Giving myself permission to let my career go was the most passionate thing I have ever done. It’s how I found my true calling.
I had the job of my dreams, and I fought hard to get it. I was proud of my career, which filled me with passion and purpose. I loved what I did, and every day I felt like I was thriving. I was good at my job! And I knew it. Until one day, when it didn’t fit anymore. Nothing had changed: the people I helped, my job, my colleagues, or the profession.
But I had changed. I couldn’t do it anymore; I couldn’t thrive in my job. I worried that I had become the problem. And deep down, I was afraid that if I walked away I would be a failure.
The job of my dreams
I was a Canadian living far away from home in Perth, Western Australia. It had been a challenging 10 years of self-discovery and many hardships. I had lost a lot, but I had managed to land on my feet. The job I applied for had over 80 applicants! I remember thinking that there was no way I was being seriously considered, even though I knew the role was made for me. And apparently, so did they, because despite the challenge of a working visa, I got the job.
And so began the role that would define me personally and professionally. I was working for an NGO in the field of social inclusion, and later with a focus on mental health. This role challenged me in ways I didn’t know was possible. It taught me that as the best version of myself, I could reach more people. I was able to take my past personal experience with mental health, and use it to help and support others on their journey. This role gave me the opportunity to become the person I had always wanted to be, personally and professionally.
I didn’t burn out, but I started to fade into the background because I was stressed, overloaded, and overwhelmed. It was keeping me from doing my job at a level that was expected of me, and that I expected of myself. I was no longer relevant. Candidly, I was in the way. Accepting this was devastating because it meant letting go of something I had fought so hard to achieve. My career, my independence, and my self-worth were all tied up in this decision.
When I left to go on my second maternity leave, I knew something was going to have to change. I had a choice to make. I would either go back to the same circumstances I had left, or I would search for something that was the right fit for who I had become. We all know that parenthood changes us, but what we can’t know going into it is how it’s going to change us.
I didn’t see change coming
I hadn’t seen this coming, and it caught me by surprise.
I asked myself a lot of questions during this time I called The Decision. But here were two main points that became deciding factors for me:
- Where did I see myself in this role in 12 months? In five years? Could I see myself feeling differently than I do right now?
- What is my true sense of passion and purpose right now? Could I let go of what it was before, which had been so important to me?
These were not easy questions, and they didn’t have simple answers. But in the end, I had to accept that the path I was on was not the right fit for me anymore.
I realized that right now, to go back to my job or not was a decision. But if I tried to to force myself to pursue a career I no longer wanted, I would eventually burn out completely. In doing so, I would destroy everything I had built.
I accepted the redundancy offered to me, and resigned.
And I have never once regretted it.
It was time for a course correction, because the problem wasn’t me, and it wasn’t the job. My job and I, we were no longer the right fit. It was time I moved on.
Time to course-correct
I was scared, although I had a few ideas, and I had the support of my husband. Still, I was surprised at the number of people in my life who did not support my decision, and who encouraged me to go back part time “because that’s just part of becoming a parent.” It didn’t sit right with me — why should being a parent mean I have to hold onto old dreams? Why does being a parent mean I can’t have a career that fills me with passion and purpose? Do my professional dreams and aspiration have to stay the same even though I’ve changed?
For me, this perpetuated the idea that as a working mother I am professionally “less” than I’d been before. I felt I was being told that I had less to offer, less value, and that I should settle for less. But letting go of something that is no longer the right fit does not make you “less,” or a failure. It’s recognizing that your calling is elsewhere.
The new beginning
On my 40th birthday, I launched my health coaching business. I had spent almost a year studying, enhancing my skills, and learning what I needed to know to add value where my passion now lay. I work with women who are tired of being tired by their life and their career; who crave simplicity when they’re experiencing stress, overload, and overwhelm; who want to find energy and motivation, and be more resilient to the challenges of daily life. I now use my story and experiences as an asset instead of a weakness. I help other women make decisions that best support their health, well-being, and lifestyle, and I have never felt such a strong sense of purpose.
I believe the point of being a late bloomer is not just about choosing to stay in a job, to course correct direction, or to start over entirely. For women in particular, it’s not a question of skill or competency. It’s about allowing ourselves the opportunity to change, to let go of what was once important, and to give ourselves permission to move on to where we will thrive.
Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.
Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.