I recently turned 37, still studying and unemployed in this awesome country I want to make my new home. When I decided (twice) to leave my stable, full-time jobs to enter into the unpredictable world of academia, research, studying, freelancing and occasionally working at a bookstore, I knew deep down that this was the right decision. My gut told me to go for it while my brain desperately tried to hold on to security, safety, routine, and comfort. Some “friends” told me that I am completely nuts for taking this step while others encouraged me and mentioned that they are proud of me for leaving something I struggled with and made me unhappy to pursue what I am passionate about.
It is all about choices in life. Choices to leave partners and find others. The choice to leave a job that did not fulfill me to find something different even if it means the start will be tougher and uncertain. However, it is something I am exploring and that I really want to do so I step outside of my comfort zone and go for it. Believe me, it is/was hard at points since I am not alone. I have an almost 5-year-old to raise and feed.
I am taking a professional skills development course this semester (best one so far!) and the instructor Lisa J. Weiss (coincidence?) told me things that I have been trying to tell myself on a daily basis for the last couple of months. It was only when she said it to me and showed me new ways to redefine my life by leading from within that it really, truly hit home. If I am being completely honest, the past couple of months have been pretty tough. I have been struggling with my marriage, divorce, and the question where I “should” be in life, what is expected of me, and where I “need” to be and what I actually want. Turning 37 was nothing big for me in terms of feeling sad. It is just a number and another day. The little parties I have had with people I treasure dearly were awesome. However, what has been completely throwing me off recently is choosing to change my career path.
Most days are awesome but others have my metabolism completely drop off the face of this earth and anxiety starts to creep in making me question my choices and life trajectories. Sort of like, “Daniela, you are 37. You should have a house or cottage, duh! (half paid off) and two garages at this point. Your property should be protected by a white wooden fence. There have to be two garages at least, a dog, a cat, two kids (boy and girl) and the occasional Friday-night babysitter on speed-dial who comes over so you and your partner can enjoy a night out. Also, get used to working 9-5 (don’t think you get out by 5 pm though!) and climb the corporate ladder as soon as possible. All this for three weeks vacation a year! Don’t sleep your way up either!”
This all made me think about societal norms and pressures and those expectations others have; but more so, the expectations we set for ourselves. This society wants people to go to school, study, get degrees, then get a job, get married, have children and buy a house. All this btw should be achieved by the time you are 30. If you really think about it, aren’t those acts nothing but a cultural representation of our primal instincts to easier adapt to the environment, pro-create and succeed? Seems pretty lame and boring to me. If it works for you, great. I asked myself a simple question, “Would I rather make decent money and work a job you hate or pretend to be an author, bookstore owner and student for life and be broke for a while but really loving it?” The answer was immediately clear to me: I chose the latter. Thinking about it, if I try this new lifestyle and fail in a couple of years, I will have to get a real job eventually anyway. Will I have lost anything really? No. I can always add a ton of experience to my résumé and actually enjoy living life in the meantime.
I do not think it is healthy to have humans stare at computer screens crammed in a small, individual cubicle for 8+ hours every day. Are you reading this from your cubicle with a weak internet connection but you are not supposed to use the work computer for personal use anyway? Your office is outdated (Windows or Dell Computers and Windows 98 Software), and you are just sad and hate your life?
Then again, all workplaces are different. You also could watch a pirate copy (in-house made!) while sitting (when you were supposed to stand) on an assigned post. You could work double paid overtime in a greasy phone booth wearing three pairs of pants and a Russian hat while heating your rear with a fire hazard electric coil device. If this is your thing, good! Whatever makes you happy. Deep inside, you know when it is time to leave and change. Whatever bothers you in life try to leave behind. Time is not waiting. But that’s also the beauty of it all, no? Just do something about it, stop complaining and become more self-aware. Also, quit comparing yourself to others. We only have this one life. Do whatever feels right by listening to your gut, then repeat.