How I Learned to Reject the Hustle

Written by Amanda Castroverde

“Lady, change of plans,” I typed.

“I don’t have to be at work. I just got laid off. I’ll come get you from the airport.”

I hit send through a face full of tears. This girls’ weekend would not be what we had planned.

Through my rearview mirror, I watched a parade of capable, intelligent women march out of that office one by one with the same look of disbelief across their faces. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be happening. I just bought a house. I had a mortgage now. Surely I would wake up any minute.

I didn’t.

- -

Nearly two years earlier, I sat in the same parking lot staring at the same phone frantically trying to dial my Mom. “Mom, I GOT THE JOB!” I squealed. “I’m going to take it!”

As a sustainability-obsessed, vegan DIY enthusiast with two degrees in marketing, I had found my church. I was going to get the chance to run the digital marketing efforts for a sustainable home improvement start up. I was going to save the world.

And for almost two years, I believed that I was doing just that.

When I found myself working 70 hours week after week, it didn’t matter because I was saving the world. When I felt I was under-titled and underpaid for the work I was doing, I sucked it up because I was saving the world. I lost sleep and friends and stability, but I justified each loss because I was saving the world.

I devoured research on VOCs, on the benefits of metal roofing, and the most advanced ceiling fans in the world. I sputtered out facts on formaldehyde levels in traditional hardwood floors and dragged thousands of dollars’ worth of recycled plastic outdoor furniture across the city to keep our photoshoots under budget. I was an evangelist. There was nothing I wouldn’t do. The mission pulsed through my veins.

I answered, how-have-you-beens with, “Work is really great! Keeping me busy but really incredible.” The line between my personal life and my professional life didn’t just blur. It disappeared. I was my job. My identity had become so intertwined with my work that I didn’t know how to answer questions about myself without it being the main part of my narrative.  

And now, here I was, sitting in the parking lot of a place that meant more to me than I could begin to articulate with no reason to ever walk back through those doors – rejected, blindsided, and completely lost.

The layoff felt like a break up. Anger, betrayal, and tears mixed with an unhealthy dose of social media stalking. But as with any breakup came a lot of free time for me and just for me. And for the first time in two years, I had to ask myself what I wanted to do, not what I needed to do or what someone was asking me to do, but what did I want to do. And while I won’t pretend it wasn’t overwhelming to be an unemployed new homeowner, I found my days filled with matinees at the movie theater, boxing and a consistent workout routine, cross stitching and jigsaw puzzling and homecooked vegan breakfasts in the company of my cat. And slowly I began to feel a sadness lifting that I hadn’t even known was there.

I started making commitments to maintain this level of attention to my wellbeing regardless of what role I’d accept next. I made small promises like, “I won’t put my job title in my Instagram bio” and “I won’t check my emails after I leave the office.” And I kept them. And I’m still keeping them. And truth be told, I love my new job, but I have learned that I can put in my best work at the office and still leave some effort to put my best work into myself too.

We are often so quick to equate who we are with how we earn money. And while some of us are lucky enough to have those two things align pretty closely, there are so many other things about me that make me well… me. I am proud of the work I do, but I’m prouder of the home I’ve curated over the last year, of my loyalty to my people, of my commitment to a healthy, sustainable life, of my Cuban heritage and the time I’ve dedicated to veganizing each of my grandmother’s recipes. These are the details that matter now. These are the details that define me.

Thinking back on losing (what I thought was) my dream job is still painful. It still hurts to think of the lies that were told to me during the process, the way I felt used and rejected, how nearly all of the employees who were let go were women. I think it will continue to hurt for a while. But I firmly believe that rejection is the universe’s protection.

That Friday afternoon, driving down Lamar through a face full of tears, the universe was looking out for me. I didn’t know it yet, but it was shouting, “Hey Amanda! You can’t save the world if you don’t save yourself first.”

So that’s exactly what I did.

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Amanda is a proud daughter of Cuban immigrants. She lives in a charming fixer-upper in North Central Austin with her partner, Santiago, and endlessly perfect cat, Ripley. She spends most of her time veganizing her favorite recipes, renovating her home, listening to Selena, registering Austinites to vote, and supporting the live music community. When she’s not planning out her next home project, Amanda works as a Marketing Manager at HomeAway.

Chelsea Francis