This article was written by my long time friend, Kiersten Cooper. These are Kiersten’s thoughts and opinions and don’t reflect my own, but I’m proud to share them here! Kiersten is a kind and energetic soul, and you can keep up with her on her on the web and on her social platforms: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and her website.
You did WHAT?
Last year, what felt like the setting of a fictional horror movie rolled into reality, as a monstrous pandemic forced us to isolate from one another, shattered our routines, broke up families, and ripped away jobs. As the world sat captive, forced to contemplate why COVID-19 exists and, more so, why each of us exists and matters, my own reflections surfaced a hollow ache in my bones for something that I had buried down for quite some time — something that would require a risky change in life trajectory. So, in the middle of a pandemic and the most tumultuous job market I’ve ever seen, I did the unthinkable.
I quit my job.
Like any risky decision worth taking, the uncertainties were terrifying. With so many people losing jobs, would I be viewed as ignorantly privileged and ungrateful to intentionally leave mine? Would hiring directors raise an eyebrow at a gap on my resume? Would I have regrets?
Sure, I couldn’t misstep if I stayed still, but the choice to stagnantly stall felt like a failure in and of itself. This feeling was combined with a ravenous hunger to learn, and I craved the time and resources necessary to grow. Because of this, I returned from work each day with a sickening pit in my stomach, knowing that I wasn’t moving towards my dreams and lacking any perspective of how to get closer.
Ultimately, despite the costs of such an untimely leap, I had to lose the fears that were keeping me lost.
1. The luxury of freedom comes at a price.
The first week after I quit, I went into full vacay mode. (Literally, I went to Colorado.) With no obligations, I could sleep late, spend the day exploring and relaxing, and do whatever I wanted! It seemed glorious and stress-free…until it didn’t. I quickly realized that it is imperative that I implement discipline and structure into my routine if I want to actually get things done.
Being your own boss means telling yourself what to do and actually putting in the work.
2. There’s a reason that people want to stay on their hamster wheels.
Complacency is an unsatisfying life wrapped up in cozy deceit. By removing myself from the mindless comfort of my routines, I was suddenly woken up from a slumber to find the blankets ripped off of me. With limited distractions, I had to just sit and process who I am and where my life is heading. This evoked feelings within me of deep loneliness and fear because I felt an absence of guidance for the first time. My loved ones taught me to dream big, but nobody ever gave me a how-to-guide for designing a life that feeds the soul, not the ego.
I think that many people convince themselves that they are content with their current lives — even if they are pretending — because self-reflection and change takes courage. I felt gut-level nausea, as I fearfully halted everything, dug through the dissatisfaction in my heart, and came to accept that my future could be unrecognizable from what I’d always imagined. Through journaling, reading meaningful texts, having difficult conversations, exploring my interests, and bringing my strengths and weaknesses into the light, I have been able to take an objective look at where I’m at and determine the parts of me I need to shed and which I need to grow. Slowing down is the fastest way to gain vision, but it’s never comfortable to slam on the brakes.
One of the most intimidating people to get to know is you.
3. Being unemployed can feel like a badge of dishonor.
It’s no secret that in Western culture, how others view you is directly tied to your work, but boy did I feel an attack on my identity. I was shocked at how quickly the question of, “What do you do?” comes up when meeting new people. At first, I felt ashamed to answer, “Well, I used to work in marketing, but I recently resigned,” because I was admitting to losing a part of myself that allowed me to fit in.
That said, we are all a collection of the stories we tell ourselves. I had to shift my perspective from being “Kiersten: the creative marketer” to “Kiersten: the risk-taker who is working to place all worth in her faith, not in what she can offer the world.” This is simply my character arc!
Not to mention, people are thinking about you far less than you think they are. Pay more attention to how you view your own life, not how everyone else sees you.
4. There still isn’t “enough time”.
I was falsely convinced that I would have 40-45 hours each week freed up, giving me plenty of time to guiltlessly pursue creative passions. Unfortunately, I neglected to consider that ‘finding a job’ would become my new full-time job, as it requires a tremendous amount of work! I have had to design a creative resume, continually re-edit that resume, design a cover letter, extensively update my website, update my LinkedIn, study for new certifications, fill out applications, meet for coffee networking dates, prepare for interviews, analyze my strengths and weaknesses, send follow-up emails, and so on and so on.
Simply put, life rarely slows down. It’s up to each of us to make time for what is important. The people who inspire you don’t have more hours in a day than you. Prioritize!
5. When all distractions blur into the background, you can clearly see what matters.
Prior to resigning, the bulk of my week was spent at work, going to work, de-stressing from work, or with friends from work. My life was centered around my job, yet in a matter of weeks the company replaced me. Society enforces an idea that one’s purpose or “calling” in life is tied to your job, but work is so temporary. As terrible as it sounds, I saw how meaningless my little life is. What value was I really bringing to the world? Surely I was created for more than what I can offer in the workplace!
These thoughts lead me to one of the strangest books of the Bible — Ecclesiastes.
In the book, the writer reflects on how everything we do in this life is fleeting and will fade away, demonstrated through time and death. Future generations won’t remember what you did in 100 years, and both the fool and the wise are destined to die. Even living a moral life doesn’t guarantee good outcomes, so what’s the point of anything?! The author concludes that the only way to avoid living in a constant state of existential dread is by accepting that we have no control and life is temporary, enjoying God’s blessings, and living in relationship with the Lord.
I love this book because it reminds me that (even biblically!) life is meaningless without a deeper mission. What’s yours?
The question you’re all wondering…
Don’t I have bills to pay?
Absolutely, but thankfully I have enough savings to last me through September stress-free (however I am working hard to get a job and am doing part-time work on the side.) If you lack savings and can’t afford to be without work, I recommend using your free time to work towards your goals! Write that book. Take that class. Self-reflect. Freelance. Save when you can and take the jump when you have a safety net.
So what is this “dream” you have?
I’m so excited to share more details soon! If you’re interested in seeing where all of this risk-taking is leading me, follow me on my social media.
Have a question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.