A few years ago, I had a really good idea.
I was helping my friend Amy clean out her closet, mostly by laughing and making her try everything on and putting it in big piles across her bedroom. There were things to keep, things to try to sell, things to get rid of, and a whole bunch of maybes.
It was so much fun! I pulled out all of my design techniques from college, analyzing hue and shape over shape and how to balance out a body. I used phrases like “visual interest” and “pattern mixing” and “silhouette” like I knew what I was talking about, because I did.
But the best part was watching Amy transform. She went from frustration to elation as she realized all the new combinations and style available to her once we curated her closet. We made a small list of a few things to add and went shopping.
Standing in the dressing room, she yipped, ‘You’re so good at this! Why isn’t this your job?”
I didn’t believe anyone could have that much fun at a job. But then, after a few more conversations, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I could do it.
I decided to try.
I’m a cautious person. I research and consider and process for ages, which serves as a good balance for my swift intuition. So, back in 2009, I started doing the work to build the job I loved.
I read books about living your passion and quitting working for The Man and starting a business and how it’s going to be super tough but worth it. Amy gathered up a Young Entrepreneurs club that met every other week at cool hipster bars around the city and I joined in. We were five passionate, hard-working people trying to figure out how to build businesses out of those passions, while still working the job with the steady paycheck.
It was tough, but we were in it together.
We talked about how hard it was to work after work and start a viable business in a city as small and relaxed as Portland.
We set reasonable goals every meeting and talked about home accounting software and drank beer together. We’d go to networking events and hand out each other’s cards and share ideas about cheap advertising and Health Savings Accounts. I got countless good ideas from this group and other people who were excited about my excitement and offered their support.
I kept it up. For a while, I was busy almost every weekend and some evenings. I earned enough money to keep justifying my rampant shoes and accessories budget because, as a stylist, I had to look like I knew what I was talking about.
But then I realized that I didn’t even like it.
I didn’t like being my own boss. I didn’t like the insecurity and I didn’t like the impossibility of building a stable income in a city that was full of artistry, but not really fashion. I loved helping real people see their innate beauty and style, use their resources effectively, and present themselves well. But I didn’t like the accounting, marketing, research, details, pressure, or basically any parts of fashion blogging. Oh, how I hated being a fashion blogger.
So, after a few years of holding steady, I did the exact thing that all the books and experts told me I’d want to do and shouldn’t: I quit. And it was the best thing I’ve ever done.
I gave up my dream because I discovered that it wasn’t even my dream.
I’m not saying that you should quit what you’re doing when it gets hard. I’m saying that when it gets hard, you’ll have the chance to reexamine what you’re doing and why and ask whether it’s really what you want.
What I wanted was to be a part of the group, that cool group of talented, diligent young people who are artists and designers and bloggers and photographers and lived wild and beautiful lives. I wanted to live a wild and beautiful life, too!
When I realized that their dreams weren’t really mine and I had to do the hard work of living my own life instead of trying to live someone else’s, I found that I have a wild and beautiful life. It’s wild and beautiful because it’s mine alone.
I’m really grateful for my foray into Entrepreneurship.
It helped me figure out what I love doing. I learned that I love the stability of not being my own boss. I love solving problems, being creative, engaging with people’s needs and meeting them in a strategic way, and accomplishing as many goals as possible in one swing.
I also discovered that I needed to work for a corporation I believed in, not just one interested in making the successful people at the top more successful. After a year of figuring it out and another year of looking for the right fit, I’m lucky enough to have found a job that fits all my criteria. I don’t have a succinct title like “writer” or “teacher” or “stylist,” but I genuinely like the type of things I do all day.
I have my dream (for now) job because I was willing to quit.
Quitting my small business dreams taught me that it’s okay to make the choices that I make for me —
based on my unique gifts and wants, and my current needs. I was so worried people would be disappointed in me if I quit or that I’d lose my place with the Cool Kids I adored. And some of that happened and it sucked.
But now, I’m not only okay, I’m so much better.
I understand that I have privilege and it may be discouraging for you to hear someone else liking their job if you feel stuck at yours or you’re looking for any job right now. I’m not saying there’s a magical way to have all the money you need while doing what you love or how to flip the switch to love a job you hate or that you just need to pray harder.
But I also believe that we can have some control over the things in our life that we can control.
We struggle, but we are not without hope.
And we absolutely cannot get where we want unless we start thinking about what we actually want.
Have you ever had the experience of quitting your dream job? Was it worth it?
[Photo: Daniele Zedda, Creative Commons]