On today’s blog, my adorable friend Jess Witkins has stopped by to share her story of taking the plunge from living a life of drudgery to living life on her terms. From time to time, I’m going to share stories like hers because I think it’s so important to remind ourselves that it is indeed possible to make the changes in our life that we so deeply desire.
And for those who are wondering where the heck I’ve been and how my “Year to Live” has been going, I’ll have updates in the weeks to come.
Jess, take it away!
Hello Everyone! I’m so honored Ingrid asked me here. She’s been such a phenomenal friend and confidante, even acting as a beta reader for me on my book. When she asked me to share my story, about quitting my job and taking the blind leap into the unknown, I said YES!
Here’s my wild adventure, gory details included. ;)
For six years I worked in retail for a large department store. It’s identity shall not be named in order to protect the damned. I started working there in college, and after graduation, I freaked about becoming an “adult.” So I took a full time position at the store and bragged to my dad that I finally had health insurance.
I’m Such a Grown Up!
In a matter of months, I earned my way up the chain to being the top Sales Manager in the store. I oversaw all the commission sales departments and had a team double the size of any of my peers. We all had to wear multiple hats in our roles, so I also oversaw all our fundraising and new hire training.
I was good at my job. I just wasn’t happy.
I had not dreamed of being a Sales Manager. Far from it! I dreamed of being Anne of Green Gables, writing lavish love stories much too great for the likes of baking powder companies.
“Cordelia, you have an exquisite alabaster complexion.”
But I digress…
For years I tried to apply for different jobs, transfers, and nothing ever synced. My mental state was fried. I would come home from work crabby and do nothing but vent. I tried getting back into hobbies, like writing. I started blogging, which helped, but I never made any headway on my book.
The Last Straw:
When we got a new store manager, things took a turn for the worse. She was a first time store manager, and instead of acting as a mentor, was more like a school marm. She criticized a lot if things weren’t done her way.
My friends and family had told me to quit multiple times. But what would I do financially? Where would I go? All I’m trained in now is sales!
At some point though, enough is enough. I can’t pick out one moment; it’s more like my moment was tied up in years of moments – folding sweaters, calling about credit card complaints, and getting people the next size up in shoes.
I took the wildest leap of my life and turned in my resignation…with no back up plan.
My brilliant idea was to return to school for a Master’s in writing. The problem was that I had already missed the deadline for enrollment, which meant waiting another year.
But I went to a writers conference, which thankfully I had paid for while still employed, and boasted of my great plans to return to school!
One of the writers at the conference asked me WHY I was going back to school. Did I want to become a teacher? – No. Did I want to become an editor or start my own publishing house? – No.
All I wanted to do was write books.
“You know you don’t need a Master’s Degree for that, right?” she said.
And she was right.
A Drastic Change of Plans:
Over the next several months, my lifestyle changed. I was unemployed and racking up debt on my credit card, but I was writing. I used the time off to plant my butt in a chair and finish the first draft of my book, a feat I had never before accomplished.
I also filled out more applications, revised more resumes, and did more interviews than I can keep count of.
I’ll be the first to tell you it wasn’t easy. Financially, it was the most difficult time of my life, putting additional stress on my relationship as well as my bank account. I know that I am fortunate this all worked out in the end.
I did have to take what I call an “in the meantime” job to get by. Despite my years of leadership experience, I accepted a manager in training position with a chain company. The hours were nothing like they promised me, working sometimes until 1am. And I kid you not, at the Leadership Training with the Regional Manager, he spent the first half of the day discussing the importance of using a planner!
What was different about this job than my last was that I knew this was temporary. It was a survival job until I found the right job, which did come. I reached out to a few college mentors of mine to see if they knew of any openings, and one of them got back to me that she was looking for a new Executive Assistant.
Paving a New Path:
The rest is history, as they say. I accepted the Executive Assistant role and began my newly balanced lifestyle that included both work and writing.
I still have to remind myself that while I may not be moving forward as fast as I like, I’m a lot closer than I was before. Sure I’m still paying off debt, and that’s hard, but I can see and touch my dream of being a writer now. And that’s something I’ll never give up again.
Tell me about your dreams!
What things have you had to give up or overcome to pursue them?
Jess Witkins claims the title Perseverance Expert. From party crashing as an Oops Baby to paving her way through pop culture, Jess explores it all. Her special skills include: pretending to be an orphan, severe allergic reactions to the sun, having an I-Tunes collection full of 90′s Hits, and quoting movie lines from the Oscar winning film, Spaceballs. You can catch more Jess at her blog, Jess Witkins’s Happiness Project or on Twitter, @jesswitkins.