Dear Career, It’s not you, it’s me…

// Edited version originally published on Iris Lillian 30 November 2016 //

Living the dream, kind of

It’s mid-2014 and I’m an ambitious career-driven thirty-something marketer with a good job in finance. The truth? I’m utterly miserable. Underneath the mask is the reality that I feel increasingly stuck in a career which neither lights me up nor inspires me to climb any kind of ladder. I feel like I’m going through the motions of life. I’m completely disillusioned by the corporate world and I’m wondering what the hell is wrong with me. The mask is starting to slip.

On the outside looking in, I’m living the dream. But, on the inside looking out – through a thick heavy confused fog – things aren’t pretty. I’m lost.

The well-trodden path

Multiple industries and job titles in a ten year marketing career and it never felt enough. Constantly searching for the salary, the recognition, the appreciation, the job title that surely one day would make me feel fulfilled; ‘this one, I’m sure this one is it, it’ll be great, I’ll love it, just you wait and see’. Nope. That feeling I was searching for never came. Instead, a feeling I couldn’t shake; there must be more to life. Surely? Please!

But, it’s too late…isn’t it?

But, who changes careers in their thirties? For as long as I could remember I’d wanted to run my own business, but what could I possibly do? Who was I to think I could run a business? So, I convinced myself that I was happy enough. I was good at my job, I was rewarded financially for it and I always loved the people I worked with. Surely that’s enough, right? And hey, I’m sure everyone hates their job, sometimes?

Yet every so often, as though trying to get my attention, life would have me stumble across someone who loved their job. Someone whose eyes sparkled with a passion that was undeniable. My soul yearned for what they had. When people asked me what I did, I cringed a little. Who wants to hear about a boring job in marketing.  And that innocent question from your friends when you catch up? “How’s work?” (Oh god, please don’t make me to talk about work, it’s so boring… and shit…and same old. Answer: “Oh fine, what about you?” – deflection, bam!)

But like it or not, I was a marketer. The path had been chosen. What else would I do? I’d moved to the other side of the world solo. How could I possibly afford to restudy (even if I knew what it was I wanted to do?) How could I start back at the beginning and survive on a salary less than what I was on? At least I have a job…and it pays well…blah blah blah. Your mind might be creating different questions or ‘facts’, but it’s pretty good at arguing the case for safety, isn’t it? The fear is and was very real. But do you know what else was very real? The feeling of utter discontent, matched with a feeling that if I continued doing what I was doing it would not end well. I disguised it well, but I was stressed out, unhappy and my self-worth was rock bottom. Sunday night blues were at an all time high, as were my recurring migraines. Something had to give.

The “Ah-Ha” moment

Around the same time. I moved into a new apartment. My first place to call home in Sydney. Finally, I could own things again (my own bed! a teapot! cushions!). And while a sofa might not exactly seem like an item to aspire to owning, for me, it was important to create a space which felt like home. I was a home bird. So create a home I did and friends were rather complimentary about the result. Enter a question, asked by several people:

“Hey, you’re pretty good at this,

have you ever thought about Interior Design?

Lightbulb moment. Yes!

If I could turn back time

If I had my time again choosing my university degree, I would have chosen either Graphic Design or Interior Design. Art was always my favourite subject at school and as a child I was forever giving my childhood bedroom a makeover, I just loved making spaces pretty. I loved making things. But, at that impressionable time when you’re deciding what you’ll ‘do’ in life, I sort of allowed myself to get side tracked by what others expected of me and what my peers were doing. Law, Medicine, Economics. And so, Business Studies (and later, Marketing) was as close to creative as I would allow myself to get without feeling like I was taking the easy option and doing something “arty”.

Making it happen

Back to 2014 and the seed had been planted. I looked into restudying. Geez, It was really expensive. Back under the carpet that idea went. But a month or two later (after a particularly trying day at work which involved tears) I found myself googling design schools again. There was an open day the next day at Sydney Design School. A sign! I took a taxi from work on my lunch break and for the first time in a long time, when the Director of the school spoke about the school and the course, I felt like a part of me was waking up. YES! Hell yes! Where do I sign?

6 months later I graduated. I had a qualification in Interior Decoration & Design and there was no way was I going back to my corporate job. I resigned. With a shit load of debt and no savings to my name, there and then, I just made a choice. And while some people cheered me on, others questioned my sanity and why I was throwing my career away

“Um, are you sure this isn’t just a hobby?”

Deep inside, without doubt though, I knew this was the start of something which would change my life.

F**k it. I’m doing this”

My new life

And change my life it has. We’re nearing the end of 2016 and I’m officially a business owner. I’m an Interior Decorator and Stylist and that sparkle in the eyes I admired in others? It’s now my reality. I love what I do. I love talking about it. It doesn’t even feel like work. My life, and the wayI live it, has changed immeasurably. For one, I’m writing this from Bali where I’m spending the month because well my boss is kinda cool and she said it was ok. Seriously though, this journey unleashed this creative side that I forgot existed. I started writing. I started to feel like I knew who I was. I remembered that life is for playing.

It’s not all rainbows & unicorns

And here I must acknowledge that the challenges along the way have been immense and plentiful. But to name three biggies:-

  • Feeling like a fraud – Was I really an Interior Designer? Could I really charge people for this new found skill of mine? Of course the answer to both was yes but this was a big step to get over in those early days. When someone asked me what I did, they’d get my whole life story, as if trying to validate my choices. But with each new client it got easier. And like any job, it takes a little time to build confidence.
  • Money, Money, Money – ‘If your doing a job just for money there’s a good chance you’re in the wrong job’. We’ve all heard it. But we’re all also conditioned to believe money comes from a job. It pays the bills. And while that’s good. It’s not good enough. But money was and continues to be a major fear for me throughout this process. But honestly, I’ve less money than I’ve ever had. More debt than I’ve ever had, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been. A new found richness.

Asking for help (and being able to accept it) – People actually love to help and once I accepted that I started asking for help where help was needed. And it came in really cool forms that I couldn’t have imagined. You don’t need to do it all alone. Allow others to share with you and be open to possibilities.

I’ve been stretched more than ever before but every stretch has taught me something about myself. And I’ve always come out the other side, knowing more about Laura or business or both.

Just do it

I want this story to give you hope. If you feel the way I felt, I want you to know that what was possible for me it is entirely possibly for you. Find the courage that I know you have. I know it’s scary, I was scared. But do you know what’s scarier? Another 30 years feeling suppressed and unheard and miserable.

Life on the other side

And I can also tell you that on the other side of that fear is something truly magical. The doors which have opened for me this last year, the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met, every single bit of it has been worth it. I’ve never once regretted my decision. Not once.

Maybe it’s not logical, maybe it doesn’t make financial sense, maybe people will tell you that you’re crazy but screw that. Get out of your head and into your heart  and let it lead. It knows the way.

“Surrender to what you love & let it guide you.”

Please do not do the world the disservice of not sharing your gift with us. And please don’t do yourself the disservice of not following your dreams.

And, I promise,

IT.WILL.BE.OK*

(*it always is)

One thought on “Dear Career, It’s not you, it’s me…

  1. I just wanted to thank you for your post. This really resonated with me. I left corporate almost 5 years ago and I am all over the place. Literally. My partner and I own a home in Costa Rica where we have been spending half the year. It has been very hard for me to start a business of my own. For many reasons. I just don’t know if it will ever happen with all we have going on but your post has given me hope. I might just re-read it the next time I feel down. I’ve always been the cheerleader; the go getter and the one to experiment. Despite being happy in my personal life I just don’t seem to know how to go about ‘going for it’ in my professional life and then when I make an attempt, something else comes up. Perhaps I just need to get out of my own way. Stay well and I look forward to reading your future posts.

    Like

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