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A Story About Choice

About a month ago, I made the choice to schedule a meeting with my boss whom I’ve worked for for over ten years. My boss is smart, kind-hearted, and wonderfully generous to his employees – and while I had talked with him in passing several times, I had never had a one-on-one meeting with the man… let alone one where we’d be discussing the business I had started that was quickly pulling my attention away from being an attentive, full-time employee…

I hadn’t planned on my business pulling me away.

My job has been such a blessing in my life. It’s been the only consistently stable aspect in my otherwise tumultuous ten-and-a-half years (I was nineteen when I started!)- I had moved ten times, called off a young, ill-advised engagement, navigated another tornado of a relationship-marriage-then divorce,  and re-invented myself countless times over those years…

But I ALWAYS had this job. This routine. This one place that when I entered it, I knew exactly what my day would look like, who I’d see, and what I’d be asked to do.
I had this skill I was GREAT at- even when nothing else in my life made me feel great.
So much of my self-worth came from this job, and after ten years I found parts of myself feeling like this was the only thing I was good at- which, in my mind, meant I should probably stay there forever.

When I started to challenge that belief and take a leap into serving humanity more fully with my own business I found those same parts of me fighting back-
Why isn’t this job good enough for you?
You’re successful, why leave?
You’ve worked SO HARD to build a clientele, now you’re going to throw that all away and start from scratch?
Lots of people don’t even have jobs, and you have one you’re great at- what’s wrong with that?
Why would you want more?

While those parts of me had a point, there was another pull from an increasingly stronger, more positive part of me that had been doing push-ups in the background of my psyche, getting stronger and waiting for me to listen. I’d ignored it for a long time, and I still feel pangs of guilt every now and then because I’m listening to it. This other voice told me to jump ship, it told me I was going to build a life-boat on the way down, it told me I would be more than okay, and it’s currently overjoyed that I’m finally on board.

So- when I arrived at my meeting with my boss to discuss my new business, I secretly wanted him to make my decision for me. I wanted him to tell me I had to choose to work for him OR work for myself.

I wanted to hear him say he didn’t support my adventure and that I most certainly couldn’t stay at his company AND run my own business. That way, in my fantasy, I would have felt FORCED to make a decision, after all, I had spent a good deal of time, energy, and money at this point developing my brand, building a website, and organizing my goals.  It was very clear to me I couldn’t abandon my plan.  It was also very clear (when I was being truly honest with myself), that I didn’t have the energy to do both.  I already felt like I was burning at both ends and I’d barely started.  Why was it so hard to admit this is what I wanted?  Why did I want him to give me an ‘ultimatum’ that would make my choice clear?

Back to my fantasy– my boss would tell me I would have to do one or the other- continue to work for him, or work for myself- and then my ‘choice’ would be clear: I would leave in a wave of passion! Off to follow my dreams! Thanks for not supporting me!! I’ll show you all (including myself) that I can do it – even if I’m not sure I’m ready!

The reality is: my boss didn’t make me choose. His words that day pulled me down from the thought-tornado in my brain back into my body- there I sat in the brown wooden chair at the dimly lit Starbucks, my normally cold hands felt clammy, warm espresso sharpened my senses.

My boss sat across from me that day and behaved like the best kind of boss, mentor, and friend I could ask for – he spent an hour asking about my dream- genuinely curious about my new path.  We explored the ways I could stay with the company AND pursue this other passion -and I’ll never forget the last thing he said after a quick hug goodbye:

Don’t hesitate.

All my doubts about my new adventure deepened. How could I leave? I’m so blessed to be where I am! How could I make this decision?

Taking responsibility for this decision and asking for what I actually wanted was absolutely terrifying for one reason: If I failed, it would be on me.

This curveball from my boss forced me to confront my feelings and take responsibility for my deepest desire: I wanted to start something of my own- and fully commit myself to it.

No one else was going to do this for me, either I was going to do it, or I wasn’t.

I had conveniently forgotten one thing in favor of burying myself in routines and comfortability:

It’s my life.
I always have a choice!
Why do I have to wait for someone else to tell me to leave?  Why would I wait until I feel deeply unhappy to make a change? Why was it that so often in my life I have chosen to stay in situations that no longer served me instead of choosing something, anything different, and why was it so much easier to stick with what I knew, even when it wasn’t really what I wanted?

That’s just it.  Even if I was incredibly uncomfortable somewhere, the familiarity of the discomfort was much less scary than the uncertainty of the unknown.  I know I’m not alone in this- plenty of other people I know would rather stay at a job they hate and complain about it than try to find something different.  It’s a laziness and fear I’m very familiar with.

It’s familiar, but it’s not desirable. Chasing a dream pushes all the boundaries of comfortability, and getting uncomfortable, I’ve found, is just a minor side-effect of growth and change.

I’ve chosen to stay at my job through May to say goodbye to my clients.

I’ve chosen to leave gracefully – I still love working there –  and I’ve chosen not to wait until I’m deeply unhappy.

Most importantly, I’ve chosen to take responsibility for what I want, validate my dreams, and fully commit to them.

What are you choosing for your life?

 

Have you ever stayed in a situation longer than you wanted to?

Why did you stay?

Why did you leave?

How do you handle the discomfort that goes with trying new things?

I’d love to hear your take on this!  Leave a comment below or shoot me an e-mail…

xoxo,
Steph