How Leaving Corporate America Changed My Life

Sometimes you end a career to save it.

Our achievement-oriented society can make it easy for us to get distracted. We reach for the next promotion, the next pay raise, or the next job opportunity that presents itself; it’s second nature. When it comes to big decisions in life, however, like our careers, it’s important to think through what we want to be doing, not just what others expect of us.

Obligated to a Career

When I graduated with a master’s degree in physics, I felt like I had to pursue a job in the field I’d spent numerous years and thousands of hours studying. I took a consulting firm that specializes in physics. . It was a wonderful company, and I have nothing negative to say about it. But I took the job out of obligation, not desire, and it wasn’t a good fit. I worked alone and traveled several days a week, which wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted.

After four years, my wife and I decided to move to her hometown of Knoxville, Tenn. I took a job working in furniture manufacturing. It was also a great company, but again, I struggled with wanting to go to work every day. The work was unfulfilling, and I felt like I had no idea how to measure my own success or even how to bring success to the company. I became frustrated, and this became a cycle throughout the years.

Work felt heavy and draining during the day. Worrying about how I could turn things around kept me tossing and turning at night. My work life infiltrated every other part of my being, including my relationships, health, and emotional state.

 Searching for What I Had Already Found

I finally decided to go through career counseling, similar to what I had done in college. The results pointed to teaching and coaching, which was no surprise. I always knew that I wanted to mentor and teach kids, and nothing had changed over the years (except for the fact that I still wasn’t working in a professional setting with kids). Throughout the years, I went on mission trips as a mentor and leader, worked at sports camps, and coached youth football and baseball. This was my passion, yet I was still forcing myself to wake up every morning to spend most of my day being unhappy and dissatisfied.

I knew what I loved doing, and about five years ago, I started searching for a career in teaching so I could close the gap between what I loved and what I was actually doing. I eventually found Teach Tennessee, which provided the training and credentials for me to do just that, and I have not looked back or regretted a single day since.

 Making a Change

The most surprising benefit in my work life has been that sense of fulfillment. At the end of each day, I know that I made the right decision to leave my job in business. Every morning, I look forward to seeing the kids in my classes. They never leave me feeling like I’ve wasted the day.

Now, I sleep through the night and wake up excited to get to the classroom. Each day, I come home knowing that I’ve invested all my skills and abilities in my work. I’ve got a long way to go to be a great teacher, but I can rest assured, knowing I’m doing everything I can to help these students succeed. It’s both rewarding and comforting to know this is where I should be.

 Do What Fits You

Almost all of my peers have told me that they wished they could make a change like I did. For a number of reasons, however, they feel like they can’t. I almost always disagree with their reasoning. It will never be convenient or easy to make a big change. It might not even make sense to friends and family members. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right choice. We spend at least 40 hours a week at our jobs. That’s too much time to spend wasting your passion and abilities.

If you feel underwhelmed or even downright miserable in your current career path, take a look at your interests. If you’re like me, they haven’t changed, and you simply didn’t take the path you should have. If they have changed, figure out what’s different and what makes you come to life! You need to do what fits you — don’t try to fit into what you do.

Choosing a career that you want is not only good for you, it’s good for your family. If you’re happy throughout your workday, you can get home and walk through the door in a good mood. Instead of feeling burdened, downtrodden, or needing some time to yourself to recover from the day, you can have more patience and engagement with your kids throughout the evening. You can also focus on showing your spouse how much you appreciate him or her. You will be freed up to be more selfless. Everyone in your life – not least of all you! – will enjoy that change.

We work so we can pay the bills and enjoy our free time with our families and friends. But when you enjoy your work, the rest of your life gets better, too.

 It’s never too late to make a change. It may be a little risky, but sometimes, risk is good. There are so many options out there to explore and such a wide range of jobs to look into. Don’t settle for something that leaves you feeling empty. Find a career that makes each day a new adventure, and dive in headfirst. You won’t regret it. I know I don’t.

Photo—Wikimedia commons

About Tommy Eggleston

Tommy Eggleston is a math teacher at West High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tommy was selected to participate in Teach Tennessee ( ) to gain his certification to teach after realizing his true calling in life was to influence young people. With Teach Tennessee, professionals can turn their college degree and professional work experience into a rewarding teaching career in the high-need subject areas of math, science, or foreign language in grades 7-12.


  1. I can very much relate to what you’re saying. 15 years ago I moved out of the corner office, handed in my company car keys and credit cards. I now work with adolescent males in a residential treatment center outside Chicago. Major life changing event that required a lot of adjusting but we (family) were able to do it.

    • Tommy Eggleston says:

      Glad you were able to make that change. We also had to reconfigure some things, but it was definitely worth it. I’m where I want to be, and it’s made me a better husband and father.

  2. Thanks Tommy! I have been considering becoming a teacher for a little over a year now. My wife tells me I would be great at it and I beleive I would really enjoy it. I, like you, would have to come around on the backside to go through a non-traditional path in Arkansas where I live but i think it could be worth it.

    Who knows. I have about 3 weeks to decide for the 13/14 school year to be an option.

    • Tommy Eggleston says:

      If you love kids, you’ll love teaching. I don’t regret it a single day. Do a little research, then discuss it with your family. It takes some sacrifice, but my work days fly by now, and I have a completely different feeling at the end of the day.

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