Six months ago, I was sitting in my cubicle in Cleveland, OH frantically trying to do 18 things at once!
I was a tax accountant in the middle of my third busy season wondering how I was going to do this for the next 40 or 50 years. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the next 40 and 50 minutes!
Each day, I dragged myself out of bed after six-too-many hits of the snooze button and I pumped myself full of caffeine to make it through the next 8 to 12 hours. I paid my bills, found creative ways to save money, and did everything a responsible financial adult should do.
But the pit in my stomach didn’t leave anymore. It woke me up in the middle of the night, and it started making me physically ill.
I truly hated my job.
I felt like I was playing a role in a very boring play, not living my own life. Even worse, I was worried that maybe my hatred of work meant I was lazy or unmotivated. I had absolutely no desire to move up in my company or learn a single new skill.
Would you want to learn new skills in a field you hate?
At this point, I’d been doing some personal finance freelance writing at night and on weekends for a few months to make extra cash. It was the only thing getting me through the long days, the prospect of doing what I was passionate about — writing.
But I was still under the assumption that work had to be miserable. That’s why they have to pay you to do it, right? Writing was just a hobby that brought in a small income. I couldn’t actually be a writer, could I?
Fast-forward to now, I’m sitting about 2,500 miles away from that cubicle. I’m a full-time freelance writer in Portland, OR. I pop out of bed each day, excited to see what my day will bring. I look forward to each new project, I’m eager to take on new responsibilities and challenges, and for the first time in my adult life, work is something that makes me happy instead of miserable. Turns out I wasn’t lazy; I was just stuck in a life that wasn’t for me.
After deciding I was fed up with the way my life was heading, I made a radical decision to move across the country. It took about 15 minutes to convince my equally bored husband to make the move. We wanted to leave Ohio our entire marriage and now was the time. Neither of us enjoyed our work and neither of us enjoyed our city — it was time for a change.
A few months and a two-week road trip across the U.S. later, we had made it to Portland. I still had no idea what I wanted to do work-wise. But I knew that going back into accounting was not an option. Well it was, if I was really in a pinch, but it wasn’t preferable.
The truth was, I’d known what I wanted to do for months, but I couldn’t imagine saying it out loud. My insides were bursting, “I WANT TO BE A FREELANCER!” But that was ridiculous. Entrepreneurship was for other people, not me.
But then I had a realization.
I couldn’t just live my life by the script that society wanted me to play out. It was my life after all. People could talk all they wanted but at the end of the day it was me that had to live the life I chose, not them.
The prospect of “what next?” frightened me less, than the possible future question of “what if?” I had to do what I was meant to do. Or at least what I’m meant to do right now.
So I did.
I took the leap into the great unknown, but not without a few things going for me:
- A high risk tolerance
- A partner who makes enough to pay our basic expenses (the key word here is “basic”)
- An identity in the personal finance/freelancing community
It’s been over two months since I’ve left the cubicle. Since then, I’ve co-founded a financial online magazine, tripled my clientele, and received several freelance raises for performance.
I seek out responsibility and happily say yes to new assignments. My clients recommend me to other future clients because, for the first time in my life, I’m good at what I do — and passionate about it to boot.
Who knew work didn’t have to be the worst part of the day? Not me.
Take chances. Put yourself out there. Live your life the way you want to, and know that work can be really awesome.
Erin El Issa
Erin is a full-time freelancer living with her husband in Portland, Oregon. She is the founder of her blog, Red Debted Stepchild, and a co-founder of a new online magazine, economag. Erin spends her time writing, trying new restaurants, updating her weirdly detailed spreadsheets, and drinking white wine. She still has no idea what she wants to do for the rest of her life, but she’s getting there.