Two months ago, I left my job as a tax accountant at a large public corporation. I was nearing a decade in this career and starting to wonder if that was how I wanted to spend the next three decades of my life. With a good amount of money saved and no children to worry about, my husband and I agreed that this was the time to make big changes. So I gave myself one year to pursue different interests and see if there was anything else that I would like to focus on for a career with the safety of knowing that I could always go back to tax.
Reactions were definitely mixed. Some people were envious that I was able to leave the corporate world; others thought I was a complete bonehead. I oscillated (and still do) between these thoughts myself, but here are some things I have learned and experienced so far:
Flexibility has allowed me to be a better person: These first few months have been filled with some tumultuous events amongst our family and friends including surgeries and emotional hardships. Having a flexible schedule has enabled me to drop everything and run to where I may be needed. This has been a surprising gift and it’s allowed me to feel more connected to those I love and to help wherever I can. When I was working in the corporate world, there were often times where I would have work commitments that I couldn’t get out of, and that always felt wrong to me. Family should come first and now I have the opportunity to make that a priority. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with maintaining relationships, but at least I’m making more of an effort, and that’s a good start.
The guilt is hard to handle: When deciding whether to take this year for myself, there was one thing that almost prevented me from taking it: guilt. Eventually I convinced myself that the regret I might feel for not taking this opportunity outweighed the potential guilt I might feel for taking advantage of this option. I still think it was the right choice, but regardless, I have an inherent sense of guilt that I can never seem to shake. I feel it most acutely on days where my husband has to work late, and I can only hope that someday the tables will turn and this guilt with go away.
I have more creative energy: One of the byproducts of having more time in general, is having more time to think. This seems to have given me a lift in creative energy which is a double edged sword. I can’t help but think of new ideas of things I want to try or pursue, but it also makes it impossible for me to focus on one project. I have at least four projects I’ve decided I want to pursue at this point, and I know that there are not enough hours in the day to do all of them well. When else will I ever have the time or opportunity to give them my attention? I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to explore anything that interests me, but the constraints of a normal 24 hour day still exist and I’ll have to make some hard decisions at some point.
I miss the normal work environment: When I left my job I knew there would be people I would miss at work, but nothing prepared me for just how much I would miss that working environment. I consider myself lucky to have worked at a place with such great people, and I miss them and think about them every day. I watch women dressed in their work attire walk off to work each morning and I miss the comfort of that routine. I even miss my commute, as I’ve fallen far behind on all of the podcasts that used to keep me entertained for two hours a day. But mostly, I miss the bustle of activity around me. I miss people stopping by my desk to ask me a question or tell me a story. I miss being a part of a team.
New found interests: If there is anything I can take away from this experience it has been the new interests I have discovered. So far these include writing and financial literacy education. I have always enjoyed writing, but I realize now that I love writing. There is something so beautiful about the fluid motion of your fingers across a keyboard and their ability to create a whole world at your fingertips. It’s a powerful feeling. That being said, there are definitely topics that are painful to write about and that I will continue to avoid. On the flip side, there are some topics that surprised me with the passion I feel for them. Financial literacy education is the topic that has stood out to me so far. I feel passionately that our country does not do enough to educate its population about how to take control of their finances, and this passion has driven me to investigate what I can do to help this cause.
I struggle to maintain confidence in what I’m doing: I have never considered myself an insecure person. Sure we all waiver from time to time, but I’ve definitely found it more challenging to maintain my confidence through this period of my life. There is a certain stigma associated with what I’m doing, and though I like to think that I’m impervious to societal opinion, it definitely gets to me sometimes. I’m aware that most people assume I was laid off from work, and that might bother me more than anything else. I want to scream, “I’m a hard worker!” and “I was a valued team member!”, but I know ultimately none of that matters because my perception of myself is stronger that what others may think of me. Also, I continue to remind myself that confidence grows out of competence, and I have yet to feel competent in anything I’m doing because it’s all new. I need to give myself a break and take the time I need to become competent at new things.
Over these two months, there have been highs and lows, and I’m sure there will be many more to come. I look forward to learning more about myself in the process, and reporting back on my findings.