Leaving a Secure Job When the Risk Feels Scary
Posted on 18 July 2011
“It’s not who you are that holds you back. It’s who you think you’re not.” ~Unknown
Over the past four years, I followed a career path that felt soulless.
As I moved from city to city, climbing the corporate ladder, I noticed that, ironically, the bigger my paycheck, the emptier I felt. Something about advertising felt lifeless, cold, and desperate to me.
But I ignored this feeling and worked over it, drank over it, binged, exercised, and ate over it.
I pressed forward like a steel freight train on a mission to find my happiness. When I got to that new level, the thing I thought would make me happy was still just a few more achievements off, just a couple more dollars away. I was always looking “out there” to find my peace.
I had convinced myself that this was the best way to live my life. It became normal to cry in the bathroom at work. It wasn’t until I got laid off one year ago, from my big marketing job in Chicago that I recognized miracles do exist.
I picked up my depression and moved to the West Coast. I bought my dream car, adopted a dog, and landed a perfect boyfriend—and then I took another job in marketing.
It was only a few weeks until the fear-ridden depression started to nudge up against me. The cry festivals picked up again, and I walked around like a shell of a human being.
I would arrive to work lifeless, cold, and afraid to listen to my inner voice. I would say to myself, “I went to graduate school for a marketing degree, so I better stick to this.” But it just wasn’t what I wanted.
I was pretending to be the corporate climber. The more achievements, awards, cities, clients, and money I could get, the more I could say I was worthy. It was all a big circus, as I quietly hid myself behind the illusion of success and fulfillment.
I secretly longed for freedom. Every day I would sit under the fluorescent lights and cry inside.
I felt like a caged animal that wanted nothing more then to break free. But fear, and fear alone, was holding me back. Then one day I arrived to work, and the cage doors propped open.
For the second time, a company let me go. I felt like a schoolgirl who just received her first kiss. I was relieved, enthusiastic, and hopeful. Could it be I was actually happy?
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The same day I was laid off, I applied for another job in advertising. “Insane” might as well have been my middle name.
It was the classic tale of trying to teach an old dog new tricks. I told myself it was just the company that didn’t work—that I could work at a different firm and everything would be better.
I got a job offer the next day and started the following week—once again, with more money, a new fancy title, and a cool office desk looking over a city park. I jumped right back in and gave it everything I had. But something was still off.
I would sit at my desk, and the giant twenty-two-inch computer screen would stare back at me. It was empty and cold. It was full of disdain, but really it was just mirroring me.
My gaze kept drifting to the window as I peered out at the three-story tall maple tree. The leaves waved at me. It was as if it was trying to seduce me, whispering, “Come and play outside. You, my dear, belong out here.”
I felt like a child not listening to the teacher, as I looked outside for comfort, anticipating the next recess. An overwhelming sensation took over my body, and my inner voice said, “You need to quit. Just walk away from this.”
My ego stepped in and screamed, “Whoa! Slow down sister, you don’t have a back-up job.”
The courageous person I wanted to be slowly shrunk into her shell. Within days it became increasingly hard to be someone I wasn’t supposed to be.
I would actually cry on my way into work. But fear of the unknown and fear of how I would make money saturated my body, keeping me in a numb static state.
Then, like a butterfly leaving the cocoon, I went into work and declared, “Today I will make a change. I will break my pattern.”
Naturally, I got scared and thought it wasn’t worth the risk since I was getting a steady paycheck, at least. But fate has a funny way of intervening and stepping in when we can’t do things ourselves.
One hour later my boss called a meeting with me. As I walked to the private office, I knew this was it. They were going to lay me off. Three times in a row, I was going to be lovely loser lay-off girl.
Part of me was relieved that this was about to happen, that they were going to do the dirty work that I couldn’t do.
It’s like waiting for someone to break up with you when you know they aren’t the one. Could I be given the chance to I walk away free yet again?
This meeting felt different. There was no “We’re going to lay you off.” There was a conversation about this not working the best way it could. My inner voice kept saying, “Resign. Resign now. Bow out now.”
My mouth opened and I exhaled, “I need to resign.”
A giant ball of energy burst outward from my heart and almost knocked my boss over. For the first time, I had let my inner voice, my heart, speak its truth. I felt alive. For the first time in my life I was empowered.
I had somehow found myself on the other side of my fear. The fear of the unknown is so large that at times it can eat us alive. But now that I am on the other side looking back, the fear isn’t nearly as bad as my head cracked it up to be.
Now I feel more at peace, more alive, and more comfortable than I have ever before. Fear was keeping me playing small. It has no place in my life anymore.
Now that I am jumping into the big sea of the unknown, I’ve realized I need clear objectives. My ultimate goal is to be a full-time travel writer and author. So I created a business plan for corporation “Me.” It includes:
I make X amount of money each month. I am featured in three magazines a month. I attend one press trip a season. I publish one book a year. By setting concise goals, I have a focus and a clear objective to help me stay on track.
I’ve also started focusing more on what I want than what I don’t want.
I do daily visualizations about where I see myself in the future. I picture myself at book signings, traveling to foreign countries, and sharing my experiences with the world. I do not allow myself to focus on fears of where the money will come from. I only picture what I want.
It doesn’t matter where or how things manifest. I just trust that it will happen.
The universe always has our backs. I have not been disappointed yet. Less than a week after leaving advertising, I secured two travel writing jobs in other countries. The power is in trusting and taking at least one small action each day toward your goals.
We are going to find ourselves in many situations that don’t work for us. But we have the power to choose happiness. We can bring our own happiness back by choosing to follow our heart and listen to our inner voice.
Photo by Kenski1970
About Shannon Kaiser
Shannon Kaiser is founder of playwiththeworld.net, a wonderland of adventure, fun, and fulfillment. A full-time travel writer, author, and adventure junkie, she inspires people to “love their life to the fullest” and make the most out of every moment.