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Turning down a good paying job to go to baking school was my best decision

  • I got a $95,000 job offer in an industry that didn’t align with my values.
  • After thinking about the offer, I declined it and chose to prioritize my happiness.
  • Now I attend my local baking school and do freelance work – it was the best decision I could have made.

When the $95,000 job offer landed in my inbox, I gasped.

I never expected to earn a decent salary as a writer, let alone the kind of money that would change my life. But no amount of money could make up for the fact that it was in an industry that didn’t align with my values.

I’d like to say that I immediately turned down the offer — that I’m the kind of person who is so self-aware that I didn’t even consider taking a job that weighed heavily on my conscience. But this is not true.

Over the course of two days, I floundered, writing the same pro-con list over and over again. I kept wanting a new tiebreaker to appear, like trying to manifest a snack from an empty fridge when a weird urge kicks in.

After all, maybe I could use this job as a means to an end. I had long dreamed of moving to France to follow an intensive one-year pastry program at a prestigious culinary school. Maybe I could swallow my morals and make this very stressful job work for two years, then quit after saving up the $25,000 I needed for college tuition.

In the end, I never added my electronic signature to the offer letter. Instead, I turned down the life-changing salary to attend my local community college’s Baking and Pastry Arts program.

Instead of postponing my happiness, I choose to live it now

braided pastry

Baking school costs me $6,000.

Susie Heller

This might be my millennial Gen Z cusp, but putting my happiness first without moral or financial strings attached is the best decision I’ve ever made.

My community college program will cost me just under $6,000. In two and a half years, I will cross the stage to receive my degree in baking arts.

If I had taken the editor job, I would probably still try to save $25,000 to start my pastry school experience, maybe by flying to Paris in 2024.

Because I’m in school part time, I haven’t had to stop working or uproot my life, which is a good thing because I moved from Brooklyn to Asheville, North Carolina, he less than a year ago.

bow-shaped rolls on a blue and white plate

I attend a part-time pastry school.

Susie Heller

Instead of spending 40 hours per week hunched over my computer, I share my time.

Two days a week I put on my chef’s whites and go to school where I learn the science behind sauces and how to make a perfectly Parisian soufflé.

I spend the other three days at home or in cafes, working as a freelance writer. I work my own hours and only take on projects that align with my personal values.

Now I shape my life around the things that bring me joy rather than advancing my career

The most revolutionary part of designing my own schedules has been building a time that is just for me.

I feel really lucky to have the freedom to do things just for fun – like taking a casual walk or reading on my porch with my girlfriend and our dogs.

Cheese and raspberry danishes on a light green plate

Now I have more free time to do what I love.

Susie Heller

I may not make the kind of money that allows for a steady stream of takeout without jerking my bank account, but I’m fine with that. These days, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Some of this is by chance, but most of it is by design.

For much of my life, I’ve been driven by a blind ambition that I thought might make it easier for me to climb the corporate ladder – instead, it completely wore me out.

It took a lot of therapy and even more journaling to unlearn my capitalist instincts in the name of my well-being.

For the first time in my life, I don’t know what the next five years have in store for me professionally. But I know that wherever I go, I will bring dessert.

Editor’s note: Susie Heller worked at Insider as a reporter until 2019.

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