I’m sitting looking out onto the rice fields of Bali and it’s really one the prettiest of views I think that my eyes have ever had the pleasure to enjoy and I’m wondering how I got here? Not literally. I mean I took a taxi, then a plane, then a taxi, then another taxi, then a motorbike along a palm tree lined track to the most magical home-from-home. That I know. But, how did I come to be able to take a month, one whole month (well 34 days to be precise and for those aware of my visa dilemmas!) in this beautiful, magical even, place?
Having just done some maths, I’ve realised it’s precisely 21 months to the day that I handed over my work I.D. pass for the final time. My view back then was very different. Less jungle, more concrete jungle and actually, I didn’t even have a window seat, I know, no wonder I left, right? Instead, my outlook was an expanse of open office that would become the backdrop to the realisation that my career didn’t make me happy. In fact, on the contrary, it made me unhappy. Underneath a brave face and the mask of a career driven ambitious thirty-something marketer, I was miserable.
Not only was my view out the window different. My view on life was different. Chatting to someone last week about the changes which have happened in my life over the last few years, she asked “What would you say to yourself back then?”
It’s a good question. And one that kinda got me to thinking….
- There is nothing wrong with you.
Back then I thought there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t really put into words exactly what is was, but something wasn’t right. I had this constant niggling feeling that there must be more to life. In a constant state of frustration with others and self, I went through the motions of a ‘good’ employee. I progressed in my career and I worked really hard to make people happy but it never felt enough. I lived for the weekend yet even before they were finished, thoughts about the week ahead would flood my mind; all of the things which needed to be done amidst the struggle of working for a big organisation where I never really felt heard. Even when I wasn’t there, I worried about being there. I worried about the future. Was this my career path set. I didn’t particularly want to be on the ladder, let alone climb it. Was this really it. What is wrong with me? Why does a job never make me truly happy? Why does nobody else feel like this?
Then came the realisation, that actually other people had or did have similar feelings. In the last year or two and particularly in response to some of my earlier blog posts, I started to realise that I wasn’t alone in these feelings, other people felt the same way. I found bloggers and writers and new friends who had felt the same. And sometimes it’s that little piece of common ground that’s enough to spark change, just to hear someone say “I feel what your saying, because I feel it too”. And while I maybe couldn’t express how I felt at that time, I started to know that I no longer wanted to feel that way. I was done being miserable. So in order for something to change, I had to do something. I had to change.
So, the first thing I’d tell myself – that scared self who didn’t know who she was – you aren’t broken & there is nothing wrong with you. Actually I’d even go as far as to say to her that feeling that way was a good thing. What? No way. I felt like shit, how could this be good?! Because those feelings of confusion mean that clarity could follow. Those feeling were the start of something special. The part of me that was questioning that there must be more, was slowly but surely asking gently to be heard. Not leading, or charging ahead, just making just enough noise to be heard. Finding the courage to say “I’m not happy” means that you also have the courage to say “I want to be happy” and even if it’s only a whisper, that whisper means you’re on the start of a journey to find out what form that happiness will take.
Be willing to be happy and be willing to do whatever it takes. And don’t feel the need to get ‘there’ (wherever ‘there’ is) quickly. Be patient, enjoy the ride. Where you are right now is perfect.
2. Just because it’s what you’ve always done it, doesn’t mean it’s what you’ll always do.
“If I wasn’t doing this, I don’t know what I’d do” I’ve heard this a lot over the past year. And initially I wished I had a magic wand I could wave to help the person in front of me discover what is was that they’re here to do. But, alas, I’m no Harry Potter and I had no wand. But I felt their pain like it was my own, because I’d been there, unhappy in my career but no idea what else I could be doing. Marketing was all I knew. Was I stuck? Because I felt stuck. But, something changed, I was lucky to find my real passion and I wanted to help them find there own. But, know this. You don’t need to know right now what it is you’re going to do. All you need to do is follow the feeling right now and be open to find out what it is. It will come, it can’t not. I didn’t always know I was going to shift to work in interiors, it sort of just happened. The circumstances took care of themselves and when the lightbulb moment(s) happened the message was received loud and clear. I knew it had found me. I couldn’t not do it. And if you’re feeling to ask the question, know the answer will be there. When you’re ready to really listen, it’ll come & you’ll know all about it.
And you know that part that’s saying to you “But, seriously, who changes their career in their thirties?!” Well I did. I and know countless people who did the same. They say it’s the best thing they ever did. And I wholeheartedly agree. It is the single best thing I ever did.
When I realised the fear of failing in my own business was less than the fear of returning to work for someone else, I knew I’d found something worth fighting for. I loved it and regardless of financial gains, that love was enough to keep me pushing through. And I know, if you have a feeling that there is something more, then there’s something like that for you.
3. Um, so I think you’re a creative. You need to create.
I’m a creative who wasn’t being creative. And I now know, for me, that was where a lot of my frustration was coming from. Ok I was in marketing, so yes I was creating, to an extent. But, those creations weren’t my own. They were governed by rules and legals and hierarchy and because they didn’t light me up, I stopped caring about the output. When I finally realised it couldn’t be exactly the way I wanted, I threw my hands in the air, I asked what was needed as an output and I delivered it to the absolute best of my ability to someone else specifications. And this wasn’t the fault of my jobs, or my employers, it just wasn’t me. The problem wasn’t in what I was doing, the problem was in what I wasn’t doing. And I needed to be creating. My soul was calling me to create. I suppose it’s like asking an artist who loves to paint to only colour in a painting that someone else has drawn. For a while, it’s probably ok, they play with colours, have some creative input on what is coloured / shaded where, but after a while, they’re probably going to get pretty frustrated, they’re going to want to start with a blank canvas and not be restricted to stay within the lines that someone else drew.
And while this might not resonate with everyone, if you’re a creative who isn’t actively creating, like reeeeally creating, I suspect you’ll be able to relate to this. Colouring in someone else’s picture is not going to work for you, you my friend need to paint your own. And you need to start today. Consider this your permission to go outside the lines. But as we’ll later discover, you don’t need my permission.
4. Believe in Yourself.
I was 33 years old and I didn’t believe in myself. I was my own worst enemy. I was so hard on myself. So clouded by negativity. So unwilling to see my own value and worth. Stuck in a cycle of fear. This has changed massively for me. Now I believe that anything is possible. Of course, I still have days / weeks when Debbie Downer makes a comeback but I see her now and with compassion I choose instead to look to see what’s going on to make me feel that way. Fear has a sneaky way of tripping us up, but the belief is always there, sometimes only a breathe away. When I reflect on how far I’ve come, the possibility of what might unfold next is exciting.
I’ve been struck by how many other young women don’t value themselves and their talents. Seriously, you are all awesome, please start believing that. In this last week, more than ever, I’ve been reminded of the need to speak up and value myself. Because while I can’t control the actions of others, I can control my own. Amidst the craziness of the U.S. election and the fear, I noticed my newsfeed also filled with so much love, souls reminding us to focus our attention on honouring self. You are accountable to your own hopes and dreams and if you don’t believe that, start believing it and start today. I have a ten year old niece and I want her to grow up knowing that she can do and be anything she wants. I want her to believe in herself, now and always. I’m sure we all want that for our children, for our nieces and nephews but remember that what you hope for them, please honour yourself and hold the same hopes for you. You too can be and do anything you want to do. It’s not too late. You’re not too old. You don’t have too many responsibilities. This is your life, right now. Do what you’d love to do. And in the doing, show them how. All it takes is a choice and a belief. And believe me when I say beliefs can change.
Believe in yourself. Speak up for yourself. Ask yourself what you want, listen for the answer, and give yourself a gift. Start today.
5. You don’t need permission from anyone else.
I used to be so caught up in what other people thought about me. What I did. What I didn’t do. I’d often struggle to speak up in meetings for fear of being judged or saying something that may be deemed ‘silly’ or ‘wrong’ – I’d internalise what I was going to say, self critique it in my head, imagine what others might say, then after all that, the moment had passed anyway. And speaking up is something I continue to work on, it’s one of my life lessons. This blog is a part of that. Sharing what I feel and want to say. And I’m learning that it takes a lot less effort to say what’s there to be said than to silence it and not be true to yourself. Because when you’re not being true to yourself, you’re doing yourself such a disservice. In fact, you’re doing us all a disservice.
When I quit my job, I wanted someone to tell me it would all be ok. Sure Laura, quit your job, change career, it’ll be fine. I wanted approval. I wanted someone to make the decisions for me. To make it easier when it all felt so hard and scary and WTF. But in the same way I came to realise that I wasn’t doing it for anyone else, I realised that the only permission I needed was my own. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought.
Trust yourself. And go there. And, as I’m reminded often, we will not find happiness in the things outside of us. If you’re waiting for someone else to take control for you, you’ll be waiting a very long time. If you’re unhappy with a part of your life, your choosing to be there. Don’t want to be there? Then, choose something else.
So, I resigned from my job and I went on a journey. I re-studied and I learned a new skill and oh my, did I learn a whole lot of other things along the way too. I could go on…this list is endless.But perhaps I’ll save the longer list for another moment in time.
But, what an amazing 21 months. What an amazing place to have found myself in for reflection. Sure, there has been struggle, but there has also been so much joy. I love what I’m doing. I rarely know what day of the week is it and when people ask me what I’m doing at the weekend, I never know because – cliche alert – every day is like the weekend. Dread is a thing of the past and with each passing month, as I grow with and into my business and passion, I feel more and more like myself. And when an opportunity presented itself that meant I could take a month off, just for me. I took it. I didn’t wait for permission, I didn’t play the ‘what if?’ game, I just listened to the part of me that said It would be kinda cool to spend a month exploring Bali. And well, would you believe it, here I be, creating amongst the lush green of Bali and grateful for every little bit of it.
The view is different now. And, I really rather like it.
I’d say to myself, “Do it. You won’t be disappointed”
And, she wasn’t.