I ran into an old friend at the store a couple of weeks ago. We used to see each other all the time: her older daughter went to school—kindergarten through grade twelve!—with my older son. These days, though we still live in the same neighborhood, we don’t have that common bond anymore and at most, one of us waves at the other while walking the dog.
On the rare occasion when we see each other out in town, it’s fun to catch up. This time, she asked me what I was up to and I gave her just enough information about my activities to satisfy her curiosity without making her nearly pass out. (She’s not a social media person and I know that less is more when I’m describing my work to those who aren’t “out there” like I am.) I told her how happy I am, doing things that don’t actually seem like work (well, most of the time), and from home, even! She said that it was fun to see how excited I am about what I do.
I asked her if she was still working at the school on the other side of town, and she said yes. I asked, “Do you still love it?”
She grimaced and shook her head. “The only reason I’m still there,” she said, “is because I get summers off and I can go visit my parents for three consecutive weeks.” (Her parents live very far away and while I believe that she sees them a couple times each year, the long summer visit has been a tradition for years.)
I asked her what she’d rather be doing especially now that her youngest was graduating, and she told me. It was something very different, not even in the same industry, as what she spends her days doing right now. Her eyes lit up when she told me about it. I said, “What do you need to do in order to get on that path?”
She had no idea.
I guarantee that I could have pulled my phone out of my purse at that moment and, in less than three minutes, discovered exactly how she could get started working towards her end goal of that new career that made her eyes sparkle.
But I didn’t.
I said, “You should be able to search for that information: just Google it!”
She said, “I don’t know…I really like being able to go visit my parents for three weeks every year.”
Knowing the answer, I asked her, “Are you happy when you’re working, though?”
She shook her head.
I said, “What if you were able to do what you really want to do, and maybe you wouldn’t get three weeks with your parents every year but maybe two weeks instead. Would that work for you?”
She said, “Actually, yeah. Doing what I want to do and being happier in my day-to-day work life would be great.”
Then I climbed up on my virtual soapbox and preached a little bit about how life is too short to spend time—especially work time!—doing things that we are unhappy doing. I told her I hoped that when she went home, she would at least look into what her first steps could be, and I offered to meet her for coffee (tea in my case but details…) after she did that and help her figure out a plan.
Here’s the thing: life IS too short to be spending most of your waking hours frustrated with a job you’ve grown out of or one that has ceased to make you happy. (It’s also too short to spend with people who try to take you down rather than lift you up, but that’s another post for another day.)
Even if you have to take baby steps to get out of that situation, you’re still taking steps. Maybe you need to take classes in order to reach your goal and you don’t have the time or money. No problem. Start researching online. Educate yourself until you can manage to enroll in required classes. Are your kids still young and/or need so much care that you don’t have much time to pursue what you want to do? Baby steps. Make plans. Make lists. READ. Find out if there are “side door” ways to involve yourself with that job, that industry, anything. Find a mentor. Get yourself ready so when the time is right, you can make the leap. Be open to doing a related activity until you can go full throttle. Better yet, be open to letting your path change along the way. MAKE TIME TO MAKE PLANS. You’ll get there eventually, and you’ll be happy you put in the time and effort. Let’s face it, not too many people win the lottery. If you’re waiting for a good luck fairy to rip you out of an unhappy situation and gently plop you down into one that will make you happy, you likely have a terribly long and miserable wait.
Back in 2007, I was working at a nail salon and was generally unhappy at work. If you had told me that after I started blogging that year, the eight years that followed would lead me to my being a hopeless social media addict who works as a researcher for BlogHer and co-produces LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Chicago and mentors new city teams on behalf of the LTYM national team (not to mention other opportunities like co-hosting ChicagonistaLIVE! like I did on Wednesday; see below picture that was taken by their staff photographer!), I would have first said, “HUH? What’s all that?” and then I would have been amazed and excited and in great disbelief, because it would have looked like a totally crooked path for me to take. Indeed, it has been, and I’ve loved every minute. Well, almost every minute.
What got me where I am today was a combination of my willingness to try new things and to put in the work (and research! lots of research!) as well as lots of help and moral support from family and friends and mentors along the way. It’s one of the reasons why I love what I do on the LTYM national team: paying it forward is important to me and frankly, I love to see happiness on people’s faces when their plans come together.
When I said goodbye to my friend, my parting words were, “Call me! Let’s figure it out!” She said she would, but I have a strong feeling that she won’t and that makes me sad.
What about you? Are you stuck? I think it’s time to get out of that situation, don’t you? You’ll be much happier and you’ll wonder what took you so long: I promise. Now go get it!