You Are More Than What You Earn, or Why I’m Choosing a Career I Love

When I landed my job in digital marketing at a local university, it was a dream come true. I got the offer via phone call exactly one week after graduating from university and I was thrilled. The role was perfect for me—digital strategy with lots of writing—and the salary was higher than I had imagined. After splurging on a dinner out, surprising my mom with a new MacBook (love you, Mom!) and treating my better half to a weekend at the Disney Resort, I buckled down and started paying off my student loans.

Less than a year later, I was debt free and I felt….miserable.

I expected to be deliriously happy, but instead, I felt defeated and sad. In many ways, paying off my debt was a life changing moment for me, but not in the way I expected.

It was the moment that I truly understood that money wasn’t the answer. For the first time in years, I was financially stable and debt free. It was a time in my life when I should have been able to take a deep breath and truly relax. But even though I was no longer living on less than $15,000 in one of the nation’s most expensive cities, I still felt poor and terrified.

I was trapped in a world of scarcity.

$1,000 in the bank wasn’t enough to make me feel safe, but neither was $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000. No amount of money was big enough to rescue me from my feelings of fear.

I went back to therapy. I journaled. I allowed myself to spend money. I went on long runs. I worked through my feelings of guilt and fear. I cried a lot, but I kept going.

Somewhere along the way, I decided that I wouldn’t allow money to define me. For so many years, my lack of money defined my existence. Could I afford to spend $1 on dinner? Would I be able to work another 15 hour day so I could pay rent?

But once I was earning money at my full-time job, the obsession didn’t end.

The circumstances had changed—I had more than enough money—but my fear-based spending did not. Enough was never enough and even more heartbreaking, I felt like I was never enough.

I no longer think that.

I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I decided that I was enough, and that one small shift has changed everything.

One of the biggest things it’s changed? My career path.

In less than two weeks, I’ll be embarking on an entirely new career as a high school English teacher. After a lot of soul-searching, I feel confident that this is exactly where I am meant to be right now and I am SO EXCITED.

For the next 8 months, I’ll be a full-time student and student teacher. I’ll be working in the classroom with a guide teacher and 30 teenagers, all of whom will help decide the future of our world. I’m excited to play a small part in the people they choose to become.

I feel excited. I feel ready. And most importantly, I feel at peace. I feel at peace with my money and my career and all of the decisions I’ve made to get to this point.

But the funny thing about feeling at peace is that other people, who have not yet arrived at a the same destination, have strong reactions.

When I was at FinCon last year (a huge financial conference), I was in the beginning stages of planning for this career shift. I found myself in a car full of early retirement bloggers and one of them asked what I do for work.

I answered that I work in digital marketing. Heads started to nod and someone sagely replied, “There’s a lot of money to be earned in digital marketing.” I laughed in response, “I’m actually working towards becoming a high school teacher.” The car filled with silence. Someone finally replied with pity in their voice, “Oh, there’s no money in that.”

I’ll never forget that moment because in that instance, I saw my previous self reflected back to me.

For that person, money was the beginning, the middle and the end.

It was the sole aspect to consider when making a decision and the only element that mattered when it came to big choices like how to use our one lifetime. My obsession with money took a different form than his, but it was similar nonetheless.

Instead of responding, I felt a wave of sadness wash over me. I felt sad for the younger version of myself who felt so fearful about not having enough that she made herself sick. But I also felt sad for this man and the ways in which he had clearly limited his own life and happiness.

As for me, I’m glad to be free.

25 thoughts on “You Are More Than What You Earn, or Why I’m Choosing a Career I Love

  1. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life says:

    I still keep in touch with my favorite high school English teacher – that’s one of the most influential positions I can imagine in life. We desperately need great and dedicated teachers, especially here in CA, and I’m so glad to hear that you’ll soon join their ranks. I know it won’t be easy, I have friends who have spent a lot of time in the profession, but all the more reason we need fresh and eager people to step in and make the pool better. The JuggerBabys of the world need you!

    That FIRE blogger’s response makes me laugh a little. I changed my career path over a decade ago because there was no money in it but more importantly because my health was deteriorating too fast to sustain the time I’d have to stay in school. I couldn’t afford to end up in that much debt, with that little income, and take the risk of being too crippled to work and pay off that debt. But I still didn’t take the totally pragmatic route either, I went with an English major, and ended up in a career that wasn’t what I truly aimed for but enjoy nonetheless because it’s doing some good in the world. And it happens to pay well too, but the latter part I had to fight for, every step of the way. I don’t believe that “money happens” but I do believe that there’s a balance between what you do with your life and the money you make, and whether you look at your life only as before and after FIRE. The latter seems like a waste.


    1. Taylor says:

      Ahh, that makes me so happy to hear! I too had a high school English teacher I adored and she was actually one of the reasons I considered becoming a teacher in the first place 🙂 I love that you ended up in a career that you love and the journey that it took to get there. I agree that money is important, but it’s only important in the sense that you use it to create the life you want. Working hard to create a life you love with people you love doesn’t require $1 million+ in investments. It only requires mindful use of money and a few financial systems that are securely in place (i.e. saving and understanding your true expenses). P.S. I loved reading about your house sale! I’m glad it’s going well so far and I hope it remains as stress-free as possible. Thinking of you and your fam ❤


    1. Taylor says:

      Ahh, thank you so much! I’ll never forget reading a quote you posted many months ago: “It’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than at the top of one you don’t.” It has definitely stuck with me throughout this journey and I’m sure it will continue to inspire me as I start at the bottom of a new ladder 🙂


  2. Kara says:

    YAS KWEEN! I’m still working through some of my scarcity mindset. So glad you’re going to be a teacher- we need more amazing people in classrooms around the country.


    1. Taylor says:

      Thanks, girl! Scarcity mindset is NO FREAKING JOKE. It has been wonderful to watch you kill it with your business and I know this is only the beginning for you ❤


  3. Britt @ Tiny Ambitions says:

    This is so exciting! Congrats on finding your true passion! Money really isn’t everything. It’s just a tool to help you get where you need to go. But, if you start obsessing over it (as you say), you won’t go anywhere. It’s so awesome you’ve changed that mindset!


  4. Tawcan says:

    Money isn’t everything when it comes to jobs. You need to be able to enjoy your job and feel good about it. Congrats on your new career path, very excited for you.


  5. Ross says:

    Congratulations on the new career path! Your post is a good reminder that sometimes the “destination” isn’t the end all, be all and that the journey really is what it’s about.

    I know people who don’t care at all what the job is as long as it pays well. I think I may have had that mentality in the past but now I actually want to add value and be happy with what I do. Sounds like you’re already there with it!


  6. ZJ Thorne says:

    My English teachers were my favorite in high school. They had a dramatic impact on me. And money is definitely not everything. Especially now that you are debt-free. This is such an excellent choice. Your bank account won’t respect you the way your students will. Your bank account won’t give you the happiness of being in a job for which you are well suited. Your bank account is not the most important thing about you.


    1. Taylor says:

      Ahh, that makes me so happy to hear! I’m stupidly excited to start this chapter and enter the field of education 🙂 I love how you phrased that about our bank accounts. They truly are NOT the most important thing about us or even the most interesting, to be honest. Thank you for the support, friend ❤


  7. Primal Prosperity says:

    Good for you! Even though I’ve hit the point in my life where I don’t really need to work… I still want to, but like you, I want to do something that satisfies my soul. I’m currently taking online classes for animal behavior and wildlife & marine conservation. I’m also hoping to use this to travel the world as a volunteer researcher.


    1. Taylor says:

      What an amazing path to take! We are in dire need of more people who are passionate about preserving and protecting our wildlife. Can’t wait to hear how it goes! My sister is working towards becoming a conservation scientist at zoos and she is loving every minute. (She’s currently interning in a nursery and keeps sending me pics of their newest baby tiger (!!) who was rescued while someone tried to bring him across the border illegally. *sigh*) Thank you for the support!


  8. Working Optional says:

    I think it’s great that you’re going to be a teacher. There are some amazing ones at my kids’ school and I meet them and instantly know that they would be great in any profession they chose. But they chose to be teachers because that is fulfilling to them.

    Being happy is about knowing you have enough, and don’t need more.

    Again, congratulations!


    1. Taylor says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words! It means a lot 🙂 I’m very excited to join the ranks of passionate teachers and am really looking forward to being inspired by the work. Also, that is the best definition of happiness I’ve ever heard. I love it!


    1. Taylor says:

      Thank you!! We are overdue for a catch up. There are many things I’m dying to hear about (well one main thing, *cough* person *cough* in particular, haha) Let’s schedule our next group chat soon ❤


    1. Taylor says:

      That is amazing! I actually didn’t know that was your career. I would LOVE to hear more about teaching in the UK. The credential I’m earning is accepted in England, which is nice in case we ever decide to move there to be closer to Alex’s family 🙂


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