My life has been quite a whirlwind in the last few years after resigning from my first career as a high school teacher and starting over. Please allow me to be the first to tell you, starting over is never an easy path and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something!
Despite all of the bumps, bruises and numerous U-turns I made in the past few years, the journey I am on now is remarkable compared to the previous path that merely provided a false sense of security. Granted this package included a small bimonthly paycheck, mediocre health benefits, a retirement plan (that at best…guaranteed me a scenic highway view from a spacious brown box at the end of my lifetime of commitment) and something my employers often referred to as the priceless gratification that can only come from “making a difference.” While the priceless gratification of “making a difference” may have kept me in my career for much longer than the rest of the package, at some point I realized that teaching isn’t the only place someone can make a difference. (Amazing how some of those ridiculously simple ‘aha!’ moments take an eternity to smack you on the forehead!)
Taking a leap of faith was undeniably terrifying (I mean Matrix style leap followed by the big fall straight into what appeared to be the pavement’ terrifying!). Despite having an overwhelming group of “play-it-safers” who attempted on what seemed like a scheduled basis to discourage me, I managed to learn from a handful of supporters and my own choices, how expansive life can become when you choose to believe in your dreams. Consider the source when taking advice during this stage. Unfortunately, play-it-safers are a poor choice of companionship when you’re in this vulnerable stage for one simple reason. They lack the life experience to understand what only risk takers truly get.
When you do finally muster the courage to take that first leap, you aren’t actually falling down – you are falling up – but you just don’t know it yet. Why don’t you know which direction you are going? You are initially distracted from this life-altering epiphany by the loss of friends (aka former coworkers), basic bodily fluids like blood, sweat, tears and you lack the nutritional benefit of a suddenly super rare commodity – food. However, your need to replenish these major ingredients to life soon becomes your entire drive to promote someone else for a change. You!
All Grown Up.
I know. I know. I hear you. “Friends. Bodily fluids? Hunger? Wait! What?” (See? I told you. My hearing is astounding!)
If you are still on the hamster wheel of someone else’s dream machine, working 10-12 hour days, side-by-side with your friends/coworkers, marking off the calendar as you patiently wait for your seven days of vacation allotted to you annually to finally come around, this may seem like a massive risk. I will admit that it may feel dismal and bleak when you begin again but that’s because it’s quite an adjustment to act on your own behalf. It isn’t your fault. You have spent a lifetime being brainwashed, conditioned, shaped, and molded to believe that you are doing the responsible ‘grown-up’ thing by being miserable every solitary day for fifty years straight, supporting a corporate vision that has changed multiple times since you started your position, allowing dreaming to replace doing – until even a massive copay to your assigned doctor cannot compensate for the surgery that is now required to replace your wishbone with your former backbone.
I believe the biggest problem with being a “grown up” is that it implies that you are finished with all the growing. This is why so many people are closed-minded, narrow individuals who can only see one way of doing anything.
How do you spot the grown up? Easy. Their club has consistent mantras.
- “Take it up with corporate.”
- “I just work here.”
- “But that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
- “Don’t rock the boat if you are in it.”
- “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”
- “Hey team player, do you mind working another weekend?”
- “Nice input. Great idea! Let’s form a committee and see if we can get everyone on board!” (insert a visible thought bubble above your supervisor here that continues…) ‘and schedule multiple meetings, enormous piles of paperwork to change current policy, and with any luck, a few years from now you will forget what you asked about to begin with.’
I personally suggest the path of ‘growing-up’ as a healthy alternative – well, at least until you turn 147 and then, if you still have your heart set on being an official badge-wearing “I have my mind made up and you can’t change it because I am now set in my ways” grown-up, then go for it.
So why don’t more people choose growing up instead of being a grown up? Being a miserable adult can be an oddly comfortable place to exist. Fear of change is familiar and let’s face it – familiar is comfy. The greatest discovery is that fear can keep you comfortably miserable – for a lifetime. Growth can only occur when you are stretched out of your comfort zone.
How do you move out of that comfort zone? Risk. Explore. Wander. Wonder. Investigate. Challenge your own beliefs. Begin listening to your gut instincts. Develop a hunger for a different way of life and a thirst for something new. Look down, around, and up…and then? Jump.
Trying It Tandem.
My fear of …well, fear… has been an interesting catalyst for many bold moves in my life. For instance, I was afraid of heights until I forced myself to go skydiving (and believe me, it wasn’t easy – purchasing the nonrefundable tickets online, pulling myself out of the car, threatening consequences to myself if I backed out, tugging, justifying, pleading, but I somehow managed to get myself out of the car and into the plane…eventually). My courage lasted until I got into the plane but I am fairly sure I would have ridden back down safely strapped in my seat with the pilot if I didn’t also have my instructor harnessed securely to my back. The tandem jump was a good decision as well because when I looked out the door at the land far, far, far below me and wanted to change my mind, my instructor gently shoved me through the door.
Time becomes a subjective factor when you think you are being flung to your death. It’s phenomenal how many things I resolved in that short amount of time. One of my great realizations was how much better I felt knowing that we both had a parachute on and that my new back ornament had made the jump a gazillion times. I landed that day knowing full well what my max heart rate was and yet it was still one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.
I believe it’s critical to find someone to help you on your path who has made the metaphorical jump a gazillion times (or even just one incredibly successful time!). Just as bumper sticker wisdom touts, “In an age of information, ignorance is a choice.” Find LinkedIn or MeetUp groups that will mutually support your individual objectives, learn as much as you possibly can from every resource available, emulate respected leaders, follow your passion and find the joy.
Life is a gift and so is falling. Just make sure you are always pointed up.