I quit my job. This post is my attempt to explain why. Maybe you’ll understand, maybe you won’t.
Too often, we tell ourselves or are told by others to take the safe path. There is enough risk in our lives already without willingly adding more. But the safe path rarely takes us where we want to go.
Ask any child what they want to be when they grow up and I think we all know you’ll never hear “accountant” or “business analyst” or “marketing consultant”. But then adulthood comes along and stamps on all our toys. Under threat of poverty, fear of failure, physical reality or even family pressure we put aside our dreams in favour of the safe path. It’s the first great compromise in our lives and ends up defining much of what we become later.
It’s true that a staggeringly large number of university graduates never work in their field of study. All those enthusiastic arts degrees beaten back by financial reality. How many English Lit graduates wind up reducing their passion for Larkin or Orwell or Pinter to a battered paperback in their suit pocket for the bus ride to work in a city office block? How many art students bemoan how their unfinished canvases have to sit a while longer in the cluttered garage while they start another sixty hour week to meet the tight deadline on the client’s latest marketing campaign?
Some fight back. Short stories written on lunch breaks. Novels written at 2am with the hope that caffeine will carry them to a desk in the morning. Free time, family and lifestyle put on hold to squeeze in those extra few hours — minutes, even — where creativity is eked out in tiny increments.
Your lifelong goal, your childhood dream, your… you-ness, squeezed into the rapidly shrinking spaces in your life.
No time to think. No time to write. No time to create.
So I quit.
Yes, I’m still available for content marketing, blogging, copywriting, consulting and more. But on my terms. There are offers floating across my desk and I’ve already turned some down. Why? Because they replace what I’ve left with more of the same. That’s why I’m now taking freelance consulting and writing work to give me more freedom to choose what I do while freeing up some time in my week for my own dreams.
Of course, if someone were to offer me a really cool FT gig, I’d consider it. But there are three rules. Does the job inspire me? Will it leave enough time in my life to do other things, in particular that novel that’s been overlooked for too long? Is it a step forward to my personal goals?
Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be… was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal. And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.
Neil Gaiman: Commencement Address 18 May 2012
It’s time for me to find the next step on the way towards my particular mountain. Time to use my marketing, writing and online skills to get me a little bit closer to where I want — or rather, need — to be.
It’s a risky proposition grabbing the wheel of my career, desperately hoping I don’t drive it straight into the gutter.
I’ve loosened the safety harness. I’ve taken the leap. Maybe I’ve misjudged and there is no net waiting to catch me. Maybe I’ll pick myself up off the rocks, broken and beaten, only to painfully crawl back up the safe path, marketing someone else’s dreams instead of mine once more. Maybe I’ll wind up back on the 8:05 bus with Orwell in my suit pocket, unfinished scraps of prose on my iPad.
“Maybe,” I think to myself.
But another thought keeps me going.