A recent conversation with a friend who wanted to drop out of the “corporate rat race” and discover her priorities sparked some extraordinarily strong memories. Having done something similar a few years ago, if my journey could help some comfort me or pave the way for realistic expectations, this is a story worth retelling.
I have interacted with many women who at some point in their careers want to stop and take stock of where they are going. These are not decisions that people make overnight, they are thoughts that stay in your mind and take a long time to grow enough to push you to take action. The reasons for the same can be varied, and so will the trip, but it always makes sense to read how someone else’s journey unfolded. You can make your trip a little smoother with fewer disappointments.
A few years ago I went through a similar dilemma. Although I had a good career for myself and enjoyed my success, there was a great guilt that I had to live for not being as involved as I would have liked to be with my children. Also, there was a new boss that I didn’t get along with and couldn’t deal with the policy that was being developed. Armed with my belief that my material needs were very limited, I jumped out and quit my job.
In retrospect, these are my learnings.
The euphoria will die out!
The first months after leaving my job were happy. I finally had all the time I needed. I started doing things that I had always wanted, but didn’t have time to do. I did simple things, I joined courses, etc., which gave me great satisfaction. However, after four months, reality hit and suddenly, when 20 people reported and disputed my attention, the only person I interacted with was help from my home. For a person whose identity was closely tied to their profession, staying disconnected suddenly was a difficult task.
More time is needed to discover the way forward
One of the reasons for quitting smoking is that you cannot understand how your work contributes to anyone’s life, other than your financial life. The search, therefore, is to find something to do, hoping that it will make a difference to someone else. Needless to say, it must be financially rewarding at some point (even if you’re willing to give it up initially). This is not an easy task and, at least in my case, it took me a long time to focus on my purpose, to add meaning to people’s finances.
Your relatives will not rush to associate with you
Well, this was my expectation initially, and it didn’t happen. Later I read somewhere that your closest circle arrives at the party much later when you have proven yourself with complete strangers or acquaintances. This is exactly how things went for me. It started with some acquaintances built through references. Building a reference-based practice takes time. Once you earn a reputation, the closest circle also begins to appear. Be patient and let people take their time.
The first 1000 days is a hard test
You can do well and even prosper in your business, but this is going to take time for sure. If you think it’s going to take X years to earn enough to support your current lifestyle, put the expense of 2.5 X years aside before taking the plunge. It invariably takes longer than expected.
When you put effort, the results you see are not proportional. It takes tremendous mental strength to sustain it. It’s helpful to be surrounded by family and friends who can lift you up and reaffirm your faith when you’re about to give up. Believe me, this happens more often than you would like to admit. As a Gujarati saying goes, if you stay there for 1000 days, you’re probably there to stay.
The way society perceives you changes
When you are an employee, you are surrounded by like-minded people and there is no shortage of social interactions. Somehow, people respect you a lot and look at you as if you have accomplished something and are on the right track. When you give up, there will be many who will consider you a loser. It will take time for perceptions to change again. As an employee, your job and the recognition you get from it make you happy. Being deprived of those slowly pushes you into negativity and a feeling of sadness and doom, bordering on depression. Be prepared for this.
If you survive, you will have a story to tell!
This doesn’t all seem like fun, does it? But believe me, when you get to the other side, you will have a story to tell about the journey you had. Above all, the satisfaction you get from doing something meaningful is priceless!
To me today, while doing a successful and super satisfying practice, many of these memories seem distant. You need three things. One, the preparation to be able to maintain your financial independence during this period. Two, a spouse and a support family. And, last but not least, mental strength, so you can look each other in the eye, with confidence and conviction.