One Year Reflections

posted in: Autumn's thoughts | 0

It is all harder than you think.

If there was one piece of advice I could give someone who is thinking of cutting ties to part of their life, such as quitting their job and following dreams, that is what I would tell them. Expect it to be so much harder than you imagined and nothing to work out quite the way you expect. You will doubt yourself, question everything, and feel frozen by too many options – none of which feel like the right way forward.

It might not be what you want to hear.

Quitting your job and heading into the unknown sounds like such an amazing adventure. When people ask what Adam and I are doing and we answer, we get astonishment, envy, good-will, and admiration. But I feel like a fraud because we still aren’t self-sufficient and are living off the portion of retirement I cashed in while warily contemplating dipping into savings. When I read blogs of people who have jumped into similar life altering choices, who are now traveling and look to be enjoying a carefree life, I’m both envious and deeply curious how they heck they make it look so effortless.

Why, after a year, do I feel like our journey hasn’t even begun?

But then I read stories of entrepreneur’s I admire and hear about their initial growing pains. That resonates with me. This is where I am. I’m at a beginning, still, one year in. And maybe it is going so slow because I still have a lot of baggage to sort through that is holding me back.

When you quit your job the way I did, there is a huge sense of freedom. All of those plans Adam and I talked about over the years, the ones we dreamed of doing but put off due to the infeasibility of time, were suddenly possible. The question was what to do first?!

We visited my folks, found it not the place to stay, and finally headed off overland on a journey we’d talked about for years to Labrador and Newfoundland. It was fantastic. Well, not the blackflies in Labrador. They sucked. But it was an amazing last trip for Nemo and an initial first journey into our new life. We came back revved up to sell the house, cut ties to our previous life and problems, and set forth. Meanwhile that same fall, my father was diagnosed with a serious, terminal illness. Adam’s mom was diagnosed with cancer as well. And then we lost Nemo to kidney failure.

Newfound freedom. Potential loss. Immediate loss. The future is never certain.

So after selling the house, instead of heading to Baja as we’d originally planned, I headed to my folks in Pennsylvania while Adam stayed with his parents in Maine. For the first time since meeting each other, Adam and I spent the holidays apart. Ayashe stayed with him and I tried to make up for the lack of a fuzzy loveball in my life by cozying up to my parent’s two dogs. And I focused on building my entrepreneurial business and this new life, beginning with a course I’d dabbled in creating but never had the time to dedicate to making it as good as I wanted it to be.

My father’s illness kept us on the east coast all winter, initiating a decision to spend two moths in Myrtle Beach in a rental where I could work on the course I was developing and be close enough for a trip home if needed. Opportunities to explore the area were dashed by the commercialism (we are not a fan of places called Broadway on the Beach) and a work schedule that had me rarely leaving my computer screen. No kayaking in the nearby marsh though we snuck in a few trips to Brookgreen Gardens and walked on the beach every day. I told myself It would be worth it to finish the course and finally begin making money beyond book sales, which had been dwindling because I hadn’t released a novel for a year. I’m a writer who’d gotten caught up in other projects. I endeavored to set it all back on track in two months while living at the beach.

The craziness of releasing a book, a course, our rental ending, and heading back to my folks for a funeral after the sudden death of an uncle combined with a desire/pressure to get everything wrapped up for a budding hope to hike the AT this summer after a serious medical procedure for my father made April… stressful. It was too much at once without enough time to focus fully on anything.

So is it any surprise that it didn’t all go well?

The course generated a lot of interest, but no sales. Ouch. Seriously ouch. The book launch went well, hitting my highest sales in one day ever despite not a lot of marketing for it either. All the stress and uncertainty about what we were doing hit hard, right on the one year anniversary of my quitting my day job. Irony.

What do you do when you’ve given yourself the freedom to pursue your dreams, when you expect things to fall into place with a fateful snap, and they don’t?

We ended up packing our backpacks and heading to the woods (after some drama and a head cold caught after my father ended up in the hospital a few days). I love hiking. I was envious of a four day, 40 mile journey Adam took on the AT from Harper’s Ferry to Waynesboro. I got my 35 mile, 3 day version. It was hard. It was rewarding, but hard. And, most important, it was a chance to clear my head.

I realized I was frozen and putting off decisions. I am responsible for my own success and failure and, up until now, I’d been working like it would all come together because I built something cool. But I hadn’t done the groundwork to attract the right people. Marketing is my weakness and I couldn’t ignore that fact any longer. I like to throw myself into projects and create some amazing things. But it was time to make sure the project is not just busy work to hide from the fact that my current business plan is “do something and hope it is a success.” Not the best strategy for success, I’ll admit.

We came off the trail with original plans to hike all summer fizzling. For me, hiking for three to four months felt like it was a continuation of avoiding decisions instead of figuring out why this opportunity to create a new life for myself felt like a mistake most days. For Adam, I think he’d like the hike and the quiet time. It is a tough choice to face reality when a small adventure is at your feet.

But for me, now is the time to clean out the baggage I’ve carried since Maine. Time to get rid of the last of the clutter and disorganization, both in stored bins and my business. It is time to create a real business plan, marketing plans, and implement them. Time to stop putting off decisions and start making some. Because waiting for the right answer to appear while second guessing what I’m doing isn’t achieving anything.

And I’d like to achieve something amazing with my life. So I’m going to go do that.