Every year, this saying pops into my head at least once or twice. Today, I was reminded of the sentiment as I drove into work. I was doing a thought experiment, thinking of how my life would really change if I quit my job today and worked for myself full-time. I would finally be living my purpose, as an innovative leader. I would be my own boss, because no one can manage me better than I can. I could choose who I talk to, what tasks I want to complete, and I can turn my dreams into reality. I could enjoy time at home with my baby. I could build a family business, and feel the pride of ownership.
After a few minutes of this, I realized that I would be just as stressed, and feel just as much pressure, if not more because I’ve lost income security. I know that ultimately being an employee is less secure than working for myself, but for my immediate reality, I do very well at my job and since my job is essential and funded by tax dollars it’s about as secure as an employee can get. However, now that I am in the office full time again, my heart is aching. I miss being at home with my baby. Although working from home while taking care of the little one wasn’t ideal, I appreciated it. I loved having work to do and projects to complete, while also being there for the little firsts she has. Now, I miss most of her waking time. So, it’s no surprise that I’ve been fantasizing about leaving my full-time job. For months, I’ve been idealizing working for myself, but this morning I finally told the story until the end.
Tell the Story to the End
For anyone active in the recovery and sobriety community, this is a familiar saying. I heard it from a former colleague years ago and it stuck with me. In the AA community, it refers to fantasizing about drinking. Often, people in recovery, especially in the first few years of recovery, miss the ‘good old days’. We miss the wild and crazy nights, we miss party friends and the chaos of it all. However, when reminiscing in this way, we tend to only remember the highlight reel, we don’t readily recall the physical, legal, familial, relational, financial, and emotional toll these fun times had on us. We also don’t remember the entire story of each ‘fun time’. If we tell the story to the end, it reads as: using alcohol to fill a void, getting too drunk, saying and doing things we regret, forgetting some of those things, and waking up with random bruises, feeling sick, and wondering who we need to apologize to. Those good old days weren’t so good, they were miserable, and it’s hard to see that from reading a single page.
The same thing applies to my recent thinking around employment. I can fantasize about a way out of my dissatisfaction, but if I’m being honest with myself, quitting my job isn’t the answer and it won’t make me feel better. If I quit my job, I will be just as stressed as I am now, if not more. I do not do well with financial insecurity, and I’ve worked too hard in my career to give it up before I have something more lucrative in place. Although our notary and loan signing agent business is going well, my husband and I are still very new at this and are nowhere near where we need to be in order to have this business replace one of our jobs. Working for myself is not going to inoculate me from stress. I will not magically be able to balance my workload with my needs for rest, exercise, nature, adventure, connection, and joy. If I want to be more satisfied with my life as an entrepreneur, I should be building the skills to do so now, using my current situation as a training ground. It sucks to have this epiphany because now I have no self-employment eutopia waiting for me. I have to earn it and make it possible. I have to create my eutopia, one coping skill at a time. I have to learn how to master my thoughts, be balanced and disciplined, and create the daily work reality that I will most enjoy.
So, for now, I have to stop fantasizing about leaving my job because it’s magical thinking and it’s not helping me, instead it’s causing me to lose focus and take on too much at once. I have to stop trying so hard to run away from an amazing job that pays me well while giving me the opportunity to have a positive impact on my community. Instead, I can focus energy on what it is that I want to run to. I am running to financial independence, I am running to multiple streams of income, I am running to learning all I can about personal finance. I also have to know that it’s okay to walk. Since January, I have been running to reach FIRE like it’s life or death. This has led to me being in a constant state of irritability and frustration. I am almost always tired or wired on coffee. It wasn’t always like this, and now that I have other passions and goals, it doesn’t have to be this way all the time. Generational wealth building is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Building a real estate empire will not happen overnight, or even a year (for most people). Building the life and legacy I desire will take years and decades.
For the past four months I’ve been running from my reality to the future I desire, one where I can live off my investments for the rest of my life without having to earn another dollar. However, I have not stopped to think of how this journey has highlighted my biggest areas of weakness. This whole time I thought I was running from the rat race, but I’ve really been running from myself. At some point, I will have to learn how to rest and recharge. I will have to learn patience. I will have to learn to trust–trusting myself, my husband, God, the Universe, and others. I also have to learn how to balance my current responsibilities with future aspirations. No matter where I go, there I am. If I want to make my future life one that is more enjoyable, I have to enjoy my life now, as it is, and accept myself now, as I am.