Have you ever completely zoned out while you’re driving, and you arrive at your destination with no recollection of physically driving there? You end up sitting in your car at home, or at work, or wherever, questioning how you made it there. No memory of taking the turns, stopping at the lights, getting off the interstate. It’s like you set your brain on autopilot and just went through the motions of driving without conscious thoughts or decisions.
When you park your car, it kind of wakes you up. You shake your head, look around, and think: how did I end up here?
This is exactly how I felt at the beginning of last May. It was around my one year anniversary of being out of college and of being at my dead-end sales job, and I felt entirely stuck. I left undergrad with a degree in Creative Writing, which, although I do love creative writing and don’t regret choosing that as my major, didn’t exactly open up a world of job opportunities. I started to feel panicked as all of my friends got their first jobs and settled into their first apartments, while I anxiously tried to figure out my next move. When an opportunity was presented to me to take a sales role, I agreed. I figured it was better than nothing, and it would be a way to pay the bills while I worked on my writing and tried to get published.
However, a year into the job, I hadn’t written a thing and certainly hadn’t had anything published. I had barely even spent time applying for jobs that I would actually enjoy. I was comfortably uncomfortable; I was suffocating in my current job, but also felt that the money was too good to leave, even though I could feel a little piece of my soul chip off every time I walked into the building where I worked or picked up the phone to follow-up with a client. I didn’t have an exit plan, and even though I knew I couldn’t stay, I wasn’t making a conscious effort to leave. I was on auto-pilot. I went through the same motions every day, living for the weekend, and slowly making myself numb.
I was on auto-pilot. I went through the same motions every day, living for the weekend, and slowly making myself numb.
It took a phone call from my friend, Peter, during lunch one day to snap me my out of my stupor. He metaphorically parked my car and made me look around. He had just moved to New York with his new boyfriend, landed an incredible job, found an amazing community of writers, and overall was “living his best life”. He gushed for about twenty minutes about how everything seemed to be falling in place in his life, and I felt a pit start to form in my stomach. He then paused and asked, “What about you? What’s something new and exciting happening in your life? What are you doing to pursue your dreams?”. I looked down at my desk, coated with papers and order forms covered in mindless doodles. I had nothing to say. Nothing. Hot tears started to pool in my eyes and my throat locked up. I whispered that I had to go and hung up the phone. Something had to change.
I quit my job a few days later, still lacking a solid plan. I just knew I couldn’t spend another hour of my life doing something that made me feel so empty. I had always wanted to be a writer and own my own yoga studio, so I researched yoga teacher trainings in my area and found one that was starting a few weeks after I quit my job. I signed up. I also found a writer’s collective in town that holds workshops and meetings for aspiring writers, and I signed up for that, too. It wasn’t a clear path, but it was a step in the right direction.
It’s been about nine months since I quit my sales job, and I would be lying if I said it was an easy transition. It’s been nine months of trial and error, more dog and babysitting jobs than I knew existed, and lots of uncertainty. That being said, I’ve also learned more about myself in the past nine months than I did in the 23 years leading up to this point. I am confident in who I am and what I want, even if I don’t know what the next phase of my life is going to look like. I’ve learned to trust the process and have faith in my journey. Here are a few nuggets of knowledge I picked up along the way:
Get Over Your Ego
Quit judging other people’s worth by their jobs, so you can stop judging your own worth by your job. You’re not above doing any work, and there is no shame in taking a less-than-glamorous position while you’re pursuing what you’re passionate about. All the greats had to do it- Brad Pitt had to literally dress up as a chicken to draw customers into El Pollo Loco, a restaurant chain in Los Angeles, while he was trying to start his career. If he can do that, you can do anything.
Keep Moving Forward
It’s easy to get caught up in the end goal – a bestselling novel, a platinum record, an Oscar- and although those are good things to keep in mind for motivation, realistically, it’s going to take thousands of hours of hard work until you get to that point. Keep your focus on the next step, no matter how small. For me, it was committing to writing 500 words a day. It wasn’t a lot, but once I started writing, I usually kept going. I just had to force myself to sit down and create. Acknowledge where you’re at in your journey, explore all your resources, and take your first step. It’s usually the hardest one.
You Are Ready Now
There will never be a perfect time for you to switch gears and follow your dreams. The stars aren’t going to align. There’s not going to be some divine intervention when the “time is right”. The only time you have is now. Don’t be the woman that wakes up at 45, married with two kids, and realizes that she hates her job (and has always hated it). Be the girl who has the courage to leap now- to jump into the unknown and trust that she’ll figure it out.
85% of people are unhappy in their jobs. I was talking to my mom, (who has been a teacher for twenty-five years) shortly after I quit my job, and she told me something I didn’t know: she never wanted to be a teacher. She majored in Education in college, but when she took her first teaching job after graduation, she realized that she had no desire to teach. She started making plans to go back to school to get her Master’s in computer science, but the timing never seemed right, and at that point, computer science was a pretty new field, and she wasn’t confident that it would lead to a stable job. So she continued to teach. She kept building years of experience in a field that she didn’t want to be in. She still wanted a different career, but after years in education, the only thing she was qualified to do was teach. Then she got married and had kids, and felt like it was too late to start over. She was stuck.
For the 85% of people who are also unhappy in their jobs, I imagine something similar happened. No one sets out to spend life in an unfulfilling career, but life moves quickly. One year passes, then two, then three, and suddenly you’re retiring at the same soul-sucking company you’ve worked for since you were twenty-five. Have faith. Break the cycle. Chase what makes you feel alive.
I am still very far from having it all figured out. My days are really long and my schedule’s irregular, (as is my paycheck) but I’m moving in the right direction. Sometimes when my alarm goes off at 4:30 so I can be at the yoga studio to teach a 6:00 am class, I think “why did I do this?”, but by the end of class, I am energized and happy, and filled with gratitude that this is my job. I feel like I’m making a difference. I’m writing every day and actively working to get my content published, and even though I hear a lot of “no’s”, that makes the “yes’s” even more meaningful.
I’m embracing the uncertainty in this phase of my life as a chance to build the foundation. I’m getting my writing out there on as many platforms as I can, from websites to literary magazines, in hopes to make a name for myself. I’ve made connections within the yoga community in my town to learn the ins-and-outs of managing a studio, so one day, I can open my own. I’m trying to stay as present as possible and enjoy every moment of my journey, even though, right now, it’s filled with a lot of baby steps. I’m also trying to remember that even if things don’t work out exactly how I would like them to, that’s okay. I would rather take a risk now than spend the rest of my life wondering, “what if?”.
There aren’t many things in life that are guaranteed, but one thing is for certain – you only get one chance. This isn’t the dress rehearsal. You don’t get a do-over. Don’t waste a second. Pursue your passion. Have courage. Take the leap. If you fail, so what? There’s always a Plan B. You’ll always figure it out- that’s what boss babes do.
Do you have a meaningful story to share? Tell us about it here!