Stuck in a Job? Butterfly Trapped in a Mayonnaise Jar?

Long ago I complained to my friends,

“I’m a butterfly trapped in a mayonnaise jar….”

What exactly did I mean?

I was referring to my work life.  At the time I was working at a prestigious company in a prestigious role.  A role that a lot of people dream of having.  In fact, I was once of those people.  Before I was hired by the prestigious company in a prestigious role.

And yet, now I found myself quasi-miserable and complaining.  I wasn’t fully miserable since there was a lot to be grateful for working at the prestigious role in the prestigious company.

I felt trapped. My brain felt trapped.  Specifically, my right brain felt trapped.  The part of your brain that is creative, free, responsible for beautiful, non-linear thoughts.  The kind of thoughts that light up the sky and color the world.

My days were filled with planning and budgeting and negotiating and tackling hard problems.  I was constantly under pressure to move my projects forward and on high alert to whom was blocking and who was helping.  Were my teammates friend or foe?  My boss, did he approve of my performance?  How did I compare to others?  My review was coming up would I be judged fairly?

Sound exhausting? Draining?  Onerous?  Yeah, it is.  That is life is corporate America.  It’s tough.

The rewards are good though. Usually you are well compensated and a paycheck is automatically deposited every other Friday. Health care and other benefits are included.  Resources, staff and budgets are available to you.

Yes, there is lots of debate whether the compensation is adequate, if the benefits are satisfactory and the resources actually sufficient.   And in some instances a convincing argument can be made they fall short of the mark.

However, for the most part they are acceptable and these are the benefits of working in a structured organization versus hanging out your own shingle.  You are rarely saddled with doing everything yourself and still having nothing to deposit on payday.

The downside is that it can suck the life out of you.

You trade your freedom and independence for the security and  safety.   Your time is not your own.

Requirements and expectations are set forth and you need to meet those expectations or say goodbye to the security and safety.   You have to submit your work on time.  You have to work during business hours and often at a designated place and arrive at that designated place at a designated time.

And this is all before the battle of office politics which truly can leech your soul.  Office politics truly showcase the ugliness for which humans are capable.

It’s no surprise that in an environment that is demanding, deadline driven, underlying interpersonal struggles and stressful there is not much left for a creative spirit.  After spending the day toiling in front of a computer, straining your brain, dealing with difficult problems and people, the energy you have left is spent sprinting out the door, into your car and onto to your family and friends.  Or your bed.

I was in this environment and it was soul crushing.  I felt I had lost myself.  I was a happy, carefree individual full of spunk and bright ideas.  And while I still had creativity for problem solving, getting things done, crafting persuasive proposals … I still felt trapped.

I felt like a butterfly in a mayonnaise jar.  I was this beautiful creature who was joyous, inspiring and full of possibility.  And yet I was stuck inside this glass jar with a few holes punched to feed a narrow stream of  life sustaining oxygen.   I could fly a bit but I was constantly bumping into those glass walls.   I had enough to exist but nothing more.

Could I ever be free?  And did I want what was on the outside of those walls?  Once free from my glass house I would be open to all kinds of dangers.

I could be entranced by a well-meaning soul who would proceed to put me in another glass jar.  Granted it might be bigger and fancier and even have a few delicious blades of green grass strewn across the bottom.  However, there would still be those glass walls stopping me from true flight.

Or I could be caught in a net and ultimately pinned to a felt board.  Or stuck in a fence. Or run over by a car.  The plight of butterflies is often one of danger.

That glass jar wasn’t looking so bad.

However, the price was my freedom, my independence and most importantly my ability to express my creative gifts.

Was the comfort the glass jar gave me worth the creativity, freedom and independence that I was giving up?

I finally decided it wasn’t.

I flew out of the jar.

And I created my own new jar, a jewelry business, kathy lo rocks, and I’ve never looked back.


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  1. Why type of Entrepreneur are You? - February 1, 2017 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    […] while I worked in large, corporate organizations I often described myself “Butterfly Trapped in Mayonnaise Jar”.  And no surprise, the Butterfly Entrepreneur description fits me […]

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