It’s been 18 months since I quit the job I shouldn’t have quit and left my old life behind.
“Quit Your Job” seems to be the new “Just Do Yoga.” Looking for a cure-all for the problems in your life? Just quit your job. It’s a persistent rhetoric you can read about in every corner of the internet. But what happens after you quit your job? What happens after you’ve created space for your new life of dream-chasing, in an attempt to leave any kind of meaningful mark on the world? Or at least leave a meaningful mark on yourself.
What lies on the other side of this mystical world of entrepreneurship? How many of us eager and starry-eyed millennials are “Making It”?
Today this is what entrepreneurship looks like: I’m sitting in a star-print, fleece onesie in my new living room in a new apartment that I now share with three other women – because living alone became too expensive for my entrepreneur lifestyle. I’m drinking tea because while everyone is all “U RAH RAH 2019!!!”, I’ve had a sinus infection. Contrary to what I believed, I thought leaving my corporate job would ensure that I actually take rest when I need to take rest. The polar opposite is true. Sure, I’ve been in bed. But I am still glued to my phone and computer, answering emails and taking phone calls. I no longer have work-life balance. My life is all work. But working from my cozy living room in a onesie and sleeping in til 10 AM? I much prefer it to the days when I was battling a cold in the office, feeling like utter garbage while wearing heels. I suppose I am comfortably uncomfortable.
The work I do now is 100% my choice. There are still tasks that are extremely mundane. You read things online about how working for yourself can be so glamorous, and it isn’t. Biggest surprise of entrepreneurship? Work still feels like work. As a one-woman operation, I get to shoulder the load of ALL the business necessities, taxes and accounting included. But the high I get from the stuff I do love (creating websites, making marketing collateral, meeting with other women entrepreneurs, helping friends start businesses) absolutely outweigh the low of things like payroll and legal filings. I control every outcome. I control every failure and success. I’ve learned that there is no such thing as failure. It’s just new information I use to re-pivot my plan. I’ve had to learn to be very flexible. Without concrete plans and expectations, there is no such thing as being wrong or failing.
I don’t believe in “No” anymore, and that has been very empowering. A lesson I don’t think I would have had if I had stayed at my job.
I’m a natural micro-manager. I like to be in control. I’m naturally inclined not to trust other people (Nature or Nurture? Who knows.) Control is something you have to give up early on in entrepreneurship, and you absolutely MUST trust other people, because going at it alone is just that. Completely lonely. And frankly impossible. It’s important to surround yourself with people that have different strengths than you. You can do anything – but you don’t have to do everything. #Entrepreneur101
As an entrepreneur, I am continually comforted by the fact that when I have truly needed something, that resource has been made available to me. Be it more money, a lawyer, an accountant, an intern to run my social media – or even just the energy I need to power through a difficult task. I have found days of boundless energy. Waves that I am able to ride because I am so genuinely excited about some new thing I’m creating. “Creating” is all the caffeine I need some days.
You know that feeling you get when you are newly in love? Where you don’t need sleep? I have absolutely experienced that with my businesses, and it gives me so much drive.
But there are also days when nothing makes sense. I feel lost and confused. Like a total imposter. Some days I don’t know how I am going to afford rent, a car, insurance, a phone, and the stack of invoices from all the other experts I have chosen to work with. Some days I have to look into zero-balance transfer credit cards because debt is real, and I’ve got it. And sometimes I choose to believe that credit card debt will be a small blip on my radar when these businesses are thriving because I have zero doubt that I am doing something that makes me come alive. And that is what ultimately attracts people. I don’t try to inspire anyone. I just try to live in line with my authenticity, my strengths, and what makes my heart sing. And I try to give people the freedom to live in line with their unique strengths. I think it’s that courageous act that inspires people. Inspires them to give themselves the same liberties.
If it weren’t for leaving my job, I would not have this outlook. I would not have had the time nor space for such relationships and interactions. I would have continued to view the world as competition, not collaboration. And now, I view EVERY person and opportunity as a chance for more collaboration or growth. Entrepreneurship has given me fluidity, not rigidity. Some people thrive with one and not the other. I thrive with the former.
I am a firm believer in the concept of “creating space.” When I worked a full-time job, I was maxed out. Physically and emotionally. My schedule could not support another thing. I couldn’t see any alternatives to my life because my life was full. So I decided to get empty. Create time. Create space. With no concrete plan of how to fill it up.
Shortly after I quit my job, I started babysitting full time. There are so many ways to make money outside of a 9-5. If you can tell your ego to fuck off, you’ll find a way to make money. But I succumbed to the fear of being broke and picked up babysitting. After a month, I realized I was no better off than when I had been at my 9-5. I was overworked, tired, full, and exhausted. I hadn’t taken any rest. I hadn’t created any space. And so I vowed to take two weeks off. TWO SOLID WEEKS, which felt like an eternity for my Type A anxiety-ridden mind. I took a trip to visit friends from college. I spent money I didn’t have on an NFL game with my mom. I read a lot of books. And it was in that two-week break that my brand consulting business was born.
During this two week break that I had deemed “irresponsible” and not a good use of time, I had crucial conversations with critical people, and it was like every light bulb went off. My brain was on fire. So I jumped in with both feet. I bought a domain, I built the website, and I ordered business cards. I walked around calling myself a “Brand Consultant”, even though I didn’t feel like one. I faked it. I faked it every day. Some days I wake up, and I still feel like I am faking it. That’s the other thing about entrepreneurship that people don’t talk about. All my fears didn’t magically go away. I wasn’t magically ready one day. In fact, still to this day, I never feel “ready.” But I let my love of my unique gifts and strengths outweigh my fear of failing. And even when I am scared shitless and all the red alarms go off, I put one foot in front of the other and I keep going. I make the phone calls. I go through the motions. I return to faking it. And it is in those moments of “faking it” that I reminded of how capable I am. And how rich the world is around me. There are so many people working with me, not against me.
A friend recently told me that the difference between dreamers and successful business owners is simple. Execution. There are those that do it, and those that don’t. At the risk of sounding like a cliché Nike ad, I really do make the choice every day to keep “doing it”. Some days are harder than others, and some days are certainly more fun than others. But that is the human existence, is it not? I’m grateful to have taken the risk to leave my job. Because in the “empty space”, I rediscovered who I am. I found a foundation within myself that I had forgotten existed. I found a love for myself and my unique strengths, and that helped me see incredible strengths in other people. We are all in this together. We are all more alike than we are different. The more I love myself, the more I am able to love other people.
So what happens after you quit your job? Does the intensity and pressure of “Making It” go away? No. But I’ve chosen a different kind of intensity. Intense self-love. And that is an experience that I would never trade.