“I just feel so trapped! We need the money.” I was terrified. I had spent ten years being a lawyer, and many years before that striving to be exactly where I was. Well, maybe not striving to be crying in my therapist’s office which is where I was at that moment, but striving to be an attorney. My therapist nodded empathetically and said, “but do you? Really? Does your daughter need money or a mom who isn’t having weekly anxiety attacks?”
The act of lawyering was a wonderful experience, when I got to do it. But as a relatively junior attorney, I was just someone else’s briefcase, carrying all the knowledge but doing very little of the substantive work. Of course, the pressure and stress were none the less for my lack of authority.
It took returning to work after the birth of my first child to jolt me into action. Suddenly anxiety attacks and being a briefcase weren’t compelling enough reasons to leave my precious child in the care of another person 10 hours a day. But how could I let go of being a lawyer? I’d worked so hard to get there. It seemed like such a waste to walk away before I “made it.”
With the help of my supportive and tenacious therapist, and my husband, I finally quit. It was scary but I learned five crucial lessons that have delivered me from quitting a job I hated to a successful life.
1. Know That Experience is Never Wasted
Just as energy can never be destroyed, experience is never wasted. Instead it moves to support your next endeavour.
If I hadn’t worked all those years as an attorney on writing and research, my blog would be far less interesting. If I hadn’t learned the art of persuasion, my daughter would be eating cheetos for dinner. I may not be a practicing lawyer anymore but I am certainly using all of the tools I gained as an attorney.
2. You Are Not What You Do
You are not a lawyer, real estate agent, florist, cardiologist, mom, or wife. Don’t accept the easy label. And do not endure misery eight hours out of the day just to maintain that label.
You are a person living the most unique experience on the planet because it is yours alone. Make of it what you will.
3. Quitting is Not Failure
I was so concerned that quitting the law meant that I had failed at being a lawyer.
Then I realized that adjusting one’s actions due to external circumstances is not failure. It is pivoting and adapting to a changing landscape. Continuing on as if nothing had happened would be failure. Pretending my dream of lawyering aligned with reality despite all evidence to the contrary would be failure.
Quitting what doesn’t serve you anymore is growth, self-knowledge and wisdom. Own it for the positive action it is.
4. Your Family Needs YOU
Your children don’t need a label. They need you: engaged, happy, passionate, and present. Yes, you need to make enough income to live. No you don’t have to stay home with your kids to give them what they need (unless that’s what you want!). But it is amazing how much you can reduce your needed income when you start prioritizing happiness over money or fancy titles.
For instance, my husband and I moved out of our uber-expensive city suburb to a quiet town. He went back to school and I am exploring a profession that doesn’t cause panic attacks. Rent in our new town is half the price of rent where we used to live. Childcare, gym memberships, food and utilities are all far less expensive here as well.
Of course, you can bank small savings by canceling your cable programming. But sometimes you have to think bigger to live a life you love.
5. Embrace Change
You are not trapped. Sometimes life pivots on you in a way that makes you feel cornered. You feel you have to keep doing what you’re doing because to do otherwise would be a waste, a failure, or too risky financially. So you keep doing it despite the consequences.
But life has a way of pushing you back into that corner until you either go mad or change. I’m here to suggest you choose change, sooner rather than later.
Ask yourself, what can I change to free myself? Why is this not working for me anymore?
If you’re feeling trapped, remember that quitting is not failure. It is instead proof that you have successfully read the signs and are following your path regardless of your previously held assumptions of what the path “should” be.
This is a guest post by Ashley Rupp who provides practical tips for personal growth on her blog Reining in Mom. She inspires moms to make themselves a priority and thrive with well-researched, compelling articles on habit formation, goal setting, clean living and simple parenting.