A year ago today, I shook things up in a huge way! May 17, 2019 was my last day working at the career I had been building for twelve years.
It was incredibly hard to walk away from my work family and the years I had spent learning and growing in my field. It was absolutely terrifying but also incredibly exciting.
Looking back on my “Life Deconstruction Event” anniversary, (Note: if you haven’t read The Seasonal Soul, you totally should , but I digress 😊) I believe with all my heart that taking a leap of faith, letting life as I knew it grind to a complete and utter halt, in favor of shifting in a new direction, was one of the best decisions I have ever made. ❤
Yes, there was an ending, but that was really a very small part of the change. I kept the treasured friendships and valued colleague relationships, the knowledge that was really very light to take with me, and even the hardest, most challenging work days had taught me lessons that I will always carry around. There was, and is, so much that I am so very grateful for and accomplishments which I am very proud of, both for myself and my team during my career as an Optometric Assistant.
I discovered that the first few weeks and months when you basically decide to reinvent your work life are very exciting but also ridiculously stressful.
I decided to share a summary of the “Top 5 Experiences During My Reinvention Thrill Ride” on my one year after anniversary:
- Fear of Failure Free Fall: I was scared to death that I would fail and disappoint everyone on the planet. (I actually do realize that I am not quite that important, but I was worried about disappointment. A lot!!) It took a while to realize that not everything I tried was going to be totally successful, but I was determined to prove to myself, and by extension anyone else who happened to be paying attention, that this was going to work. My husband was so supportive of me in those early days, (still is) but I am also pretty sure he thought I had lost my ever loving mind, at least a little bit.
- Concern That I May Actually Have Lost My Ever Loving Mind Wheel: There were moments when I actually thought, ‘Dear freakin’ Universe, what have I done??!!’ Each unbooked class or workshop, each cancelled appointment was another ‘opportunity ‘ to practice my “Oh, you know… trying lots of things. Things are really going great! Really, really great!” speech when my wonderfully supportive friends and family would ask how I was doing. And a lot of things were going really well, but this Fake-It-Til-Ya-Make-It approach, actually had the lovely side effect of helping me get and stay motivated and push myself out of my comfort zone.
- Plans Are Great In Theory Roller-coaster: For the record, I have never actually been on a rollercoaster at a theme park or exhibition. Never. Not even a kiddie one. (I’m a solid Tilt-a-Whirl fan actually. LOL) However, the metaphorical rollercoaster and I go waaaaay back and I assume the feelings inspired by real rollercoasters are similar. I discovered early on in my baptism under fire in entrepreneurship that plans are a rollercoaster ride of their own. They can be awesome and you get all caught up in the excitement. They can slowly process and then BAM!! Things are moving so quickly that you feel dizzy and you kinda want to throw up. Then, when the ride coasts slowly to a gentle stop, you are energized and excited that you survived and you didn’t actually toss your cookies, but a part of you is also left questioning if you actually liked the rollercoaster ride after all. Do you really want to go again or maybe, do you want to try a different midway ride? Or another theme park entirely? I have learned that plans, while very important, often have a 50/50 chance of being the actual plan in practice. But still, you need to start somewhere.
- Shot In The Dark Shooting Gallery- So, when my son was 2 years old, I took him to the annual Labour Day Parade and Firemen’s Picnic in my home town on the North Shore. There was cotton candy involved and some fun games of chance. I ended up winning him a stuffed Pooh Bear by shooting every ping pong ball off of the top of every beer bottle they rested on, using a cork gun. My son was so excited and I felt like a total hero! He dragged that bear with him everywhere and couldn’t sleep without it for the next 3 years. He told everyone for weeks that his mom “shot stuff and won my Pooh bear”. Now, I grew up in the country and learned to shoot a gun. Respect for firearms is important but my point is that you never know when some obscure knowledge or skill will come in handy and make the difference between an okay-fun day and a day with legendary memories potential. Sometimes, you find success when and where you least expect it and that has happened a lot in the past year.
- “The Let Go And Enjoy The Ride” Theory: Sometimes, you are not in control. Shocking, I know! Nevertheless, it is so true. I have learned that sometimes, it’s better, easier, more efficient and way more fun to just try things and see what happens. Sometimes, you have to stop focussing on where you think you are going and pay attention to opportunities and paths you weren’t even looking for. So much power in letting go.
Somewhere amid the directional shift, I also found a few things that I had lost or forgotten. Things that used to make me happy, for example. Things like how much I love to create and dream. Also, that I can do that, and it is better than ok to dream and create. I rediscovered things like the ability to set boundaries. To say no, or to say “yes, but not now”. It was fun to realize that no one will die, lose an eye or “insert other great tragedy here” if I am not right there putting everything and everyone ahead of myself.
I also realized that I can listen to and appreciate advice and suggestions without actually acting on that info. Especially if it isn’t particularly what feeds my soul or it has the delightful (please feel intended sarcasm) effect of making me so overwhelmed I can’t stand it, but boy howdy, expectations are met for everyone but me. (That was probably a bit more dramatic than necessary, but you hopefully get my point. 😘)
Reflecting on the last year, I have also acknowledged some challenging truths about myself and some of the things that brought me to the point of wanting, and dare I say ‘needing’ (and I totally do dare.🤪) to reinvent my work life.
Even though I consciously decided to start a business and move on, I left my job feeling a sense of failure and loss, as though I wasn’t enough to earn the respect of some folks, that I hadn’t tried hard enough and that I was just giving up.
Little by little, I have come to realize that in fact, I worked really hard. I did my best and had the best of intentions. Always.
Despite leaving the job, I have finally accepted that I didn’t quit or give up. I evolved and changed direction. (As E has pointed out to me on multiple occasions, but I am now a believer too. Sometimes it takes me a while to catch up. ) I have also realized that it was never my job to ‘ be enough’ for anyone or anything. I did the job well, at least most of the time. I cared deeply and I loved fully. I didn’t have real reasons to feel like I failed. (Just a few extra trips on The Fear of Failure Free Fall. )
Could I have done some things better? Oh my lord, yes!!! I was a terrible manager in some ways because I cared far more about the human element than sales and targets. I obsessed about making things better for everyone. All. The. Time. To the point that I set completely unachievable expectations for myself. Do I regret that? Not for one second. It was all part of my journey. If I had stayed comfortable, I would never have been motivated to do this beautiful, wonderful, healing part of my life/work journey.
This May 17th looks vastly different than the last. If you had told me last year, that a year down the road my business focus would be completely different, a deadly virus would shut things down in a big way, but that I’d be okay because I would be able to adapt my business model, stay in business, and dare I say ‘thrive ‘ through the challenge (and I totally do dare🤓), I would have said that was a great story and I totally love science fiction. Turns out, sometimes life is stranger than fiction and I am so very grateful for the support that has been shown to my little business. Being an Artsy Nerd is a completely sweet gig.