Asking for help

While I’m in the business of following every cliched bit of advice the internet has given me…

I realise I need to ask for help.

I want to start making things happen for my plan but I’m nervous about approaching people to ask questions or ask for help.

So I started this morning by testing out ‘asking’ on my housemate.

Me: “Housemate, I have a plan that looks like this, this and this. Would you mind if I ask for your help with it?”

Housemate: “I’ll help, what can I do?”

Me: “I’m not sure. You’re good at fixing bikes. Could you keep fixing my bike?”

Housemate: “OK”.

Help recruited!

Then I realised that I’m already sitting on a mountain of help. I need to get more, and different kinds of help for my new plan. I also need to pay attention to the help I already have.

My list of helpers (preliminary):

* Housemate. The most stable force in my life. Every time I decide to move out, move countries, change my diet, change my routine, change my life, he stays the same and let’s me tizzy around in his stable orbit.

* Boyfriend. He teaches me what it means to be accepting. It makes me want to tear my hair out. It’s a hard lesson to learn. Which is probably why the universe sent me a teacher in the form of a boyfriend.

* Mum. For believing that I am extra-special. She is also scared that I will mess up my life, but she sees my sparkly qualities when I don’t.

* Friend R. For being on the same journey as I am. We can go weeks without seeing each other and when we get together we realise we’re dealing with exactly the same issues. Reached a pinnacle of work frustration? Me too! Freaking out about money? Me too!

* Friend L. For being on a totally different journey as I am, but seeming to understand the journey anyway. And giving me glimpses from time to time that, actually, maybe our journey’s aren’t that different after all. A reminder that we’re all more similar than we think.

* Friend M. For having the magical ability to just get things done. I don’t know how she does it. I don’t see the inner workings. But stuff happens. Business happens. New websites happen. She reminds me that stuff DOES happen.

* Friend A. For living life with passion. A reminder that you can jump in and you won’t sink, you’ll swim. You might have some close calls, but you can always save yourself.

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I’m afraid

The annoying thing about putting my plan into action is that I seem to have to walk down paths that seem so cliched. They’ve been done before, I’ve read the blog, can’t I skip it already?

I realised with reluctance that I was in a funk because of ‘resistance‘. That felt lame, but true. Now I’m realising that it all comes back to fear. Lame, but true.

Yeah, fear. Common old fear. I know it already. I tell myself that I am afraid of many things but “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

So today I write a list (inspired by Havi) of what I’m afraid of.

* I’m afraid I’m not business-savvy enough to make a go of my plan

* I’m afraid I will just get stuck in yet another boring situation and want to change it shortly after I arrive

* I’m afraid that I think I know what I want but I don’t really know what I want

* I’m afraid that my attitude is the problem. Not the job. Me. I can bring in my new plan but my sucky attitude will mess that up too

* I’m afraid I’m getting caught up in a relationship that’s holding me back and won’t help me implement my plan

* I’m afraid I am selling myself short in life, that I’m settling for less

* I’m afraid that I’m expecting too much in life, that I should be grateful for less

* I’m afraid that what I really need is someone else to help me bring my plan into fruition but I can’t find that person

* I’m afraid of meeting new people who are doing similar things to me. What if I don’t like them and get stuck at horrible “meet-and-greet” events with people who I don’t like and who tell me about all the amazing things they’re doing and I wonder how they manage to make things happen

* I’m afraid that I am incapable of making something happen. Evidence suggests this doesn’t come easily to me. So I’m afraid that the worst thing for me is to rely on myself to make something happen

* I’m afraid that in five years time I will be muddling along and wishing I had just stuck on the path of 9-5 and kept earning decent money. I’m afraid I will be living in a dingy apartment somewhere, juggling bills. I will be even more boring and hopeless than I am today

* I’m afraid that in five years time I will be muddling along and wishing I had just jumped ship and gone overseas again and continued to live an adventure-filled life. I’m afraid I will be living in a dingy apartment somewhere, juggling bills. I will be even more boring and hopeless than I am today.

* I’m afraid that my fears are messing up my perspective.

 

Resistance…I thought I was just hopeless

I have been making great strides towards my next adventure. I have a plan. Which is something. But there are some other strides I’m taking. These strides aren’t very visible from the outside. Not even very visible to me.

But the strides are being made.

I’ve been clearing away trailer-loads of inner-resistance to putting my plan in action.

I knew change would be hard. At first I pretended it wouldn’t be. Then I begrudgingly accepted it would be. 

Now I’m living it.

Unfortunately my resistance looks like garden-variety hopelessness. Despite telling myself I should feel excited about implementing my plan, I just feel mopey.

My plan intermittently seems like the most ridiculous/boring/useless plan. I wonder to myself what I was thinking.

And then my comfortable, well-paying, soul-destroying job rears itself. “Hey, Sarah, why don’t you just stay here a bit longer. You don’t have enough money to leave me yet anyway. When you think about it, you’re so bad with money that you probably shouldn’t walk away from the security I offer you.”

And yesterday the funk came. I just felt hopeless. And despondent. And bored with everything. I came home from the office at a reasonable hour and some time up my sleeve.  Usually I would take the opportunity to work on my plan. But I just didn’t want to. I couldn’t see the point. I’d been thinking about this plan for so long and it still felt exactly 1 million miles away. And it seemed boring. Why would I want to risk everything on something that would be just as boring as everything else?

So I moped. I watched 30 Rock and Portlandia. I drank hot chocolate. I listened to This American Life while I fell asleep. I hated myself for having every opportunity and squandering it all. For being the person who gets in a funk.

Then I woke up and it was not completely better but less funky.

Other times I’ve dug myself out of a funk with some motivational tricks and shortcuts to feeling inspired (pumping up my tires). This time I’m facing up to the funk and saying, “I get it now. You’re the resistance everyone talks about. I’m going to get to know you and move through you rather than try to dodge you.”

So here’s what I know:

I have a plan.

I don’t need to do anymore planning for a while. I’m open to adjustments to the plan. But I don’t need to spend my hours there.

I’m keen to make something concrete happen so I can tell myself, “See, it’s happening!”

I need to notice the strides instead of only noticing how far it all is in the distance.

Wow, changing your life is actually really hard

If the best ideas are the hardest and most scariest to implement, then my idea to leave my 9-5 life is pure genius.

When I told my friends about this idea seven months ago, I knew I would change my mind 100 times (a day). But I really, really, really felt I was on the right track with this idea. So I told them, ‘If I get distracted, remind me that distraction is not an option. This time it is really happening.’

It was so real that I started a blog about it. That way I would be held accountable.

Then I discovered remembered that starting a blog doesn’t mean sh*t.

But like I said in my last post (written three months ago), the good ideas seem to have a habit of bubbling to the surface – even when you do your very best to drown them. Kind of like a beach ball. Or giant plumes of methane in the Arctic Ocean.

There is SO MUCH on the internet about changing your lifestyle. But none of billion blogs and e-books and webinars say how hard it will be. Actually, they probably all say how hard it will be. Then why am I so surprised to learn that it’s so hard?

I have faced sabotage, resistance, well-meaning supporters who only have my best interests at heart suggesting that maybe I should just stick with my current job.

And that’s just the stuff coming from me.

I am getting enormous resistance to my idea to shift out of 9-5 work from friends and family too. Well, I think I am getting resistance. When I told my friend she gave me this really confusing look. I’m pretty sure it was a disapproving look.

I’m getting so much resistance that at the exact time I had earmarked for my departure from my 9-5 job (January 2012), I applied for and was offered a new job in my current office. More pay, more hours, more pressure. But hey, it’s a great job, I have great colleagues, they pay me well. Did I also mention the lingering, inexplicable soul destruction? But hey, you can’t have everything.

My bosses encouraged me to apply for the job. Ah, what a vote of confidence! Wouldn’t it be a great addition to me CV?! Why don’t I just do it for a year or two? It will be great experience. Maybe this new position (which looks exactly like my current position) will be more interesting?

I procrastinated the hell out of submitting my application. I told ANYONE WHO WOULD LISTEN that I didn’t really want to apply for the job. (I was not fun to be around that month. You could have been having heart surgery and I would have made the conversation about me and my problems). I even told my BOSS I didn’t want the job.

I was nudging, begging, pleading for friends and family to say, ‘you know what, don’t apply for the job. If you don’t want it, don’t do it. It’s your life.’

But they didn’t say that. Maybe a couple did. But they also said, ‘what a great opportunity! Just do it for a year or two.’

I knew that all of these people were just being supportive. They probably didn’t even care all that much. But as I forced them into yet another conversation about moi, they answered just exactly how I could have expected them to answer.

And yet, instead of listening to my instincts that said ‘DON’T DO IT! DON’T DO IT! DON’T DO IT!’ I listened to everyone else.

I applied for the job, was offered the job. And – you can see where this is going – accepted the job.

So now, instead of leaving 9-5 I have just signed on to a new job in my same office. The same job, just busier, more boring, more pressure. But they pay me more! Which is good, because I think I’m going to need a therapist.

When you drift away…

I thought this blog was a failure. I thought the idea to chronicle my departure from a 9-5 office job was yet another idea that wasn’t quite right for implementation yet.

But its only been three months since I last posted, which, in the scheme of things isn’t that long at all. This blog is not a lost cause yet! Not even close.

Since I last posted I started having a great time at work, which makes it hard to maintain the resolve to leave. I was getting great projects that were keeping me sustained and energised. I felt valued and recognised as having something to offer my organisation.

Then I was offered a job overseas and all of a sudden it didn’t seem like the right time to be talking about leaving the 9-5. I knew I wanted to one day, but this new job was a bit unconventional and would be a step in the right direction. Sure, it would be 40-60 hour weeks, but it would be great experience.

But the recruitment for the new job has taken the best part of the last three months and I’m starting to wonder whether it’s the right move after all. The job offers adventure and the opportunity to travel which are two big things on my list of “what I want” (this is a real list by the way). But the slow recruitment process, not great pay, security concerns and what I know will be an oppressive lifestyle are causing me to pause and wonder whether I couldn’t get the adventure and travel on more favourable terms.

Slowly….slowly…slowly I’ve come back to this idea of shifting away from a conventional career and finding more space in life for the adventure and the travel and all the other things on my list (e.g. gardens, freedom, cheer.)

I feel comforted that – despite my flittering from one idea to another every 15 minutes – maybe the good ideas stay with me and bubble back up to surface when I’m ready to take some more action.

Maybe my original commitment to take a leap in six months could still happen…

The Artist in the Office – can a book change everything?

When I set out on this journey to leave my full-time office job life behind, I knew it would be hard to stick to my guns.

When I told my walking buddies that I’d made a major decision about the trajectory of my life and that in six months I would leave full-time work, I also told them “So when I change my mind, remind me of this conversation”.

It seemed highly unlikely at the time that I would change my mind – such was the clarity I felt about this decision.

Lo and behold, within a couple of weeks, I was enjoying myself a lot more at work and while I was still keen to make the transition away from full-time work, I could see the cracks starting to show.

Evidence of cracks:

  1. I said to one of my walking buddies, “I need to write a post called, How to Leave Your Job When You Like Your Job“.
  2. Ideas started circulating in my head about boundaries. About the necessity of not feeling owned and controlled by your work. The importance of being able to go home and have a life outside the office that you love. I am truly hopeless at setting these kinds of boundaries – usually to the detriment of my career. I’m pretty sure it was my lack of boundaries that had me calling my mum from under my desk one particularly horrible work day a few years ago. (NB. This is evidence because it shows I’m thinking about ‘how to make the workplace better’ instead of ‘how to escape the workplace’).
  3. I started writing posts like this one about reuniting my fragmented being.

Then, the book happened. I was in a discount book shop with the very same mother who received the call from under my desk. I picked up a copy of Nora Ephron’s I Remember Nothing, but I didn’t feel like buying anything else. I had reached the point that I reach very rarely in my life – I didn’t feel like buying any more books.

My mum picked up a book about happiness and mentioned that it had been a while since she’d read something like this and it might be fun to dip into. I mentioned that all I ever read was books like that and my brain felt read to explode with helpful information for a fulfilling life in which one’s potential is reached.

We went to the counter to buy my mum’s stack of books and my single book. Then I saw, displayed on the counter, The Artist in the Office.

It’s short, simple, nothing in this book totally blew my mind (i.e. the ideas were commonsense). It cost me five bucks.

And yet, it changed EVERYTHING.

The author, Summer Pierre, perfectly articulated the desire to leave the office and get on with the good stuff – and then perfectly articulated all the great stuff about having a job and still getting on with the good stuff.

This is the back and forth I have with my walking buddy who is also a writer who also goes to work full-time. We know work is good in so many ways.

* Don’t have to stress about where the money is coming from (especially good for people who hate thinking about money).

* Have a regular routine that keeps you on the straight and narrow.

* Keeps you connected to the humans – no fear of becoming isolated and out of touch with the world.

The best solution we came up with was the part-time solution – i.e. what this blog is supposed to be about. I don’t want to completely disconnect from formal work, but I don’t want my office job to be my whole life.

Summer Pierre agrees that my office job doesn’t have to be my whole life! But she shows a way the regular job part of the artist’s deal – something to work with instead of something to work against.

Here’s the weird bit – I’ve never, ever, not once in my whole life, every thought of myself as an artist. And yet, this might just be the exact framework I need to reunite my fragmented being.

So thank you very much Summer Pierre, your short book might have just derailed this entire blog.

What if I just need to reunite my fragmented being?

I was just over at She’s Next, and this nifty post from Lissa Rankin caught my imagination. Particularly this bit:

As a practicing gynecologist, a nationally-represented professional artist, teacher, mother and author of the forthcoming book, What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin’s Press, September 2010, with foreword by Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom), Lissa Rankin started a simple blog in 2009 to document her personal quest to integrate all the fragmented facets of her being.

I love the idea of integrating all the fragmented facets of one’s being! I’ve wondered before whether the reason why an office job is not right for me has less to do with the work and more do with my compulsion to shed parts of myself to make it easier to fit into bland office environments. As Liz Lemon said so beautifully, “My work self is suffocating my life me”.

It reminds me of a time last year when I was taking a wonderful class called “Creative Thinking and the Power of Ideas” and we were talking about the need to invest personally in your work to come up with the most meaningful and creative ideas – I got so excited that I scribbled in giant letters across a page in my diary “TAKE MY WHOLE SELF TO WORK”. It occurred to me that I shouldn’t have to leave the creative and slightly silly Sarah at home, and in fact she might be the secret to my success in the office.

This idea resonated so deeply that I ended up writing about it in my final essay and found some fascinating parallels with Marx’s theory of alienation.

I will happily keep reading Lissa Rankin’s powerhouse of personal integration at www.owningpink.com and see whether that might just be the unexpected key to avoiding being a corporate sell-out.