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.