Life Update: The Space Between Chapters
What a month this has been. Well almost 2 months now actually. "Rollercoaster" doesn't even begin to cover the range of emotions I've experienced on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis. Though even with the momentary stress and panic I've felt at times, I can't get over what a completely exhilarating and life-altering stage of life this feels like for me, in the best way possible. I'm hoping to document my experiences of leaving my job to forge my own path in hopes that others might feel encouraged or comforted while facing a similar life shift. Because truthfully I don't know if I would have gone forward with some of the decisions I did if I hadn't heard the stories of those who had already walked a similar road. And I feel more alive and free than I have in a really long time, and would love for others to experience the same.
Let's start with a little bit of history
Six and a half years ago I moved from Portland back down to Orange County, where I'm originally from. I didn't have a job lined up, just a dreamy little room in a beach house on Balboa Island and a tiny bit of unemployment each month to get by on. I was hoping to find a job that had purpose this time around - something more in line with my passions or that helped others. But finding any job proved to be really difficult. I spent 6 months unemployed and as much as I loved certain parts of that experience, I didn't love watching my savings dwindle and knew I needed a job no matter what I was doing for it. So I stumbled upon an opportunity at a marketing agency some friends I knew worked at, and even though I had no official background in PR or marketing or agency life, I somehow still got the Communications Manager job I applied for. I spent the first month or two not knowing what I was doing, and feeling like this would probably just be a stepping stone between unemployment and what was next for me. But something shifted and I decided to stay for awhile and give it my all, and before I knew it, 6 months turned into 6 years.
I loved working there. I loved the people I worked with and for, I loved getting to travel for work, I loved pushing myself and learning new things, and I loved watching myself stretch and grow into a career that I didn't think I wanted at first. I had never really even thought of myself as a "career person" in the first place. If I'm being honest with you, I had every intention to be a stay at home mom by this age, so mentally I hadn't planned ahead to this point of needing to keep moving my career forward while fully supporting myself. But I surprised myself by how much I liked it at times, and how proud of myself I was for doing something I didn't think I was cut out for. I will always treasure this unexpected chapter of my life for so many reasons, one of them being the reminder to stay open to paths and turns you weren't necessarily even looking for.
That stirring-in-your-soul feeling
Starting last year, I began to have those "what am I doing with my life?" moments that were causing me to stop and evaluate where I was headed and what I wanted my life to look like at this point. I also kept returning to the dreams I've had on my heart for a long time, the things I felt like I was made to do, that I seemed to always push aside with an excuse as to why I wasn't ready to pursue them yet. Those excuses included really practical ones like, "why would you leave a stable salary with healthcare and a 401k at a job that you mostly enjoy doing with people you really like?" It seemed really stupid, and impossibly difficult at times, to dream about walking away from all of that. I spent a lot of time feeling like I was wrestling back and forth between these two different lives: one that was predictable and comfortable, yet limiting to who I was created to be, and one that was unknown and risky and really, really exciting.
There were multiple factors that led me to finally put in my notice at my job, but it mostly boiled down to this: I knew God wasn't calling me to live a safe and comfortable life. I was given specific passions and desires for a reason, and if I didn't leave now to pursue those, when would I? I originally had wanted to wait until I had something lined up, even a part-time job, before deciding to quit, because that is what I had always been taught. But I reached a point one weekend where I knew I had to push myself off the cliff and trust that it would force me to figure out what was next, rather than wait for the perfect time to leave. And so the very next day, I walked into work and (tearfully) told my boss that morning it was time for me to move on.
I'd love to say I felt unwavering confidence in this decision in the weeks that followed. Well actually, I don't. Because the fear was also an indicator to me that I was on the right path. But I had to continually return to the new mantras I'd adopted for myself: "You made this decision in confidence and peace, stay in those feelings." "The world needs your dreams, and the most alive version of yourself." "The money will come, keep trusting." "Enjoy this moment, don't let the fear of the unknown of tomorrow take away from the exhilaration and joy of today." And I'm happy to report I've successfully avoided a full-blown panic attack, though a couple times I have gotten close.
My saving graces
Besides the mantras, there have been a few other things that have helped me immensely in this season. The first was reading "You are a Badass" by Jen Sincero. Twice. And actually, I listened to it rather than read it - I do better being able to listen while I'm getting ready/walking/driving/etc. when I don't have time to sit down and read a physical book. I could talk about this book all day, but I'll try to boil down the main takeaways this book gave me. For starters, it made me believe I could do ANYTHING I put mind to. I'm not kidding. There are so many lies and stories and limitations we've adopted throughout the course of our lives, many times not even realizing it, that keep us from going after the things we really want. In the book she talks about how to identify what those are and how to move past them.
Another life-altering perspective I took away from the book was that I could create the exact life I wanted to live, down to the tiny, specific details. Sounds too simplistic and idealistic, I know. But the more time I spent dwelling on that idea, the more I believed it and the more it exhilarated me. We're told we have to make money through x, y or z, and that our life's timeline has to look like those around us, and that it's too silly to dream about traveling to that place our heart has longed for without having enough money saved up, or that if we decide to follow our dream path we'll be poor or have to move somewhere we hate, etc. But what if you wiped away all those "truths" and let yourself fully believe that anything is possible for your life? That there are endless possibilities and resources available to you, you just need to decide you're ready to go after them? I truly, truly believe that this world, and each of us, would be so much better off if we all pressed into the feelings of joy and fullness we feel when we're doing the things we're created for - what we're most gifted at, what people compliment us for, what gives us that racing, tight feeling in our chest - and didn't bury those things under hesitation and excuses. That could range from running a Fortune 500 company and allowing millions to benefit from the goods and services you're providing to the world, to being a bartender in a hut on a beach in Tulum and living a simple and sun-filled life. There's no right or wrong answer to how you should live your dream life, it's YOUR life! Some people might know right away what that dream life looks like for them, and others might have to spend some time un-burying it from a life filled with pressures and other peoples' expectations and limiting truths spoken over them. If you could write the perfect story for your life, down to what you did for work, for fun, where you lived, what you wore, the things you ate, what would your life look like?
The second thing that was incredibly helpful and life-giving to me during this transition was my support system. From the books I've read and podcasts I've listened to and stories I've heard from others, I was well-prepared to face at least some opposition to me walking away from my job into an unknown season. But I amazingly and gratefully didn't experience one single second of questioning or nay-saying from anyone I shared my plans with - not from my family, my friends, or even strangers. (Well once my Mom asked if I had at least some savings in the bank so I wouldn't end up on the streets, but I suppose that's a fair question for a parent to ask). I know how incredibly blessed I am to have these kind of responses, filling me with encouragement and confidence every time I walked away from them. I've clung to peoples' words: saying that they were proud of me, and not worried for what was next, even when I was, and that they couldn't wait to see how things unfolded, and many times it's these words I return to when I start doubting myself or am feeling fearful. If you're reading this and you're one of those people, thank you. You probably have no idea how much your support means to me.
I know this isn't everyone's experience though, and so if you've encountered this I want to encourage you to let any negative or doubt-filled words from others go in one ear and right out the other. Remember that their reaction is 100% about them and not you. Take helpful or encouraging advice and tuck that away in your heart to draw from when you need it later, and allow everything else to float on by you. Surround yourself with people who are living big, full, colorful and inspiring lives, and limit your interactions with people who leave you feeling drained, negative, or limited in the way you approach your own life. I've also found that the more you live into a high energy ("high frequency" as Sincero calls it) state of being - being excited about your life and the choices you're making - you tend to attract other people doing the same, and then that energy begets more energy and life just continues to feel like someone is constantly turning up the dial up on all the goodness coming your way.
So, what's next?
Leaving a job without a clear plan lined up is an interesting place to be. There were days that I panicked thinking about how uncertain my future was, and craved the paths of people who left one job excitedly as they hopped right into their next stable career. And then there have been the moments where I've been so grateful for the rare opportunity to take a moment to pause and breathe between one chapter and get really clear and focused on exactly what it is I want to fill my time and days with in the chapter to come.
A basic overview of what I'm currently hoping to pursue is the following: I would love to find a job that gives me the freedom to not work a M-F, 9-6 schedule and use up a ton of brain power (ideally something like being a server at a pool at a fancy hotel or country club just to throw out an example ;), so that I can make money but also have days and hours freed up to work on my "passion projects" that give me the most life! One of those is writing and blogging more, one is a side hustle with two dear friends that I'll hopefully be sharing about soon, and then the big one is a dream I've had on my heart for years now that I haven't had the space or focus to really move forward on. I'm not ready to share what that is here yet, but I am really excited to start fully pursuing that vision, and then to eventually share bits of it here as I go.
Ok wrapping up
I know this is a lot (like way too much) background on my past and what's to come, so thank you for indulging me by reading my story if you made it this far. I hope there are some things in here that allow you to maybe look at your own story in a new way or ask some good questions of yourself and your life, or even just feel empowered to go after exactly what it is you want.
I'll close with this one piece of advice that's really helped me these last few weeks: Let yourself enjoy exactly where you're at. Like, actually enjoy and soak up every good moment, and keep coming back to the present rather than worrying about the what's to come. There have been so many times I've been on the verge of ruining a perfectly good and important moment or day these past couple months because of the worry of the unknown, and so constantly I've had to bring myself back to this thought. I let myself soak up the celebrations of my last week of work, I let myself relax and enjoy my time off trusting that I'll find a job when the time is right, and I let myself get really excited by planning out the details of my life rather than feel overwhelmed by it.
I'm excited to keep sharing bits and pieces of this journey as it unfolds, and would love to hear and be encouraged by the things that bring you life and light you up too! I don't normally ask people to comment, but if you're willing, I'd love to know the one thing you'd choose to do if money, time, and fear weren't an issue. And then I'll probably tell you not to quit your daydream ;)