I Quit my Job to Pursue my Passion—& my Life Fell Apart.


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When I left my nine-to-five to follow my passion, my life fell apart.

I was 20-something and feeling bored with my ordinary nine-to-five job.

I had an analytical desk job at a well-loved company, comradery with my coworkers, and opportunities to progress in my career.

But I reached a point where I couldn’t see it—I had my sights set on something else.

At the time, I was also teaching yoga on the side. Several friends from my studio quit their corporate jobs to teach full time or to integrate their teaching with multiple side hustles, creating what worked for them in a seemingly perfect work life.

They all seemed happy and they all seemed sure—and they all seemed able to make it financially.

Hypnotized by their stories (and the plentiful podcasts and Instagram feeds about “finding your passion” I had been following), I started comparing.

My nine-to-five became increasingly meaningless in my mind when compared to the other paths I saw around me. Not to mention, I was struggling with soul-level heartbreak, where every hallway at my work was painted with memories.

I quit my job. My only plan was to find my passion and then follow it.

I had made big changes before, and the universe always caught me, so I believed I would have another smooth transition entering what I anticipated to be the next and most exciting phase of my life.

Here’s what actually happened:

I was unemployed for a year.
I moved in with family out of state.
I left my friends, community, and networks.
My self-confidence took a dip.
I had no social life.
I felt completely lost, and life was certainly not giving me an obvious direction.
I hit my financial, social, and personal rock-bottom.

Clearly, it did not turn into the year I expected when I submitted my two weeks’ notice.

One barefoot step at a time, I climbed out of this life pit. The climb was long. Many days, I couldn’t understand why my gut intuition betrayed me by leading me nowhere.

Today, years later, my circumstances have changed—but the real change took place inside me. I see that, in reality, my gut did not betray me. It pushed me to make a change. There were obstacles along the way, and there were lessons.

Here are a few lessons that stayed with me:

The Myth of Passion

Some people have a singular passion. They know it, they discover it, and they follow it.

Some of us…do not.

When I get asked questions like, “What’s the one thing that makes you jump out of bed in the morning?” I stare blankly ahead for 13 seconds and then respond with various answers such as, “Breakfast?”

Then I laugh uncomfortably, avoid answering the question, and start a painful internal dialogue dissecting different possibilities until I either, a) feel sufficiently bored and move on, or b) annoyed that I haven’t found “it” yet.

During this “life sabbatical,” as I like to call it, I tried three or four different potential new passions. None of them turned into the next and most exciting phase of my life. They all dwindled after their short life as my passion flavor of the week.

Even now, as I sit writing this piece years later, I’m not sure what my passion is.

One day, recently, while at my current job, a thought popped into my mind that I quickly wrote on one of my famous post-it notes: Find passion in the life you’re living.

I can’t tell you my one groundbreaking passion, but I can tell you what I am passionate about.

At this time, for me, work is work. But, I find passion in improving processes and problem-solving (nerd alert!).

Outside of work, I explore new places and hobbies to feed my passion for learning. I am passionate about issues like education reform, service, human connection and relationships, new music playlists, curvy mountain drives, painting my nails, and delicious new foodie finds.

For those of us that don’t have—or, maybe, haven’t yet found—our one driving passion, I offer this alternative: celebrate your passion for life!

Embrace the variety of passions you enjoy in the life you have today—even, and especially, in the ordinary. Continue to explore new passions. Our jobs don’t have to be our sole source of passion. In fact, we don’t really have to have one sole source of passion at all.

The Other Side of Fantasy

My first fantasy when quitting my job was that big, sweeping changes would launch me from one place to another. It’s possible, and it probably happens for some people sometimes.

In my experience, however, the reality has been that, no matter what changes I make to my external circumstances, I am still me.

A few years ago, I took my first international trip. I planned on “escaping” my life, but I was surprised to discover that my same worries and insecurities popped into my mind as I sat there on the plane.

Since then, I’ve made eight international trips and moved my life across the country six times. Everywhere I travel, everywhere I live, and everywhere I work, I am still me.

Fears, doubts, skills, talents, habits, values, motivation—these pieces of us follow us everywhere. Dramatic experiences can expose us to new pieces of ourselves, but it takes effort on our part—not just changes or exiting the scene—to transform these pieces of ourselves.

My second fantasy was that, if I felt right about my path or life decision, my life would open up with ease, and the universe would point me in the right direction like a well-marked road map.

Um. Well. Okay, cool.

It took a year for me to get back on my feet, and an additional six months to feel like I was moving in some direction again.

My path did not unfold suddenly, and it did not open all at once. It was slow, gradual, and day by day.

It has now been three years since I quit that job, and I still find my path unweaving.

Sometimes when we leap, we don’t land as far ahead as we perhaps pictured. No matter where we land, if we can find the steady ground, we can have confidence that small steps, one at a time, are enough to keep us moving forward.

The Path In Front of You

When I quit my analyst job and moved out of state, I certainly did not expect to find myself back in an analyst role and living in the state I had moved out of just one year later (that’s what happened).

I mean, I know I said I had no plan. But, if I had one—that would not have been it.

I opened myself up to the universe, I experienced a myriad of opportunities, and yet I ended up back where I started.

At least on paper it felt that way.

During this transition, I saw a quote that said, in essence, “Sometimes life brings you full circle to a place you have been before just to show you how much you have grown.”

This was my story. Although my title, industry, and residential location were the same on paper, I was not the same.

I approached life, work, relationships, time, and commitments differently. I became familiar with my core values, with my emotional side, with my demons, and I became strong in new ways. I find myself now with the experiences to help me make more informed, thoughtful, and confident decisions.

And it’s more than that.

Additional doors have opened, enriching my life in ways I hadn’t discovered before. When I quit my job to pursue my passion, my life fell apart. It has now been three years since the day I quit, and I’m finally seeing more clearly how the pieces have fit into place. My life, and who I am now, have come together piece by piece.

At the end of the day, life has a way of opening up to those who are open to it. It might not be what, when, or how we expect. But, when we trust and open ourselves to the path in front of us, we find it is already working out.

And that’s why I still trust my gut.

author: Darcy Stewart

Image: Abigail Keenan/Unsplash

Editor: Kelsey Michal


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Darcy Stewart

Darcy Stewart is a small-town girl with a big love for sunsets and live music. She has lived coast to coast, from Washington, D.C. to her current life in Southern California. Darcy enjoys hiking, weightlifting, hot yoga, and wandering around old bookstores finding children’s books and paperback classics. She also enjoys the “more-than-occasional” baked good, in her search for the perfectly-baked chocolate chip cookie.

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karlbonner1 Dec 3, 2018 1:25pm

Darcy thank you so much for this article. I left my family business after a decade to pursue my own ambitions. To date things have not worked out how I would have liked but I’m still in th game and soldiering on. I certainly have gained a new insight into what I value in life. Painful life lessons!!

Darcy Stewart Sep 28, 2018 2:48pm

Anita, I can so relate to hearing those comments from peers and that feeling you're having! I truly believe that there is value in grit. It takes courage and faith - and tons of mental strength! - to stick it out rather than flee or search a shiny object for immediate gratification. So much of this life is what we make of it, and how we choose to experience it. Great comments, and thanks for sharing your experience!

Anita Wilson Sep 25, 2018 3:35pm

I love this! I have been in my job for almost 22 years and am not in love with it. In the yoga community (particularly) around me I keep hearing "you need to quit doing what doesn't set your soul on fire and follow what does", while I LOVE that idea and am sure there are people who have done this successfully, I am getting a tiny bit fed up with constantly being told that sticking it out even though I don't love it is weakness. Thank you for putting a lovely spin on a great notion that maybe doesn't have to be as sweeping as we are led to believe!

Cathrine Katsigianni Sep 24, 2018 10:01am

Darcy Stewart thank you so much for replying! It's so nice to see people being moved by things other than only money and material goods. It seems that you are also inspired by lovely things in life! All the best to you too!!

Darcy Stewart Sep 24, 2018 5:28am

Melanie, thanks for your comments. Life can feel so heavy in the thick of it. Sometimes it feels like life just won't give us a break! One of the biggest lessons for me was all this time in between when I thought my life was going nowhere, actually, I was changing, and doors were being prepared for me. So much of life is timing. Keep your chin up!

Darcy Stewart Sep 24, 2018 5:23am

Ah, thank you, Ceri! :)

Darcy Stewart Sep 24, 2018 5:23am

Thanks, Brian!

Darcy Stewart Sep 24, 2018 5:19am

Wow, Prema, thank you for sharing! I love this because it is so real. How many times do we fantacize about "something better," only to experience it in reality and go, uh... wait a second. Ha! Happy to hear you've found your rhythm again!

Darcy Stewart Sep 24, 2018 5:14am

What a great example you practice with your clients. Thank you, Ana!

Darcy Stewart Sep 24, 2018 5:10am

Erin - I feel exactly the same way! Reading your comments gives me a sigh of relief, like phew! I'm not the only one, I'm not crazy, and I'm not a failure. I love what you said about learning about yourself and what you truly find joy in. Beautiful! And as you said, invaluable. Rock on, girl! Thank you for sharing your experience, and a big congrats on finding peace in your life.

Darcy Stewart Sep 24, 2018 5:08am

Congratulations on finding your path, Catherine! I believe that following your heart and following your passion can be seen as two separate things, and I agree that following your heart can open doors and set you free in many ways. It sounds like you're heading in a great direction for you! All the best in your pursuits!

Darcy Stewart Sep 24, 2018 4:59am

Thank you, J David!

Darcy Stewart Sep 24, 2018 4:58am

Adriano, I love to hear you express how you've changed and grown as a person during this time! No matter what happens next, you can take these lessons and sense of self with you and keep moving forward. Day-by-day is the only way! Proud of you, and thank you so much for sharing!

Darcy Stewart Sep 24, 2018 4:53am

First of all, sounds like you have awesome cats. :) Aleks, your post made me smile, like, omg! Our stories are ridiculously similar!! I loveee what you said here, "maybe all of that crazy sh*t needed to happen so that I can see." In the midst of everything, it's so easy to feel like a big, fat failure, but the power is in the personal growth, right? Ah, thank you so much for your encouragement, and cheers back to you! :)

Darcy Stewart Sep 24, 2018 4:47am

Ah, Vanessa, thank you for sharing! I love what you said about choosing to create a different perspective to find peace in your day. Wow! That is powerful! And honestly, I think that process takes such courage and grit. While each story is unique, but it is a relief to know we're not entirely alone, right?! Best to you!

Darcy Stewart Sep 24, 2018 4:36am

Ha! It certainly does keep the mystery and suspense alive, Michael!! :) Thanks for your support!

Isabella Biava Sep 23, 2018 5:13pm

Darcy Stewart I wish that phrase were mine ;) Thanks for your reply. Cheers to you!

Darcy Stewart Sep 22, 2018 9:06pm

Adriano Carvalho - :)

Darcy Stewart Sep 22, 2018 9:06pm

That was me, Lois! I was always wishing I had one passion and thinking, "what is wrong with me?!" It feels good to now be at peace and realize, nothing is wrong. I think some of us are just wired differently. Also, I love your comment about regret - "In the end, most people don't regret what they have done, but rather what they did not do." Very thought provoking. Thank you for your comments!

Darcy Stewart Sep 22, 2018 8:54pm

"What matters the most is not what happens to us but how we make the most of it." That is beautiful, Isabella! It sounds like you have a clear direction moving forward, and are also open to wherever you land, and that is truly inspiring. Thank you for your comments, and for sharing your story. Cheering you on!

Darcy Stewart Sep 21, 2018 4:02am

"True peace only ever happens in the now." Wow! I've been pondering your comments; in particular, this concept of passion as an idealization of the "future me in an ideal situation." Thank you so much for sharing your insight, Mark!

Darcy Stewart Sep 21, 2018 3:54am

Thank you so much for your words! Although all of our experiences are unique, when I decided to write mine, I hoped it would help those in a similar situation. Humbled to hear that you can relate. Thank you!

Ceri Chapple Sep 20, 2018 8:19pm

i love this. thank you!

Brian Cluxton Sep 20, 2018 5:34pm

Good read. Sorry I didn’t work out but major props to you for giving it a shot. So many people hate their corporate jobs and want to do something else. I say take the risk and if it doesn’t work out, oh well, at least you took it and can go back to the drudgery

Melanie Munday Sep 20, 2018 12:56pm

I didn't quit but made redundant and went in to follow my passion. But everything went down hill fro there. Unable to find work to keep me in a place that I was happy in as a single mum of teens. Now moved back in with my mum, lost my kids and not earning enough. For me it has not got better but continues to get worse because I can't even find a job at all and my dad just had a stroke. Which continues this place of caring for everyone else and not putting me first. I'm 43 not in my 20's and taking a risk is what I have to do to get out. It's a massive risk! I've had an abundance of growth over the last 15 years since becoming single and know exactly what my heart and soul needs but can't seem to maintain it. I've been forced back into a place that doesn't serve me and I just want out. Your story is so like mine but it's been more than 3 years for me and I'm still stuck.

Prema Lynn Felder Sep 19, 2018 5:30pm

I love this story. I did a similar thing, only I was 59! I quit journalism to run my yoga studio fulltime and never felt happy and fullfilled. I found that I am not entrepreneurial. I did not enjoy the business side of business, hated having to hustle for rent and payroll and was thrilled to return to the newsroom three years later. I love being part of something bigger and than I and being part of a team. Let somebody else worry about making payroll. I'm busy DOING yoga and writing about the arts. Hurrah!