A recent conversation with a friend who wanted to quit the ‘corporate rat race’ and figure out her priorities triggered some extraordinarily strong memories. Having done something similar a few years back, if my journey could help some get solace 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 career want to stop and take stock of where they are headed. These are not decisions that people take overnight, they are thoughts which stay seeded in your mind and take lot of time to grow enough to push you into taking action. The reasons for the same may be varied, and so will the journey, but there is always merit in reading how someone else’s journey unfolded. It may make your ride a little smoother with fewer disappointments.
A few years back I went through a similar dilemma. While I had a good a career going for me and was basking in my success, there was huge guilt I had to live through for not being as involved as I would have liked to be with my kids. Also, there was a new boss with whom I did not get along and could not deal with the politics being played out. Armed with my belief that my material needs were very limited, I took the plunge and quit my job.
In hindsight, these are my learnings.
The euphoria will die down!
The first few months after quitting my job were happy ones. I finally had all the time I needed. I started doing things I had always wanted to, but did not have the time for. I did simple stuff, joined courses etc., which gave me great satisfaction. After four months, however, reality came knocking, and suddenly from having 20 people reporting and vying for my attention, the only person I interacted with was my house help. For a person whose identity was closely tied to her profession, to suddenly stay disconnected was a tough task.
More time needed to figure out the way forward
One of the reasons to quit is that you aren’t able to understand how your job contributes to anyone’s life, apart from financially to your own. The quest, therefore, is finding something to do, in the hope that it will make a difference to someone else. Needless to say, it needs to be financially remunerative at some point (even if you are willing to forgo that initially). This is not an easy task and at least in my case it took a lot of time to zero in on my purpose, of adding meaning to people’s finances.
Your relatives won’t rush to associate with you
Well, this was my expectation initially, and it didn’t happen. I later read somewhere that your closest circle comes to the party much later when you have proved your mettle with complete strangers or acquaintances. That is exactly how things panned out for me. It started with a few acquaintances built through references. Building a reference-based practice takes time. Once you gain a reputation, then the closest circle starts coming in as well. Be patient and let people take their time.
The first 1000 days are an ordeal
You can do well and even thrive in your venture, but this is going to take time for sure. If you think you are going to take X years to be able to make enough to sustain your current lifestyle, put aside 2.5 X years’ worth of expenses before you take the plunge. It invariably takes longer than you expect.
When you put in efforts, the results you see are not proportionate. It takes tremendous mental strength to keep at it. It helps to be surrounded by family and friends who can pull you up and reaffirm your faith when you are on the verge of giving up. Believe me, this happens more often than you would like to admit. As a Gujarati saying goes, if you stay at it for 1000 days, you are probably there to stay.
The way society perceive you changes
When you are an employee, you are surrounded by like-minded people and there is no dearth of social interactions. Somehow, people give you a lot more respect and look at you as if you have achieved something and are on the right track. When you give up, there will be many who will consider you a loser. It is going to take time for perceptions to change again. As an employee, your work and the recognition you get from it make you happy. Being deprived of those slowly pushes you towards negativity and a feeling of gloom and doom, bordering on depression. Stay prepared for this.
If you survive, you will have a tale to tell!
All this does not seem like fun, does it? But believe me, when you make it to the other side, you will have a tale to tell about the ride you had. Most of all the satisfaction you get from doing something meaningful is priceless!
For me, today, as I run a successful and super-satisfying practice, many of these memories seem distant. You need three things. One, the preparedness to be able to sustain your financial independence during this period. Two, a supportive spouse and family. And, last but not the least, the mental strength, so that you can look every new day in the eye, with confidence and conviction.