I’ll tell you what I love about living in this era? The increasing number of inspirational people who are questioning the status quo. The older I get the more I’m convinced I was born at exactly the right time. Here these folk are -asking deep, profound questions of themselves and their world in their quest for wholeness, meaning… love.
What does it all mean? They ask. Is this all there is? Is life really, truly all about finishing school, getting a degree, getting a job, getting a mortgage and taking occasional holidays? Is the pursuit of material items and the ever increasing standard of living worth more than consciously connecting and life-transforming experiences? Is being controlled by our smartphones really making life better? Is it time to pull back from the hedonism of the last decades and ask ourselves whether what we’re teaching our kids – that mindless consumption and the accumulation of zeros on our salaries is the end game?
These are the minimalists, the feminists, the teachers. The writers, the nudists, the teachers, the singers, the painters, the misfits. The marginalized, the treechangers, the vagabonds, the gypsies. The entrepreneurs, the nature lovers, the chefs. The ever-learning, ever-growing advocates who feel disenfranchised in a system that promotes boxes and black and white and excludes all who refuse to fit into its limited architecture. They look like us. You and me. Some of them have families. Some of them don’t. They come from all walks of life – the ex-6-figure-earning CEO and the social worker standing knee-deep in shit in the Indian slum.
All of them are dreaming of a different future – one where we do better because we now know better. One where we stare resistance and fear right in the eyes and say ‘I dare to try something different anyway’.
I never dreamed to be one among many questioning these things. An ambitious Type-A, my sights were firmly set on three things. Number one – saving the world (and in the process collecting praise and glory for doing so). Number two – accumulating enough wealth that would enable me to travel indefinitely, in style and collecting all the requisite status symbols that defined my generation. Number three – being ridiculously loved and adored by all.
Looking at that list now, I think we can summarise my ambitions simply – I wanted to be loved and I thought those things would make me so.
I wanted to be loved to fill the anxiety that I felt – the gnawing feeling that something was wrong with me and sooner or later someone would find me out. I like to think that I’m not alone in possessing that visceral, all-encompassing feeling – but perhaps I’m alone in the exact concoction of medicines I chose to use to deal with that feeling.
First it was food. And later it was booze. And then it was sex. And then it was my university degrees. And then it was my career. Until finally – the gnawing hole could be ignored no more and my physical body broke down and my soul screamed at me to listen.
My path is not an original one. I was emboldened and continue to be by those adventurous souls mentioned above who – each confronted with their own unique rock bottom – chose to try a new way.
Nor was my enlightenment instantaneous. Quitting my job was as a pretty instant decision – but letting go of my attachment to material things, paychecks, status, job titles, promotions, dramas, crises, achieving and ‘doing’ remains an ongoing process.
It has taken me a long time and many, many baby steps to stop looking over my shoulder waiting for someone to tell me ‘stop – you can’t go down that road’. And it took a decision that what was behind me posed a bigger threat to my wellbeing and existence than what might lie ahead. It took a realisation that ignoring the screaming within was taking more energy and effort than just breaking down and listening to it.
And so here’s the dirty little secret I’ve been dying to share with you.
You have SO much more autonomy over your life than you think.
You get to choose.
You are not trapped. You are not stuck. You do not have to do that job. You do not have to stay in that relationship. You do not have to buy that house. Nor have a kid. You do not have to go to the gym if it makes you feel shit. You do not have to live in a big house with fancy stuff. You do not have to participate in something that makes your soul feel like a drying dog poo on hot concrete.
Your shedding of these expectations might take small forms. Like pursuing your creative hobby after work. Or starting a book club. Or choosing to stop using plastic bags at the supermarket. Or going somewhere you really want to go. Or starting to declutter with your family. Or turning off your phone. Or dropping a day of work and spending less. Or taking secret dance lessons (my plan for this year). Or even sitting down with your partner or family or friend and sketching out how much you actually need and how you might be able to earn it alternatively. Or just calling bullshit on your own excuses or victim statements. Or just doing SOMETHING without making an excuse as to why you can’t. Or knowing where you are in your evolution and asking yourself, how can I take the next step? Each act of change (or each act of soul-alignment) builds skill. Builds confidence.
Each time the world doesn’t explode when you do something you really want to do it’s like a little pat on the bum – encouragement to keep going. Studies have now shown that we drastically over-estimate the impact of life-changing decisions – almost always our projects are overwhelmingly negative. It’s what has kept us humans alive.
But in 2 months or 6 months the fear and the shame and whatever other excuses going through your mind will have faded. And you’ll stand there with new confidence and new expectations and new lessons and maybe even new friends. Leaving the question ‘where to next?’.
I can’t tell you that it’s easy. And I can’t tell you that everything will magically fall into place.
I don’t make six figures on my business. I don’t even make a quarter or what I used to make in my last job. I spend most of it on growing my business or on investing in my own personal development. We have to manage our cash flow better now – knowing that some seasons we have a lot and some seasons we have little.
I’ll never be ‘there’ because I don’t really know where ‘there’ is. I’ve let myself be in the middle of stuff without having finished products all around me. I’ve let me myself be a beginner in all things.
I don’t do yoga every morning and live some kind of zen life where nothing goes wrong. This morning my dog assaulted a person’s crotch and my child didn’t go to sleep because she had done an enormous poo…. My child hasn’t slept through the night EVER and she is 10 months old. My neck is tight because I was so tired last night that I slept on my front. My husband is going away for a month soon and I’m petrified that I’m going to lose my mind as a solo mum. I procrastinate a lot. Especially when faced with having to do the things that I know deep down are the things that I MUST do (like for my soul). I still want people to love me. I still get anxiety. I forget to take my green bags to the supermarket and hate myself for using plastic. Sometimes I feed my kid crackers for lunch and often I put unreasonable expectations on myself and the people around me.
But ever since I quit my job and started doing stuff on my terms I know one, deep truth that excites me.
I don’t have a career. A friend recently asked what job title I use on forms and I told her that what I ‘do’ doesn’t really fit in the number of available boxes. Maybe I’m getting to the place where I don’t need to wear that title to feel comfortable in a room anymore.
I refuse to ‘niche’ my business into one area or to fit one type of woman’s needs. I am multi-passionate and so are the women I work with. I will continue to write about and teach and run workshops about lots of things – slow living, wellbeing, mindfulness, yoga … because they are the things that interest me and my business is as much an outlet for my creative expression as it is something to sustain our lives.
I still take on consulting work to make ends meet and ensure that we can travel.
And I’m pretty OK with that. Even though it might seem messy and complicated and hard.
Because that ridiculously heavy, suffocating weight of the world’s expectations have been lifted off my shoulders.
And it turns out that feels petty bloody liberating.
My husband recently said that I have an uncanny knack for helping people quit their jobs. And at first I was a bit defensive about that.
But when I think about it now, I’m really stoked that I get to give women permission to try different things. That I get to stand there and hold their hand and tell them it’ll be OK when stuff get scary. That I get to witness their most magical evolution. That I get to pick them up when things don’t work out quite how they’d hoped.
To hold space for someone’s unfolding. Wow. How lucky am I? Wow. How bold am I that I answered the call?
It’s not really about the job. Some people love their jobs. I’ve loved my jobs and I’ve worked with so many fricken unicorns and been touched by each one of them.
What it’s about is answering that deep, rising call from within honestly, in the best way you can right now.