Why I left Google

A few months ago I quit my job at Google to be a full-time life coach and part-time yoga teacher, and, for the sake of your own self-actualization, I want to tell you why.

But don’t worry, what follows isn’t a feel-good account of “following my truth.” (Really, there are enough “Why I Quit Google to Live the Life of My Dreams” posts of that sort floating around already.) Rather, what follows is a story about actively not following my truth and the cost of fighting intuition.

Fighting the internal pull of intuition isn’t new to me. It’s been my default operating mode for most of my life, and it’s resulted in me dating people I knew were completely wrong for me (for years), being unkind just to fit in, forcing myself through a rigorous bachelor’s degree in statistics when what I really loved was writing and psychology, and drinking regularly for almost a decade when my body so deeply rejected it.

As you can see, this intuition-resistant way of living has led to a lot of existential suffering throughout my life. For better or for worse, this is often how spiritual awakening works. Some people have to accumulate a certain amount of pleasure to realize that collecting pleasure doesn’t lead to lasting fulfillment -- and thus seek something different. But most of us, including myself, have to accrue a certain amount of suffering to motivate ourselves to make a change. And that’s what happened to me here, with my job. Because I just wouldn’t listen to anything else.

I worked at Google for over six years, but living the corporate life, though a role I can play well, never fully aligned with who I am and what I'm passionate about (spiritual awakening and liberation from mind-created suffering for all beings, including myself).

So, for all six years, I regularly asked the universe for clarity on the topic of “my calling.” I asked dreams. I asked labyrinths. I asked oracle decks. I asked friends and I asked books. But I just couldn’t (wouldn’t) hear what my heart really longed for (even when a dream character told me, in a lucid dream, that the most important thing is yoga, or when I consistently pulled the “golden opportunity” Yemanya card from my Goddess oracle deck for weeks when asking whether I should leave my job to coach).

While my intuition told me, repeatedly, in various ways, to go, logic told me to stay, and I listened to logic. After all, I had free delicious food, I loved my coworkers, my work was stimulating, I had medical coverage and stock, and another promotion was on the horizon. I was scared to give all of that up. (After all, those are the things that people look to for happiness, right?) On paper, I knew I had it made as a successful and valued writer at YouTube, so I kept trusting logic instead of my intuition and the sweet signs it kept sending me. Until intuition tried another approach -- the kind that hurt. 

My job (with all its demands, deadlines, and travel) always had me functioning somewhere on the teeth-grinding-at-night scale. (Par for the course for many in Silicon Valley, by the way. The cost of doing business.)

But this year life really cranked up the heat so that, even with all the yoga and meditation I do, as the demands kept piling up, I began to feel like I was hanging on to my health and sanity by just a thread. In the face of all the work-related stress, intuition showed up for me in exhaustion, acne breakouts, irritability, and even a weird rash.

But I kept resisting the truth (partially out of warping the idea that a true yogi can wake up under any circumstances to mean that she should never change her circumstances). Even after a near death experience in India earlier this year, which forced me to ask big life questions like, “How much of how I live is aligned with my purpose?” with greater urgency, I kept hanging on to the known. Even though it was hurting me.


Then in June, things somehow (perfectly, thankfully) stacked up for me to have two op-eds and two speeches due at the same time (all with very hard deadlines because they were tied to events) and I had to shove everything else in my life aside (or drop it completely) for several weeks just to survive. To save commute time, I worked from home almost every day, breaking to inhale food at mealtimes and otherwise glued to my desk. Yoga, relationships, and self-care went out the window as I turned my tunnel vision dial up to al 11. But despite the intensity of my focus during this period, I just couldn’t get the question, “What am I doing?” out of my head.

The final straw was when I had to miss two days of meditation in a row just to get everything done. My daily sit is something I never skip, so this is what finally made my “no more” kettle whistle. Something snapped and suddenly I could finally hear loud and clear that my “calling” was to live. And I realized that the overdoing/overworking/living for the weekend thing I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember is not really living at all.


So I jumped.

Ekaterina Petrova