Have you ever let go of something that simultaneously protects and strangles you; something that both defines you, but also suffocates your evolution? Just like a snake shedding its skin, you have to lose it in order to grow, leaving you vulnerable and exposed in the process.
In 2011 I was a titled investment banking professional with a six-figure income. But I was miserable – I had a positive valuation without feeling valuable. This feeling had been lurking for years, but it was suppressed as my bonuses got progressively larger. Every year I was holding on for just one more pay off before embarking on a voyage of discovery to find the elusive dream career.
Phase 2: Play
A mentor told me to start ‘playing’: go out and find inspiration, remember what I loved as a child and fall in love with it all over again. It seemed counter-intuitive to focus attention on nothing in particular when spare moments were rare enough already, but I took her advice. I started to write again, interviewing local entrepreneurs and creative people just for fun. I found a world brimming with the optimism, authenticity, and fulfillment I was looking for.
I finally left my job in 2011. In hindsight, I was saying goodbye to a large part of myself and hello to a personal vacuum. I lost my foundations. It was ironic that the inability to define myself, or be defined, was just as disconcerting. I decided to ignore the collective wisdom of career coaches and recruiters and openly declared myself a “Professional Spaghetti Thrower.” This resolved the networking conundrum, created a conversation starter, and defined the indefinable. It also gave me breathing space while I tackled the big questions: “What do I want to do?” and, more significantly, “who do I want to be?”
The blank sheet of paper that was now my career could be filled by almost anything – could I summon the guts to dream and act big?
Phase 3: “Have Big Dreams. You Will Grow Into Them.”
As I continue to explore the startup world and nurture ideas for passion projects, I’m relearning an important lesson: whatever I do and whomever I work with have to fit me and not just vice versa. I’m looking for a vocation – not a just a job. I fully expect more skin shedding during my life and now I welcome it in advance. This time, however, the foundational layers are much stronger as my confidence and self-worth are being re-built from the inside out. They need to be because my dreams are getting bigger.
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