisely what I went through 2005-2006 and I did walk out of my very well-paying but soul-sucking job with NO OTHER JOB in sight—it was a leap of faith that has paid off ten-fold and that is what I wanted to share with you.  You are RIGHT.  This is a GOOD decision.  Trust your feelings.  (if you need added support to that—I highly recommend Trust Your Vibes by Sonia Choquette) but mostly?  Congratulations on having the courage to pursue an authentic life that FEEDS you.  Brava!

Kelly K's Gravatar

Kelly K opines:


Hey, I just did the same thing! After much deliberation and conquering of fear, I also needed out of a situation where my talents felt unappreciated, my energy down from being burnt out due a loss of staff and my fulfilling an additional work role I was not hired for, and also my personal dreams of future endeavors were slowly slipping away. But what I know of myself is I am a natural entrepreneur, and freelancing and running my own gig is what makes me thrive. You’ll see, it will be fine. And all the tools are out there now, so that you don’t always have to rely on the gatekeepers or corporate names to buoy you up. Float and breath and have fun!

Dave Doolin's Gravatar

Dave Doolin opines:


Heh… welcome to the free world.  Now git ta work.

Lean on people you need to lean on when you need to lean on them.  Don’t wait til it’s too late.  People will help, they need to know when and how to help, and they can’t read your mind.

Alice W's Gravatar

Alice W opines:


wow… I just randomly found your site when I came across Script Junkie today (which I found through ThinkVitamin) and you have just described EXACTLY what I’ve been feeling/going through on and off again at my current job. I’m a standardista at a place that seems to only care about crazy deadlines and the bottom line. I plan to do the exact same thing you just did very soon. Bravo!

Karl's Gravatar

Karl opines:


Wow, random Interweb clicking brought me here. It’s so comforting to find you’re not alone (yet sad that the situation exists at all). Personally, I feel like I’ve been really held back in so many ways. I hate what I’ve become as a result of my environment. My action plan involves NZ and starting from the bottom again if needs be, and you know what? I don’t think the head shed are even going to replace me. After all, you install websites, right?

Christopher Yeleighton's Gravatar

Christopher Yeleighton opines:


☛ Go Emily, and repair my Web, which, as you see, is turning into a mess ☇ And besides, fix your RSS here — Firefox does not get it right.

BreRiz's Gravatar

BreRiz opines:


This article was sent to me by Andrew Hedges. I am so glad he sent it!

Monday, I was laid off due to lack of web work at the small creative firm I worked at. I was their only web person.

Although I am scared, I am thrilled, excited that I have an opportunity to freelance full time! I feel like a huge opportunity is upon me - finally. This is what I was waiting for.

Thank you for writing this article. It is nice that it sat and waited for me on this day.


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The Coolest Person I Know

Emily Lewis

Yeah, that would be me: .

I'm a freelance web designer of the standardista variety, which means I get excited about things like valid POSH, microformats and accessibility. I ply my trade from my one-person design studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106 USA.

A Blog Not Limited is my personal blog where I pontificate about web design, web standards, semantics and whatever else strikes my fancy. Head on over to Emily Lewis Design if you'd like to see my work or, even better, hire me.


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