Last June, a girlfriend and I were at a bar, loudly complaining about our jobs and new bosses, and maybe we should start our own company, and wouldn’t it be great if we got fired? We imagined quitting our menial office jobs to seek better paying menial office jobs that would financially facilitate our dreams. What are these dreams, you ask? Well, your guess is as good as ours, but the rules of business, and a few too many vodka drinks, say you need capital to build a business so that’s what we intended to do, dammit.
We spent hours talking about this even though, deep down, we’d never actually do it. How could we risk quitting our jobs without a back-up plan, or something to ensure that we’d earn enough money to maintain our lifestyles and simple pleasures? If you’d asked me three years ago why I wanted my job, it was strictly because I thought it would set me up for future successes in my “grand plan”, which seems silly now since there really wasn’t an end-goal to said grand plan. And, as it turns out, the desire to lose your job is all fun and games until someone actually loses their job and that someone was me. Ask and you shall receive.
Well, kind of.
It’s a little funny thinking back on now because when it happened, it felt like the end of the world. The universe’s way of delivering a cruel and unforgiving joke. The events that led to parting ways with my job were complex, and I was ultimately faced with the decision to stay or leave. The toughest part was the risk of deviating from the plan. You know, the one we were told as kids we had to have otherwise, what the hell are we doing with our lives? The rough draft looked something like: Go to school, choose a career, build previously aforementioned career, retire. There’s also something in there about procuring a family, but that’s arguably less important than the whole money and job thing. So clearly, I was a little nervous that maybe if I left my job to take a break and experience something else, I’d never get another job. Why? Well, fear of the unknown and all that good stuff. Of course, my most immediate concerns fell somewhere between where did I save the most recent copy of my resume and how will I afford my numerous online streaming subscriptions, but who am I kidding? I still use my old roommate’s Netflix account. And by old roommate, I mean ex-boyfriend, but that’s irrelevant.
We always want to know how the risk is going to affect the rest of our lives, which contradicts the basic definition of risk. I was trained to believe that without the “right” decisions and calculated choices, I’d be less successful. Anything that strayed from this grand plan would lead to failure and, to put it lightly, ruin my life. No pressure. We’ve read the inspirational quotes about “being on your own journey” and “your timetable is different than your peers’, so stop comparing yourself”, but it’s always easier said than done—another fun cliché. Of course, we’re reading it on someone’s Instagram story right before they check-in at a 5-star resort in Palm Springs, so maybe we could just switch timetables? Maybe? Just a thought.
I certainly feel like a bit of a fraud. Society begs to keep us in constant competition, whether it’s financially or materialistically, and I have no doubt that I perpetuate the problem by sharing the pretty and simple moments of my life. Talking about my misgivings on social media—or ever, actually—isn’t something that feels natural to me, mostly because it’s delicate and vulnerable and, frankly, I don’t like looking weak. I post about the weddings and parties and vacations and friends and all of the beautiful, effortless moments. I never talk about the classes I failed in college, the relationships I lost, the shameful things I’ve done, or my overwhelming feelings of inadequacy. Mostly, I gloss over the rough stuff and stick to fun because who doesn’t like fun, am I right?
Knowing this, even now, as I’m unemployed, traveling, and trying to navigate a path that looks more like mine, I’m still not really talking about the hard stuff. This irony is not lost on me. And while I feel very lucky to have this opportunity and share it, I recognize how one-sided it can appear. I didn’t post about the accident I was in nearly three years ago that almost killed me, and the physical, cognitive, or emotional recovery. I didn’t post about how I felt hopeless and feared my body would never be the same. And I absolutely didn’t share how all of this took a toll on my relationship with the man I loved, because he was the one driving the car that crashed. I definitely didn’t talk about how it affected him, or how it hurt him and forever changed his life, maybe just as much as mine. This has made me though, along with all the other pieces of my life, and gave me a little more courage.
That being said, this isn’t about life being short and how every moment is fleeting, or whatever. This is about overcoming fears. Being my most authentic self means being honest about the entirety of my story, because it’s not as simple as what I usually choose to share. And the same is said for every other human; We all have our shit and sometimes that shit shows us new facets of our identity that we’d never seen before. My yearning to travel stems firstly from my constant curiosity, to feel something different and greater than myself, but it also comes from a place of fear; A fear that I’ll die before experiencing the world I’ve always hoped to explore—because I almost did once.
In the spirit of authenticity, I took a risk and chose myself over a job. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t wake-up, wishing the view outside my window was somewhere in Paris or Bali or, hell, Boston, and it’s been nothing short of beautiful bring this dream to fruition. I’m not going to pretend like this hasn’t been scary as hell, and admittedly there are days I miss my routine, and my job, and friends, and normalcy. But guess what? All of those things will be there when I get back. And those moments where I’m terrified and stopped dead in my tracks, those are the moments I learn most about myself. We stop taking risks when we’re afraid of the outcome; that it’ll irreparably impact our lives. It could be incredible, or mediocre, but being scared and doing something anyway is, in my opinion, the best way to grow. We are ever-changing beings. Sometimes we get to make decisions and sometimes decisions are made for us. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just the nature of our existence. How we choose to handle those decisions, though, is the ultimate test of our perseverance.
How do you want to live? What do you want to do? What do you want to see, feel, and experience? Who do you want to be? What do you value? I’ve been asking myself these questions, and while I’m still learning, there will always be a little part of me that’s afraid to do what I truly want, but that doesn’t change the fact that we must stop the fear of living. Just go do it. Learn an instrument. Go to law school. Start your own business. Train for a marathon. Buy a distillery. Learn a different language. Marry for money—just kidding, but also these 60-year-old rich dudes aren’t getting any younger. Do what you’ve always imagined, do what you’ve denied yourself all these months or years or decades. Maybe you’re scared, or feel insecure, or fear failure, and that’s all valid because you feel it, but go fucking do it anyway. Be greater, bigger, stronger than your fears and the things that terrify you.
Make room for yourself in this life—It’s yours after all.