When I decided to quit my (very) stable full-time job, it was not done on a whim. The decision involved a series of very calculated steps, thoughts, plans, and sacrifices. I had to make sure that my choice would not affect my daughter in any way (read: not impact the ability to provide her with any of her needs) and that the people I needed in my corner were, in fact, in my corner. And I’ve been very fortunate because, although it’s not very lucrative at this point, it feels good to wake up every day and know that everything I do puts me one step closer towards achieving the goals I’ve set for myself. As I’ve said before, I’d rather fail at something I love than succeed at something I hate.
Because, if I’m being honest, that’s the kind of example I want to set for my daughter.
But there’s been an unintended side effect to my choice. When I tell some of my friends that I did quit and that I am pursuing my dream of being a writer, this is the comment I get:
“I wish I could do that.”
I loathe that statement. And I loathe that statement for a number of reasons, of which I will share the top 2 (because if I shared all of them, this would be an insanely long post and I don’t want to bore you). The first reason it bothers me is that it implies that my husband and I are rolling in cash and that my income was insignificant. I can assure you that is not the case at all. While we’re doing fine financially at this point, it’s because we’ve sacrificed and compromised on certain things. We’ve learned how to balance wants and needs, and we know how to live on a budget. Also, we’re not keeping up with the Joneses kind of people and we’ve worked our asses off to pay off our debt. All of this affords us many more options. Like giving up my income.
The second reason it bothers me is that it shows a hugely defeatist attitude. It demonstrates that the person saying it has decided that it’s better to forgo a passion and live a life of unhappiness and obligation rather than doing something that makes him or her happy. Please don’t misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with working full-time and maintaining your passion as a hobby (I have a friend who does this and she is wildly successful at her passion, and she is one of the happiest people I have ever met. Ever). But when someone makes a statement like “I wish I could do that”, that tells me that person wishes for a lot more.
And I get that. Because for a long time, I would say the same thing when I would learn of someone quitting their full-time job in favor of something more exciting or more aligned with his or her long-term goals. It made me horribly jealous and angry and sad. And then I would retreat into my thoughts and remind myself of all the reasons I could never, ever do that. For instance, I thought I wasn’t good enough. Or smart enough. Or creative enough. Or original enough. Or any form of good enough to get even the slightest bit of recognition. Not only that, I felt like if I wasn’t following the traditional path I was told to, I would be ostracized by both family and friends.
But then I realized what an absolute ass I was being. Oh, all the negative self-talk is still there and I fight against it daily, but I also figured out that I have something that many of my wistful friends don’t have: determination. I am determined to make whatever I’m doing successful. I don’t want to wish I could do that (whatever “that” may be); I want to know I can do that. If anything is going to beat me, it’s not going to be the fact that I didn’t try.
And it needs to be the same for you. If you have a dream or a wish or even moderately lofty goal, go for it. Do whatever you need to do to make it happen. If you have a dream of being a singer, find an open mic night or audition for local theater. If you want to be a painter or photographer and have your own art show, research how do to that. If you want to write a book, do it. If you want to open a bakery, why not start a small catering business. Whatever your dream may be, there’s a way to accomplish it without sacrificing everything. And if you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way.
Remember that it’s okay to start small. As long as you’re persistent and keep at it, good things will happen, even if you have to redefine what “good things” may mean. And if your plans don’t work out, that’s okay, too. You’ll still have the story to tell about the time you went after your dream.
Because sometimes? The story is the best part.