I fancy myself some kind of risk-taker. Looking back over the last 15 years, I see how I've chased thrills in so many ways: MMA competition, climbing an active volcano, driving drunk, smoking weed in public, fist fights, unprotected sex, solo travel to strange lands, freestyle rapping on stage, crying deep wailing cries in front of groups of strangers. My 20's were lived.
Taking risks has always been important to me. In my youthful explorations I loved to feel afraid, and then fight, push, grit and sometimes luck my way back to safe ground. I wanted to see how fearless I could become. And now that I'm done with the reckless endangerment, I see the new risk in front me that I didn't have the courage for until now: leaving my job without knowing exactly what I'm going to do next.
I grew up working. As a young kid, I worked for my dad's upholstery business pulling staples, carrying tools and furniture, helping measure and cut fabric. I couldn't tell you how old I was when I started, I suppose as soon as I was big enough. When I got to be around 8 or 9, I would occasionally get paid for some of the work. It was nice to have some cash to buy the candy or toys I wanted.
At 14, I started working at a local cafe as a dishwasher and prep cook. I made $5.25/hour, and even got tipped from the servers once in a while. To this day I can still crack two eggs at once. My dad made me open a savings account and put half of each paycheck in it. By the time I was 16, I bought my first car with what I had saved. It was a 1993 Ford Explorer, forest green with around 180K miles on it. I was free!
At 18, I moved out and started working full time. By 19, I'd bought a house together with a friend with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a yard, and a two car garage. I still remember the excitement. I had my home, my car, my job. I was truly free! That's what I believed, and that's how I felt.
Now at age 30, I find myself in a high level management position for a medical services firm. I report to our CEO, and have almost no oversight on my daily responsibilities. I make a great salary. I should feel the freest I've ever been in my life, but I don't. Because the freedom I want now is not the same that I used to.
I've barely gone a day in my life without some sort of job. It's been engrained in me from as early as I can remember that I have to work. And if I want to be free, I'd better work hard. Because the world is chasing me down with bills, and rents, and fees, and if I don't want to get swallowed by the wave, I need to move quickly and not slow down. But I'm tired now. For all that I've gained materially, mentally, spiritually- I've lost something maybe even more important. I forgot how to listen to what my heart wants. And I'm aching to know what it feels like to work with my head, heart, and hands all in alignment (shout-out to Susan Skjei).
Profit over purpose is no longer an option for me. I've reached the end of my rope in that way. And for all the risks I've taken in my life, reckless or otherwise, none seem to be so frightening as what I'm now considering: leaving my job to follow my heart into whatever storms or oases it brings me.
As of the time I'm posting this, I have not yet left my corporate job. But I can't help but think this must be the "leap" that I keep hearing about. And I'm standing at the edge looking over, wondering how deep the water is down there.