Young and ambitious ladies and gentlemen, I am feeling unhappy and want to share my thoughts with you. Not a fan of whining in the Internet, but I have found it hard to find people who I can open up to and who can also truly empathize with my situation.
A little background, I did my undergrad in engineering at a top US program (MIT/Caltech/Stanford). I thought of myself as very sociable and thus did not want to go into an engineering career. Don't get me wrong, I love engineering, but I was afraid of getting into a fulltime job surrounded by colleagues I did not feel I fit in well with. Let's face it too, before I hit the real world, I was very ambitious and felt I was worth more than a $200k annual paycheck by the time I made senior engineer in my mid 30s.
Next thing you know, I(big surprise, huh?). While there are some moments in which I like it, the longer-term trend is that I am becoming very unhappy. Why?
I was used to traveling very frequently, even for short trips, so I thought this would not be an issue. Whenever I heard consultants complain about the travel, I thought to myself that I was different and that I would not mind it. However, now I realize that it is not the travel that I dislike, but it is the loneliness that kills me. I did not realize how much this sucked until my third week of being in a hotel by myself- once the novelty wears off. Eating dinner alone one night is fine, but doing it 3 nights a week, every week, while sleep deprived makes me depressed. Which leads me to the next point:
Health and sleep
Before this job, I was one of the most happy with life people you will have ever met and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I got 8-9 hours of sleep every day and exercised at least 4 times a week. After a good workout, I would feel high on life and then I would get a meal with friends. It was awesome. Now I sleep closer to 6 hours a day and exercise 0. I work all day on weekdays, I like to be social Fridays nights, I make Saturdays my recovery days and by Sunday I am back to thinking about the next week, which leads me to my next point:
I know I am not saving lives here, but the setting I am in leads to a high level of stress: expectations for quality of work are high, deadlines are tight and there is absolutely no room for error. Nowadays, as soon as I wake up every morning I check email and feel an anxious feeling in my stomach as I wait for it to refresh. I thought I could control my emotions very well, but I am starting to realize that the context around me plays a very large role in shaping them.
I am starting to realize how little money is actually required to live a great lifestyle. I am living very comfortably and am probably spending only a quarter of my income (taxes not included). I don't spend much but also don't live cheap (e.g. cabs rather public transit). The consulting expense policy helps, but even if it were taken out, I feel the money I would earn as an engineer would give me the freedom to do as I feel, which is all I really need. Once I have a family, etc, I'll want more, but by that time no matter what career track, I'll be earning more too! Given my educational background, I'll be making more than my parents did, and I feel like I lived a great lifestyle while growing up. We weren't rich, but I never felt I lacked anything. I realize now I don't need to be earning $1MM a year to be happy!
The experience at MBB has been great from a personal maturity standpoint. Sure, I am learning and all that, but people forget that I would be learning at almost any job. And sometimes I feel that at MBB I am learning a little about random things all over the place, rather than learning a lot about a focused topic of my own choice.
On next steps...
I think I know what I have to do, but it is really hard to grow the cojones to actually step out of the rat race. I need to get my life back to the balanced state it was in before and I know I cannot do that at MBB. What's next? Strategy at Tech Company? Beyond that, do I have the balls to go to a job at non-prestigious big engineering firm? (Sounds easy in theory, especially given what I just shared, but sometimes I over-think it).
To the more experienced folks out there, what are your thoughts on my situation?