How I Left My 9-5: People’s Opinions

This post is part of a series, How I Left My 9-5, that I’m creating with the hope that my experiences might help you take on a big life change, whether that’s switching careers or just generally stepping off the beaten path. In part one, I talked about the process of leaving my job and transitioning from employee to consultant to (currently) full-time blogger/student/life-seeker (how’s that for a job title?), and in part two I addressed finances and timing. I don’t have it all figured out, but every day I learn a little more.

Autumn Hills Orchard Views

I am really, really fortunate to have a strong support system, with family and friends and you all to build me up and offer advice and well-wishes as I re-think my career. For that, I am so grateful. Choosing to walk away from a stable job (or a relationship or anything that looks good on paper, for that matter) does bring up some potential land mines when it comes to other people’s opinions, however.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m extremely sensitive. I’ve always cared what others thought and I’m very much affected by the energy of those around me. It’s one of the reasons I felt so sad at my last office job, working in a gray cubicle, surrounded by people who would send emails to the person sitting next to them, and who spent their breaks complaining, day after day, about the same things over depressing Lean Cuisines. That negativity takes a serious toll on me because I view it as a form of settling. Selling-out. Giving up.

Exiting that environment and the passionless work was one of the scariest things I have ever done, not because I was afraid I would regret my decision, but because it makes me vulnerable. I’m a planner, I like to be in control, and I also really fear failure. Leaving a comfortable paycheck to take time to pursue the things I love – writing, recipe development, culinary nutrition education – was a declaration both to myself and to those around me that I want something more. I want something different and it’s ultimately up to me to make it happen. I don’t want blogging to be a hobby. I want it to be the foundation from which other exciting, happy things launch. I want what you’re reading here to be the soul-satisfying work I’ve been dreaming about since college graduation.

There are some people who have trouble getting this. They think I’m insane for leaving my job, or treat my changing course as this temporary thing, asking “Don’t you think you’ll go back to work?” or telling me “But you had such a good job. They were paying you well.” I can tell this is coming from a place of love and concern most of the time, but for someone who’s sensitive to the opinions of other people, I feel the fear creep in, and if I’m not careful, I start to doubt myself. In particular, there’s this unspoken (and sometimes spoken) judgement about women who don’t contribute in a substantial way financially. It’s almost like giving up a big title to try something else and forego a paycheck for a while is setting women back. And maybe women who opt to stay home for a child dissipate some of that judgement, but I’m sure it doesn’t make it go away completely.

Apple Tree

So how am I coping with these opinions? It’s a process, and every once in a while, I crumble. But after the tears, I remember that these moments are temporary and I believe, wholeheartedly, in the work that I’m doing, regardless of whether it fits someone else’s definition of work. And after I crumble, I rebuild stronger.

I had an epiphany the other week when I realized that other people’s questioning and comments are way more about them than they are about me. Other people are looking at my situation from where they sit, and projecting their emotions onto me, and I can’t blame them for that. When someone says “Don’t you think you should get a job?” that’s their fear talking, not mine. It’s up to me not to let other people’s fear or jealousy or whatever place they’re coming from completely derail me. I’m vulnerable, but I’m doing this, and as I say on my about page – I’m trading my fears for motivation to create the life I want.

I’m also going to make one hell of an effort not to tear other people down, no matter how subtly, when they’re risking it all to make something more.