Last fall, sitting on the floor of my apartment after a few quiet minutes of meditation, I had a life-altering realization. I wanted to build something myself, and no amount of early-morning hustling and late-night brainstorming could compensate for the fact that I was, and always would be, a workaholic.
I was a people-pleaser, and those early mornings and late nights were spent getting ahead. If I wanted to forge my own path, or even figure out what that path would be, then I had to quit my job and never have another one—at least in the way I’d always had jobs before.
I wasted no time in telling my husband about my future plans. Surprisingly, he was more than supportive, and we started the uncomfortable process of readying ourselves for the biggest risk and lifestyle change of our lives. We paid off our debt by the end of year, made plans to move into a smaller (and significantly cheaper) apartment by spring and tentatively set a date of March 2020 as my cliff jump.
The plan was to spend a few months resting and dreaming before finding a part-time job to help make ends meet while I worked on whatever my business launch was going to be. I imagined myself as a carefree barista on the weekends for a while—a job I had always idolized from my corporate, 60+ hour a week, high-pressure vantage point. We always think the grass is greener, don’t we?
The first day of March we moved into our tiny new apartment and left for New York a week later—our last expensive vacation we would have for a while. There were only a few COVID-19 cases in the outer boroughs when we arrived, but by the time we flew back home to Charlotte, the entire country was shutting down, and I shut down with it.
By the time we flew back home to Charlotte, the entire country was shutting down and I shut down with it.
For more than a month, I didn’t even think about the fact that I was supposed to have been on a different path by now. I was focused on caring for my family, my team at work and nothing more than figuring out how to interact with as few people as possible when going out to get groceries.
I can’t pinpoint when I started thinking about quitting again, but it was probably sooner than I’d like to admit. Every time I started to entertain the idea, I thought of all the friends who’d been laid off involuntarily. I felt guilty for even considering something that seemed so privileged and selfish.
I also started to experience fear for the first time since I’d dreamed up my new life more than six months ago. Would there even be any new ventures to start after this? How long until it ended? Would I get sick and be crippled with medical bills? What would people think of me?
In the midst of all of these feelings, I started writing. Much of it started simply with just the day’s events, but it quickly turned into personal revelations about what I thought success was and what the need for it had done to me as a person. I also wrote a lot about fear.
When I finally made the decision to quit for a second time and worked up enough courage to put in my notice, I felt like I had conquered my fear. In reality, I simply chose to move toward my fear instead of shrinking away from it.
I simply chose to move toward my fear instead of shrinking away from it.
There are some types of fear that are there to protect you, and there are some types of fear that exist solely because of what we’ve chosen to believe about ourselves and the world around us. I was afraid of failing and, more importantly, of what people would think about me if I tried and didn’t make anything of it.
I understand now that it was this fear that kept me from making the jump earlier and doing what I felt was my path all along. I settled for the comfortability of a known entity instead of taking a risk and betting on myself.
It’s been four months, and I’ve had no promising business ideas. I will not be going to work part-time as a barista either. My husband and I have learned to live on much less than I ever thought we could.
However, I’ve kept writing. I’ve found it’s one of the most enlightening and rewarding things I’ve ever done. Like all of us, I wish these past months had never happened, but I am grateful for what they’ve taught me. I’m failing every day, but every day, I learn a little more. Whenever I start to feel afraid, I remind myself the only thing there is to lose is the chance for something incredible.