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. 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.
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.