I have watched enough episodes of “Project Runway” to know that playing it safe isn’t the best strategy for fulfillment or success, but safe is definitely the way I’ve played my cards in life. I saved my money, I got perfect grades, and I took every responsibility I could get my hands on. But these protective measures never brought me happiness, probably because I mistook them for guarantees. In fact, the compulsive pursuit of safety fed my anxiety and sense of entitlement.
I unflinchingly believed that if I did everything right, my merits would be rewarded with jobs and promotions. But after being dropped into the working world mid-recession, I quickly realized that the hard work I put into building a ladder wouldn’t necessarily mean I’d get to climb it.
I stayed in jobs, relationships and situations much longer than I should have. I was biding my time, stocking away money and experience like nuts for winter, uncertain if my next step would be forward or down from where I stood. It took me years to see that when I did this, I was actually betting on disaster instead of myself. I was betting that I wasn’t enough. The disappointment I felt made me question if the safe way really was the right way.
I felt smart for making conservative choices, but I felt my best when I was taking a leap. When I left lackluster relationships, I discovered a greater sense of self. When I listened to my gut and changed majors in school, I was energized and motivated. When I finally moved to Seattle, it felt like I was coming home for the first time. In every instance, letting go was more of a gain than a loss.
Knowing this, I still made a lot of excuses for not taking the same initiative in my career. I was still waiting for some mentor to find me, or for some recruiter to reach out. I was waiting for someone to do the heavy lifting because I didn’t believe in my talents enough to do it myself. Until now.
I’m done betting on disaster. Bank account be damned. Everything be damned.
I left my stable job of five years, not because I hated it, but because my next leap forward is way overdue. It’s time for me to believe in myself professionally. I am my mentor. I am my recruiter. I am my cheerleader.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect: This weekend is my 10-year high school reunion. Although I won’t be in attendance, it’s an interesting time to publicly announce that I’m proudly unemployed! I don’t think many people would be as happy as I am to say it, but I wear it like a badge of honor. “Unemployed” isn’t a dirty word, just like “single” isn’t a dirty word. It doesn’t mean I’m unwanted or unremarkable. It’s a state of freedom and opportunity. I get to play the field and find a position that’s right for me.
As a 17-year-old sitting on the auditorium stage for my high school graduation, I had no idea what my future might look like. I never thought that I’d be 27, sitting on the couch writing a blog post about my unemployment in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday. But I never thought I’d get to sing at Carnegie Hall, move to Seattle, or be the editor of a magazine, either.
By letting go of my job, I’m daring to believe that there is something better waiting for me in the vast unknown. I’m proud of that. I still have no idea what the future holds, but I’m not so afraid anymore. I know that my dreams are an option in all that uncertainty. I know that whatever happens, that option is still out there.
I have spoken to too many people who have let security infringe on their confidence. Many of you have messaged me about your careers because you’re feeling stuck. If my story resonates with you, maybe it’s time for you to take a leap! You don’t have to quit your job, necessarily. Find someone with your dream job and get coffee with them. Get an informational meeting with a recruiter from your dream company. Throw yourself into a networking group. Invest in that certification you’ve been eyeing. Whether your leap is akin to base-jumping or hopping over a puddle, your strides made a difference.
Now that I’m a full-time job seeker, I’ll have more time to share what I’ve learned on the upward spiral. I’m so excited to help you make those scary, amazing leaps into the life you have been dreaming of.
If you’ve made a leap in your life recently, share it in the comments below!