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December 13, 2015

Dying to Connect: Life After 10 Years in a Soul-Destroying Career.

compassion

I have perhaps 40 years left to live, and I damn well intend to make them enjoyable.

Since we spend over 70 percent of our lives in the workforce, we need to make sure we’re doing something we love.

But there are barriers that stop us living our best lives; otherwise we’d all be doing it.

My barriers were ego and fear. It was these factors that kept me in an occupation that didn’t fulfill me for so long.

I had a stable career as a Chartered Accountant in public practice for 10 years, with a decent boss and friendly workmates. But I knew for most of those years that it was not a fulfilling career choice.

Ego didn’t want me to let go, since I’d worked hard and started in food and retail, working my way up to better positions while pursuing an accounting/economics degree and raising my son as a single parent.

Fear didn’t want me to let go since I had no idea what I was actually passionate about.

What if I tried something else and didn’t like it? I still had a student loan, a mortgage and a child to take care of. If anything went wrong, how would I pay the bills?

I decided to suck it up and just keep going, opting for stability over fulfillment.

I felt a deep sense of dread at the thought of going to work every day. I brought a picture of my mother with me for support. I plastered motivational posters around my desk and even kept a protective crystal in my pocket. All were attempts to get through another day in what for me was a soul-destructive career.

It got to the point where I had a cancer scare and was a little disappointed when it came back negative. My mother passed away from cancer, and I’m ashamed to admit that this silly thought entered my head. It was just the only way I could see myself making the life change I needed. I’m not sure how it would work exactly—something about my income protection paying me while I had the funds to retrain. Of course, I would make a miraculous recovery.

It was at that point I decided to let go of ego and fear. I implemented the following steps to make the necessary changes in my life:

1. I took a small step toward something that piqued my interest.

I don’t believe in the term “follow your passion,” as I think it causes unnecessary pressure. Instead, I decided to follow what piqued my interest. After 10 years feeling like a robot, I was interested in connecting with people. I decided I might enjoy TAFE (Technical and Further Education) teaching and enrolled in an intensive six-session course that ran on Saturdays and gave me the necessary qualifications.

2. I made small sacrifices.

After completing my qualifications, I got a job teaching Legal Studies at night while keeping my full-time accounting job. On weekends, I prepared for my Monday night classes—slides, lesson plan, activities and handouts. I was exhausted and had barely any social life, but it was worth it. I was alive again.

3. I took opportunities disguised as risks. 

One day, I received a call from the head teacher asking me if I could take on three days a week teaching class. This meant quitting my full-time job. It was a huge risk, since the position was only casual and she could not guarantee me the same job or any type of work the following term. I decided to bite the bullet and just go for it.

Teaching during the day opened me up to a whole new world. We had morning tea breaks! We spoke to each other without worrying about six-minute time blocks, the norm in the accounting industry. I didn’t have a million KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) hanging over my head. Best of all, I felt like an actual human again.

4. I allowed myself to keep evolving. 

After a couple of terms at TAFE, I was told that due to budget cuts, some casuals would not be receiving further work. It was the nature of the industry, and I decided it was best to apply for something else, just in case. I applied for a part-time position as a University Lecturer and got the job. The challenge of making Management Accounting sound interesting to a bunch of 20-year-olds was a big one.

At the same time, a friend and I started a social enterprise to provide cost-effective services to grow small businesses in regional areas. I’d dealt with small businesses quite a lot over the years, but actually running one myself was quite a new experience.

Since then I’ve done a complete full circle and am now working solely with businesses again; providing business consulting and accounting services in my own name. I originally wrote that it’s been a challenging road, but I really don’t think it has. It was far more challenging getting out of bed every day to live a life I couldn’t stand.

Nowadays, I’m human again. I am free to connect with other humans and do my best work.

I have my soul back.

I would suggest that anyone who finds themselves questioning the meaning of their life try something different. Find something that piques your interest; forget that “passion” bullsh*t. Be willing to make sacrifices, keep an eye out for opportunities and allow yourself to evolve.

We’re here on Earth for such a short amount of time and we might as well love it.

Trust that the universe has your back and see what happens.

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Relephant Read: 

Escaping a Career Riptide: How to Swim Out of the Wrong Job.

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Author: Denise Mills

Apprentice Editor: Tess Estandarte / Editor: Toby Israel

Image: Pixoto

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