“Are you looking for jobs?”
“Hey, I know someone who’s hiring.”
“You could always do consulting.”
“Have you heard about Fiverr?”
Over the past two years, since quitting my corporate job, well-intentioned and wonderful people have asked all of the questions and suggested all of the resources you might expect if you were out of work.
I don’t mind one bit. In fact, quite the opposite. Having friends and family who care enough to take an interest in my life, and want to help me in any way, fills me with humility and joy.
What’s interesting to me, though, are the underlying, often subconscious beliefs we all seem to hold about working and jobs in general. They run the gamut from, “work to live” to “find your passion and turn it into a living” to “you must work until you’re 65 and then you can relax and enjoy life.”
After quitting my New Jersey-based corporate job two years ago, I hiked, explored, and saw friends every day. Oh, and moved across the country.
HANG ON. YOU’RE NOT 65. BACK TO WORK!
As the months ticked by and I failed to sign a contract committing myself to another Inc. or S-Corp, I could almost hear the wheels in people’s minds turning. What is she going to do? How much money did she save? Wow, that would make me so nervous…
Every time I felt like my inner balance was restored, my tank overflowing, I’d pull up a job search engine on my laptop. Project manager… Editor… Event planner… Work from home…
I was 37 years old. Eventually my hard-earned savings would run out. “It’s time to get serious,” I’d think. In fact, I even took a low-paying job at a nonprofit for a few weeks before pulling the plug. Just dipping a toe back into the 9-to-5 world made me feel suicidal (…I wish I was exaggerating about that).
One of my life’s central themes was playing out in a big way: Do What Everyone Else is Doing and Endlessly Spiral vs. F@$% THAT NOISE, GURRRRRRL!!!!!!!! THAT SHIZ IS CRAYYYYYY. PEACE. OUT.
Half the time, I was convinced I was stuck in an adolescent stage of development. Dramatic. Self-absorbed. Impulsive. Rebellious. Why was working for someone else SO hard? “Something’s wrong with me!” The other half of the time, I was sure I was a brave crusader. A fearless path forger. “You don’t fit into that box ’cause that box is bullshirt, friend!”
I was yet again doing the Comfort Zone Dance; the one with all the fancy footwork so you forget that nothing incredible ever actually happens there.
And as we all know, bouncing between shoulds and coulds is exhausting.
When I was just two years old, I would regularly go full-on Beyoncé, changing my clothes 4-6+ times a day. “You’d pull every outfit from the bottom drawer of your dresser,” my mom, Babs, often recounted. “It was impossible to stop you.”
A few years later, in first grade, I heard another student talk about his mom laying out his clothes for him.
WHAT?! I thought. You let someone else pick out your clothes?!
I stood on the blacktop while we waited for the bell to ring, utterly horrified. It never even occurred to me that other kids wouldn’t choose their own outfits, too. That was also the year I learned about ocean conversation and started paying attention to what I threw in the garbage. The following year, when kids ganged up on one poor soul for being “different,” I stepped in and shouted, “How would YOU like it?”
Man. I’m telling you. Seven-year-old Jules was a rockstar. And maybe a little bit of a brat.
By the time I was 17, I had gotten my GED, worked full-time, and had started taking college classes, not really sure I wanted to pursue a full degree. When I committed to a Bachelor’s in creative writing, I found a school that let me (mostly) design my own curriculum and worked my butt off.
It’s taken until just this past year to recognize -let alone embrace- that all of those breadcrumbs trickle down the same path. The path the says: You’re hardwired to go your own way. You should have never […gotten married or…] worked for anyone else.
I can’t tether myself to anyone else’s vision, expectations, or rules and expect to thrive.
It isn’t laziness. Now that I work for myself, I work harder than ever. It isn’t over-confidence. I swirl in a familiar cloud of self-doubt roughly 17,633 times a day. And it isn’t selfish. All I want to do in this life is protect other life.
And it’s okay if my rollercoaster existence makes people nervous. Uncomfortable. Confused. Threatened. Worried.
In fact, don’t tell anyone, but I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m here.
How have you found your way in the world? (Yes. We ask simple questions here at Go Jules Go.)