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Quitting your job to follow your passion may seem like a romantic thing to do, but the journey ahead can be tough, even if fulfilling. Here is an honest account.
It was a beautiful life. Stressful and hectic but beautiful.
Cushy offices, official trips to different countries, timely promotions, growth and a plump pay packet. What more could I ask for? Nothing; I believed for not one or two years but an entire decade. Not for a day through my career did I work for less than eight hours. If I wasn’t in office, I would carry my work home. Even if there wasn’t any pressing work, I would constantly be on my office mail and chat.
There were days when I would work till 2 or 3 AM and yet be in office by 9AM the next morning. Working hard warmed the cockles of my heart and made me feel that life was indeed beautiful…until the tell-tale signs started showing up.
I began to burn out. I started feeling lethargic and bored with the work that I had always cherished; its monotony started to get onto my nerves. The effects of the long hours I had put in over the years started showing on my health making me look back and wonder if my life had really been beautiful enough. A tiny voice in my head squeaked back that it had been enjoyable but not fulfilling.
That was when the question “Is this really what I want to do?” started pounding in my mind only to stop when I realized the answer to it was No; that I wasn’t happy doing what I had been doing and that I would feel at peace with myself only when I followed my passion – writing.
So after ten years of a decently successful life, I quit my corporate career in May 2013.
It wasn’t an easy decision but the burnout I had been going through had reached a point of no return. At the same time, I had begun to yearn desperately for what I really loved to do and then I realized that if I did not do what I wanted to, I would have wasted precious time of my life.
I did hesitate; it took me more than six months to hit the resignation button but the support I got from my better half through the decision making helped me take that first step on this lesser known path. What also helped was that we had one income flowing in; it gave me space to take the decision to take a pause and do what I really wanted to.
A lot of thoughts came to mind when I took the decision; thoughts which I am sure would cross any mind that dares to think of taking this decision.
What will it be like not going to work every day? – While I had worked from home once in a while, the thought of being at home all the time rattled me. The initial few days were not easy. I had withdrawal symptoms that made me want to pick up my bag and go back to work. I kept checking my phone…the only thing that helped was getting started on my work plans even before I had put in my papers.
Fear of the Unknown; will it really work? – This doubt creeps in even today. I keep telling myself that it will work and it does. But back then when I had taken the decision, this feeling clawed at me like nothing else. Leaving a cushy job and starting off on my own without any idea of what the future had in store was a daunting feeling. What made me keep going was the alternative I had to it- continue with my monotonous life, doing what I just did not enjoy and the burn out that waited there for me. When I thought of that, my choice was made easier.
Will I miss getting my salary? – Having a double income in the house is always useful- to pay off your loans and have a financial stability and also to enjoy the luxuries life has to offer. The absence of one of those incomes was going to severely change not only our lifestyle but also the plans we had in place to meet all our financial commitments. That I would be causing such an inconvenience was a thought I couldn’t live with. But what we realized was that having peace in our house was a lot more valuable; that it might take longer but we could meet all our obligations; all it needed was better planning and streamlined expenditure from our end. Instead of eight pairs of shoes it meant four; from four dinner outings, it meant two. All of it was trivial in front of what I wanted to achieve.
Will I lose my Independence? If there was one thing I couldn’t stand it was being dependent on anyone, even if that someone was my husband. For this, I needed to get going on my plans for writing; I knew my earnings would come down drastically but it would be income from something I enjoyed doing. The last thing I wanted to do was wallow in self-pity and crib about wasting my time and life. I got going right from day one and even now I ensure that I do not while away my time. Staying focused on the goals was key to convincing myself that just because I wasn’t working it did not mean that I had lost my self-independence.
Will I be able to go back to working if I want to? – I spoke to a few HR professionals to know how easy it could be to return back. I was surprised to find out that organizations today are a lot more open to hiring people who have taken a break from work. However I was also warned that the longer the break meant that if I were to return, the chances of being recruited at the same level or slightly lower would be higher. That would imply that colleagues who were on the same rung as me or those junior to me would probably have grown beyond my level. I was perfectly fine with that. After all, if I had really cared for designations and levels I wouldn’t have dropped it all to pursue my interests, would I?
Each time I have felt things slow down, these thoughts have made way to my mind. What helped me keep going was focusing on my goal to write. The thought of going back to the kind of work I did sends a shiver down my spine and cements my dedication to what I am currently doing.
What also helped me a lot is the support and encouragement I got from my family, especially my husband. Whenever I felt low or got caught in withdrawal symptoms, he was always there to help me tide over and rekindle the optimism and perseverance of attaining what I had set out to do.
I know it is a long road ahead and it will be some time before I get there but the peace and satisfaction I feel on this journey is something that I had missed out on for the last ten years of my life. And that keeps me going.
Pic credit: Betlwontfail (Used under a CC license)
Seeta Bodke is a Business Consultant and Senior Manager from the IT sector. After spending
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