Blog, Words

Taking it back: deciding to make a change

make a changeFor almost a decade, I worked in retail. I loved it and, by the end, I was pretty good at it. I won awards and aimed to be the best, all the time. The people I worked with were, and still are amazing.
The sad thing is, as in a lot of companies, it wasn’t give/take. It was take/take and take some more. Leaving for work at 5am and returning home at 1am the next day, then getting up at 5am again. Sitting in rush hour for 2 hours each way. Working more free overtime than paid hours. Being so tired that I only realised I was driving in the middle of 2 lanes on the motorway after about a mile or so. The cat’s eyes were guiding me home, it was the only thing I could focus on.
I was contactable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I had holidays cancelled, days off cancelled, appointments changed 4 or 5 times. And so it carried on. Until one day, it all got on top of me. I had to make a decision. I sat after spending 8 hours on my day off sorting out a situation at another store and turned the ringer off my phone. I stared at the red light flashing on my BlackBerry. I looked out of the window of my house at the valley sides opposite, still, inviting.

I made a decision in that moment. It was the easiest and hardest thing I ever did.

It’s a journey

I’m not going to sit here and preach for everyone to leave their stressful jobs. Believe me, it took me many years to figure out that the traditional career isn’t for me. And even after that, I was lured back into a cubicle for a suffocating year because I thought I ‘should’ have a normal job. It’s hard to cut the ties and so much depends on money, bills, credit scores, mortgage payments.

It’s taken a good few years to get myself back and realise that the real me had just been buried under mountains of stress and management-speak. I’d changed, positively and negatively. Increased confidence, quick decision making, and an authoritative air were counterbalanced by heart palpitations, dizziness, and a violent temper that resulted in more that one broken household item. Stress is a nasty problem. Over the past couple of years of relative freedom, it’s taken a good chunk to get my head back and dig myself out of that black hole. I’m smiling now but for a while I felt like every challenge was an unclimbable mountain. I caught myself just in time.

I made a decision to change because I had to and I could. So what happens if there’s no other option? What if you have to stay in that job? What if there is no other way?

The other, other way

I learned to think outside the ‘cubicle’, but believe me, it was hard. I thought that I had to follow what everyone else did, carry on in the job, this job, because I couldn’t see what was on the outside. It was normal.
Once I left, it was like a huge cloud had lifted. There was a real life out here, full of possibility and hope and normal, happy people. I was in the headlights a bit, I guess. Everything I thought was ‘normal’ suddenly wasn’t. There was another way to live life. There still is.

Jobs are necessary because we have bills. We have mortgages, huge mortgages taking up massive chunks of our wages. We have cars to fix and tax and fill up with petrol. We have kids to buy for, we have to put food on the table. We have to buy clothes, buy coffees, buy presents, buy travel, buy things to make ourselves feel better, buy treats. We look after our pets and relatives and friends. It all costs money.

I’m not naive enough to think that we are going to give up all these things. We need security, food, comfort. But by reducing our dependency on money, we can give ourselves a bit of freedom to start to think outside of the cubicle. How do we do that? By consuming mindfully. By curating our lives. By increasing awareness, by opening our eyes just a little bit more.

One life…

One life. Live it.

One of those sayings that people tend to sneer at and ignore…or really, really believe. And if, like me, you’ve changed from the former camp to the latter, it can be a terrifying experience. But it was a thought similar to the one embodied in those 4 words that gave me the confidence to leave my former job. I’ve just got one life, and this is it. Is it worth it? Am I being my best self, working all hours under the sun? Am I my best self, surrounded by a blue cubicle and staring at a screen? Are you your best self, right now?

It can benefit us to give ourselves a bit of space to start to think about this. You may sigh and shake your head at me, thinking of course you’re not your best self, but you can’t change it. You have to work, even if not in that job, in another. You have to pay the bills. And that’s fine.
It’s little changes that can lead to big changes. A little space can bring about the incentive to make a change.

I started by thinking about what I bought and I saw a pattern. I bought stuff to make myself feel better. I bought stuff because it was expensive. I bought whatever I wanted but it just piled up in my house. Once, we moved house with 7 big vans packed full of stuff. 4 of them went straight to charity. I filled up the resulting space by buying more.

Over time, I cut down on my spending little by little then went the whole hog and didn’t buy anything for a year. You don’t have to be so drastic. Just look at why, not what, you buy.

Think about how you can start to be your best self.

For me, it was taking a terrifying, giant step and changing everything I thought was normal in my work life. I now play to my strengths and loves and help people smile more, move more, believe in themselves more, relax more. I go on little adventures and learn more than I ever could dream of working for people who are driven by profit. I do work part time, for a charity I truly believe in, still using my retail experience but with freedom I only dreamed of. It’s the best bits of my previous work life all mixed together.

I’m not here to say leave your job. I’m not here to say stick it out. I just want to let you know that whatever your dream is, it’s possible. There are always ways around obstacles. And yes, some are scary. Some are huge. Some ways may take years. But I’m here, on the other side, as an example that you can do it. Whatever it is.







2 thoughts on “Taking it back: deciding to make a change

  1. The traditional career isn’t for me, either. This weekend, my fiancé and I are sitting down to discuss our financial situation, to figure out how much we need to save before I can leave my office job. Unfortunately, it probably won’t happen for another year or two. It’s good that we’re finally coming up with a plan, though. Now I have something to look forward to (and work for).

    1. Hi Meredith,
      I love your comment, we all should have the freedom to follow our dreams and so glad you’re planning to do just that. Keep me updated with how you’re getting on and what you are going to do!
      Looking back a few years I would never have thought it was possible to do work I actually really love but fast forward to now and I can’t believe how things have worked out. Keep believing and don’t give up! All the best, sal 🙂

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