How to Walk Away and Be Okay
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Are you happy with your job? More importantly, are you happy with your career choice? Like a long-term relationship, this choice has defined you and turned into a serious commitment. Most likely, you’re personally and financially invested in your work. Even if you hate your job, chances are that it’s not worth chasing your dreams. Or is it?
Happiness is subjective. Some people have dreams to not worry about work and to make a living by living. That is great! But some people have occupational dreams: to own a business, to be a musician, to make a difference in the lives of others. The latter is what I’ve resigned to do. I used to think that being a K-12 public educator was my path. I dedicated 12 years of my life to training and teaching, only to walk away and never look back. Sure, pregnancy and the chance to stay home made the decision easier, but in an instant I knew that I wasn’t going back, and that it was okay.
It happened so quickly, I didn’t have much time to absorb the fact that I was no longer going to be a teacher. I was a bit miffed that I spent so much money and time to become something that didn’t make me happy. Worse, it was hard for me to admit that I didn’t like being a part of something that I support so much—public education. I went from going 90 miles-per-hour to 0 in 29 excruciating hours of labor, and the adjustment took me on an incredible journey of self-discovery and personal growth.
For me, motherhood was the escape hatch, and I took it. I finished my graduate degree and began to think of life beyond the classroom. In my snails-paced life, I was able to accept that I am a teacher, regardless of any certification, and I will spend the rest of my life teaching and helping others. I have professional goals. I have personal goals. And for the first time in my life, I see that they are not separate entities. I have also accepted the fact that it’s okay to not do the same thing for 30 years until retirement and that my path may change several times. It’s through this acceptance that I have learned to live in peace and embrace transformation.
Change Can Be Terrifying but So Can Unrealized Dreams
It’s common for people to feel threatened by change, especially if they have dedicated much of themselves to the cause. You may like your job but wish you were doing something more worthy of your time and talents. You may despise your colleagues or boss, and need to move to another site. You may want to move up in your career but are limited by a lack of training or opportunity. You may want to start over and become something entirely new but worry that it won’t pay the bills or pan out.
It’s easy for me to say “relax”. Everything has worked out for me (so far), but it’s not because I’m making tons of cash or know what I want to be when I grow up (supposedly I am grown up, and I still don’t know exactly what I am going to do). It’s because I have been true to myself, made preparations, and kept an eye out for open doors. I cannot stress enough the importance of open doors; people who pay attention to them and open them are the ones who fulfill their aspirations. Being patient, watching for opportunities, and taking a path when it presents itself is paramount to self-development.
How to Accept a Career Change
Being able to close a door behind you is just as important as opening the one that waits. New opportunities present themselves to us all the time, but either we’re not paying attention or we’re afraid. It’s great if you are content in the position you’re in, but too often, people who are not happy stay put because it’s easy and safe. However, the path of least resistance is sometimes the path of limited personal growth. Committing your life to discontent only restricts your talents and defeats your purpose. True development comes from realizing your needs, pursuing your passions, and overcoming adversities.
First, realize the finite possibilities in your current position.
What is the best that will happen if you stay at your current job? What aspects of your personal life are being affected by this commitment? What is the worst thing that could happen if you left? Answer these questions and define your philosophy. In everything I approach, I think about mortality. I refuse to waste my precious time.
Second, realize your passions.
Think about your talents and your dreams. They may not meet up, exactly, but seriously contemplate what you would rather be doing. It is difficult for some to pinpoint a specific occupation, so it may be necessary to narrow down the direction. For example, I know that I would like to help people, and I like teenagers. While this is a broad field, it allows me to have many options.
Third, realize how to pursue your passions.
What type of training or certification do you need? Do you already have a degree or credits that are applicable? Can you work on a special certification online, at night, or on weekends? Are there places of employment that meet your ideals? It may be beneficial to start networking with others or volunteering your time. Make a financial plan. If you are looking at a salary decrease, you need to start saving and rearranging your budget. If you are married and/or have children, make sure to take care of their needs, first, but be prepared to make sacrifices. Your dreams don’t have to be one of them.
Fourth, realize that your time has not been wasted.
Everything you’ve done up until now has brought you to this point. If anything in your past had been different, your life would be drastically different. When walking away from a career, and all the money and years dedicated to it, understand that its presence in your life has made you who you are. Somewhere, the experiences you’ve had and the education you obtained will aid you in your future journey.
Fifth, make it happen.
This is the hardest step. It’s easy to meet with college counselors or people who work in a career that motivates you. It’s difficult to get the training, interview for new jobs, and quit your old one. But unless you take this last step, nothing will change. Your purpose will change, however, into trying to make yourself happy in your current job. And don’t forget to look for open doors. Just because the perfect opportunity doesn’t arise, doesn’t mean that the next step is unattainable.
- Melissa Lavery, M.S.
Scott, C. (2011, December 11). How To Leave An Unsatisfying Job And Pursue Your Dream Career. Retrieved March 19, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/crime/2011/12/11/how-to-leave-an-unsatisfying-job-and-pursue-your-dream-career/