how to quit your job – 5 steps

If you want to quit your job, you are like a staggering number of people in America today. CBS News recently reported that only 45% of US workers find their jobs satisfying. And that’s lowest rate ever recorded in the 22 years they’ve been studying the issue.

If you aren’t happy at your job, why not take the plunge? Yes, there are risks. Yes, it can be scary. But quitting your job to pursue something that makes you happier and more fulfilled is never riskier and scarier than the alternative: remaining stuck a mindless cycle of dreading every day and complaining over a tub of ice cream or a bottle of wine every night.

I quit my job and lived to tell the tale. I worked as a grouchy office assistant for many boring years and it made me want to commit mass murder. I was the ugliest version of myself when I worked at that job. I was dismissive, short-tempered, difficult and I loved rolling my eyes behind people’s backs. (Okay, I still do that.)

Now, 7 months after quitting, I’m happier and more hopeful than I’ve been in years. I might even be a little smarter too. I’m not an expert, I’m just someone who’s been through it and come out thriving on the other side.

The list I’m about to share might seem simple. That’s on purpose. No matter what we may have been led to believe by maybe our parents, our culture, or our bank accounts, quitting your job is simple.

Scary? Risky? Non-traditional? Maybe.

Rocket science? Absolutely not.

Here’s how I did it:

1. Decide WHY. I knew I felt unhappy at my job, but I had to determine exactly why, or I wouldn’t know what I was aiming to fix.

Start by asking yourself why you don’t like the work you do. Is it the people? The atmosphere? The work itself? Is it you? Are you making the situation worse than it is?

Be honest and specific. Make sure you truly know why you want to quit.

2. Decide WHAT. What next? New office? Home office? New career entirely? New city? Decide what you want out of your new lifestyle. If you already know what you want to do – great! You’re well on your way.

For some people, deciding what’s next is the hardest part. Just remember, it doesn’t have to happen right away. Spend some time paying attention to details about yourself that you might not always consider. Like, do you like walking to work? Do you mind commuting? Do you want to work with people, or by yourself? Ask friends and family to tell you where they think your strengths lie. There’s information in those details. Take the time to figure it out.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do next when I set out to quit. I knew I wanted to work for myself, have more control over my own schedule, feel creative, productive and active. It took me about a year to mold that into a career direction. Once I quit my job, I ended up opening an online bakery, becoming a freelance writer and focusing more on my comedy career. And I’m still growing and changing all the time.

3. Decide WHEN. Give yourself a goal date. This helped me tremendously. When I was 27 years old I promised myself that I would quit my desk job by the time I turned 29. When that date rolled around a year and a half later, I briefly considered NOT quitting yet – maybe I could save more money, maybe it wasn’t the right time?

Ultimately, though, I knew I owed it to myself meet the deadline I’d set. When I really thought about it, a new reality was already within reach…so why not go for it? It was the right move. It got me out of a job that I could have stayed in my whole life.

What will it take to get to the next step? Classes? Networking with a new group of people? Delving deeper into a hobby to discover how you might be paid to do what you love? Determine what smaller steps you’ll need to take between now and then. Then set a deadline and commit to it.

4. Save money. From the moment you decide you want to quit your job – in fact, even if it’s just an inkling in the back of your mind – start saving money. Check out my article “10 ways to save for a desk job escape,” which I wrote a few weeks before I quit. Cut corners when you can and trust that you are building an essential nest egg to help fuel your journey outta the doldrums.

My savings was account one of the best things I did for myself. I was able to pull in new income shortly after my desk job ended, but I needed that savings to float me through a few tough months later on and to make ends meet along the way. I was really amazed at how far it took me.

5. Commit to yourself. This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. If you want to quit your job, only your commitment to doing so will make it possible. People who decide to change their lives actively change them, they don’t sit around waiting for it to happen. Lay the traps, write the plans, shake off the fear, bide your time – yes. But after that time is up, take action. There will definitely be days when it feels like a big mistake, the wrong decision, the path of most resistance. On those days, return to the WHY and the WHAT to strengthen your resolve.

You’ll never know what can be if you don’t follow your bliss. Go for it.

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failure and living well

I was flipping through the May 2010 issue of Oprah Magazine last night (Yes, I read it. No, I’m not embarrassed about that.) And I came across this article all about failure and living well, written by Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Committed.”

The whole piece is a great, quick read that I think every woman should read. Click here for the full article.

Here’s an excerpt:

By all rights, every one of these clever, inventive women should be radiant with self-satisfaction. Instead, they twitch with near-constant doubt, somehow worrying that they are failing at life…(And) all of them worry that they need to lose 10 pounds.

It’s terribly frustrating for me to witness this endless second-guessing. The problem is, I do it, too. Despite having written five books, I worry that I have not written the right kinds of books, or that perhaps I have dedicated too much of my life to writing, and have therefore neglected other aspects of my being. (Like, I could really stand to lose 10 pounds.)

So here’s what I want to know: Can we lighten up a little?

As we head into this next decade, can we draft a joint resolution to drop the crazy-making expectation that we must all be perfect friends and perfect mothers and perfect workers and perfect lovers with perfect bodies who dedicate ourselves to charity and grow our own organic vegetables, at the same time that we run corporations and stand on our heads while playing the guitar with our feet?

I loved this article – again, I recommend reading the whole thing – and I couldn’t agree with her more.

Try, just for a minute, to believe that everything you do and have right now is already exactly perfect. That your life today is as good as it’s ever going to get – that you will never exercise more than you do today, never be more organized, never use up your groceries any more efficiently, never fight with your spouse more constructively – the way you are today is how you will be forever.

Sure, it sounds boring and stifling. Because we are humans who thrive off growth and change. But isn’t there part of it that seems like a little bit of a relief?

We put so much pressure on ourselves to CONSTANTLY be improving, growing, changing, losing weight, gaining friends, making career advancements, having our laundry done, keeping the bathroom clean and fitting into our skinny jeans that the idea of turning off that motor for an afternoon (or a lifetime) has its merits.

I’m not saying we should stop striving. Striving is part of what it means to be a woman in today’s culture.

I’m saying we should be a whole lot nicer to ourselves about the whole game.

new shoes?

I miss having money!

The bakery did very well over the holidays so my income didn’t change much at all in the months after I left my job. The bakery is still doing well, but it’s not the holiday season right now, which is always the most lucrative time of year for a bakery. So I’m now trying to make ends meet. And I miss having expendable income! Having a salary was fun. I didn’t care for everything that came with it, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to missing it now that it’s gone. I was marveling the other day that there was once a time when I was receiving regular and relatively large sums of money (a paycheck) with complete predictability. That was nice.

Opening a business is a different animal than working at a job that gives you a salary.

I wouldn’t change anything, don’t get me wrong. I’m still loving running Fanny & Jane. I enjoy the baking very much, I enjoy all the aspects of it, really. But I’ve decided to get another job in addition to operating the bakery so that making ends meet is even easier. I wanna have fun with money again! I wanna buy shoes sometimes! Right now, a splurge feels irresponsible. If I had additional income, a splurge might feel deserved. I also wouldn’t feel so guilty about eating dinner out sometimes, or taking a few trips this year.

So, tonight, I went on an interview! The reason it was at night is because it was for a late night shift of – what else – baking! I interviewed and had a trial-run to be a part-time batter maker for another bakery. I had fun! Should they call to offer me the job, I don’t plan to take it because the pay is just not enough, the hours are a little nutty and it involves coming home very very late at night from a kind of sketchy section of Brooklyn, something I’m just not comfortable doing.

So the search for the part time job continues. But having the interview itself was a blast. I got to bake for an hour in a big kitchen, making gigantic batches of cake – batches much larger than we ever make for Fanny & Jane. I loved it and it reaffirmed for me how much I enjoy baking and also how much I enjoy being active while I’m working.

I’ve decided that the key to my getting this job is lifestyle compatibility. How compatible will the job be with my current lifestyle. It’s important to me that I don’t make any rushed choices and end up with a job I dislike, with hours that aren’t good for me, in a neighborhood that’s far away. That’s exactly the job I just came from last fall. So I’m focusing on interviewing for stuff that I can really see myself enjoying, doing well and something that will fit into the life I’m still building. The bakery remains a huge priority, obviously.

So let’s see what comes my way! My interview tonight was an exciting reminder of the possibilities available to me right now. Including the possibility of new pants or a new scarf.

happiness is a state of mind

I’ve been thinking a lot about this entry today, the one I wrote the day I quit my job.

I’ve been thinking about how much has changed for me since September 1, 2009.

My life is no longer monotonous like it was back then.

And I’ve decided to start standing up to the people that have chosen to judge me.

I spend more time doing the things I love, like taking yoga class more often, going for walks and jogs when the mood strikes me, and spending more time with my friends.

I’ve also had to continue to make tough decisions, like taking a break from my beloved sketch comedy group because I know it’s the best thing for me right now. And dealing with the unnecessary guilt that accompanies a choice like that.

I’ve confronted incredible challenges with my new business, the bakery Fanny & Jane. And learned a lot about what it means to be a small business owner, someone who works for herself and makes her own schedule – things I dreamed about having before I had them, and things I sometimes now wish I could trade back in for just a day.

I’ve also been blessed with exciting success and progress on this company’s journey. Those little steps boost me up every day. And every time I get an email from someone who’s sampled and loved our stuff, or every time we land a new account, attract a new customer, or come up with a smart new marketing idea, I feel inspired and re-invigorated. I don’t have kids, but I can only imagine, as I’ve said before, that starting a new business probably feels, in some small (and much less significant) way, challenging, terrifying, exciting and rewarding in a similar fashion.

But more than all of that stuff, more than the lessons, the joys, the mornings of sleeping in, the evenings of staying out late, the days of eating lunch on my own schedule, more than the excitement and stress of being the captain of my own ship, I have learned one singular thing that stands above everything else:

That old job, that desk job that I blogged for months about leaving, and planned for weeks to escape from, did not make me happy. NOR did it make me unhappy.

Only I control my happiness. My circumstances do not.

I knew that all along, but it’s been really hammered home for me in these last several months during which I”ve been “living the dream,” so to speak.

I am just as occasionally grouchy and stressed out as I was then. I am just as occasionally joyful for no reason and excited about the little things as I was then. I have different stressors now, and I have different challenges. I struggle with different issues and different concerns. I also have new sources of contentment and some of the same old ones.

In essence: I am the exact same person. I just wear pajamas more often. I am just as happy, sad, confused, eager, frustrated, conflicted and optimistic as I always was.

Is that disappointing to hear? I hope not. It’s the truth. The truth is what we all know to be true – happiness is a state of mind.

Duh.

unnecessary guilt

So, I want to talk about guilt.

I’ve been experiencing some lately.

We just spent the last week powering through the Valentine’s Day season for Fanny &  Jane. We’re not done yet, there will still be deliveries to make in NYC over the next few days and more sweets to bake for more upcoming orders, but the bulk of our V-Day season is behind us. WHEW. The East Coast is experiencing a massive snowstorm today and Kevin and I are both very grateful to be curled up on the couch taking a momentary break right now while the snow piles up outside. We’ve been working nonstop for the last several days. It wasn’t anything close to the insanity that was the Christmas season, but it’s still been a lot.

With the increase in busy-ness for the business, for which I certainly did anticipate and plan, but for which one can never plan perfectly, I’ve had to let some other normal life things fall to the wayside. Not surprising. And really, that’s going to be the nature of this lifestyle for me for a while. There will be busy times and less busy times. There are times of each month when people wants sweets and times when sweets aren’t quite as desired. And I have to be flexible in order to respond to that demand. Sometimes I will have very little going on and I’ll be able to spend an afternoon reading a book or watching What Not To Wear. But other times, I will be so busy that I can’t make it to rehearsals or shows or I will have to cancel plans with friends or I won’t be able to sit down to eat three square meals a day because there’s just not enough time. It’s hard to learn to adjust to that reality, to learn to plan properly and give myself enough time, but it’s my reality, for better or worse, with all it’s imperfections and joys.

So this is where the guilt comes in. I’m still learning how not to feel terrifically guilty about the way my lifestyle right now might be impacting other people or other commitments I’ve made to myself.

For instance. I did not realize when I started this 30 Day Yoga Challenge that the Valentine’s Day rush would happen right at the end of it. Therefore, I’ve missed two days of my 30 Day Challenge. UGH. Of course, that’s no big deal in the grand scheme of my life. And stressing out over missing two days is exactly the opposite of what I’m hoping to achieve with the yoga challenge. NATURALLY, I’m human and it’s not surprising that this happened. I own a bakery and it’s almost Valentine’s Day. Duh. Also, I’m not a robot and I’ve never been an over-achiever. But it’s very difficult for me not to feel guilty and disappointed in myself because I can’t reconfigure time and invent a 27-hour day.

Another area in my life about which I’ve been feeling guilty is my comedy stuff. As I’ve mentioned many times, I do improv and sketch comedy four nights a week, and have been doing so for years. I love it, it’s fun and rewarding and makes me feel happy and joyful. But it’s also a big time commitment. And sometimes I can’t make it to rehearsals and sometimes, the most responsible move for my business would be for me to skip a show. I do that when I absolutely must, but I can’t do it all the time or it would be unfair to my teammates, who do the best they can to show up every week.

I certainly don’t think my life is busier or more stressful than anyone else’s. But this is all still very new to me – running this business, growing it, learning how to own a company and market a product and turn a profit. I’ve never done any of it before and it’s easily one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but ooboy I’m in deep, wonderfully, terrifyingly deep. It is hard for me not to feel guilty when my business takes over my world for two weeks and I have to cancel and skip every activity on my calendar.

For that reason, I’ve decided to take three to four months off from Harvard Sailing Team, my sketch comedy group. This was an incredibly difficult decision, since those people are my family, and since we’ve been doing shows together and seeing each other twice a week for five years. A few of us have taken several months off throughout the years to pursue other stuff, so it’s not a huge departure from the norm, but it’s still tough. I wrote them all an email last night announcing my little decision and then wondered if I’d made the right choice right after I sent the email. But the reality remains that I’m having trouble balancing it all. I’m late to rehearsals because I didn’t anticipate the hour-long line at the post office (Piece of advice? Always plan for an hour-long line at the post office.), I forget to respond to emails because I’m not on the computer as much as I used to be and stuff gets lost in the shuffle, I can’t focus quite as intently during practices and shows because I’m thinking about what I need to do for the bakery as soon as I’m done.

So it’s time to step back, take a break, and figure out how to balance this all. I know a lot of what will solve my stress is more planning ahead, determining a more realistic time frame for how long it takes, for instance, to wait in line at the post office. But I haven’t learned how to do it all yet. And I don’t see myself learning quickly if I don’t give myself some space to do so. Taking a few months off, which is really such a short period of time and is going to absolutely fly by, will be a good way to move a few items off my To Do List and clear my head space a little bit. It’s scary and hard and I’m sure I’m going to miss the hell out of it – I joked with my friend and teammate Clayton today on the phone that I’m probably going to be standing outside the window of their rehearsal room one night a month from now with my face pressed up against the glass – but I know this is a decision I’m making for my mental wellness.

It was either make this choice to take some time off, or feel guilty more often than not about my inability to do it all.

I’m not sure that guilt serves anyone. It doesn’t serve me to be upset with myself for missing two days of my yoga challenge. And it doesn’t serve me to feel badly for not being able to reconfigure the postal system so that it runs more efficiently. I am a good person and I do the best I can do. There are simply things that are out of my control. I can only pray for patience and understanding from my friends and family and, more importantly, from myself.

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

summertime and movie rentals

The first week back to a normal workaday schedule was a relatively productive week in my life, considering it’s January. I was able to cross a few major items off the list and to use my time wisely. I took a handful of yoga classes, all of them really lovely. And I worked toward eating in a less holiday way and a more fruits and vegetables style.

I’m reminded how important it is for me personally to really take it easy during these frigid winter months. I’m literally already ready for summer. The chill in the air is fine with me when we’re doing festive holiday stuff, but the moment it turns bitterly cold, or the moment it turns January 1, whichever comes first, I’m done.

Also, and I’ve said this before, I’m cold all the time. In the apartment on the couch with a space heater, two blankets and two long sleeved shirts on, I’m cold. I feel cold in my bones, like I can’t get warm unless I heat my blood up by immersing my body in hot water.

Am I being dramatic? Maybe. But when Kevin and I were at the store the other day and he suggested to me that he buy me a heated blanket, I almost started crying because imagining how good a heated blanket would feel was almost too much to bear. (We might get one. The one he pointed out was way too expensive.)

So, the point is, take it easy in January if you hate January like I hate January. Okay, it’s not that I hate it. It’s just that it’s so damn cold. And I’m already ready for summer.

This upcoming week shall be another productive but relaxing one. I plan to take another three or four yoga classes (maybe a hot yoga! makes me warm!), I plan to eat more healthy foods, I plan to bundle up when I’m outside and to snuggle onto my couch when I’m home. Maybe I can talk Kevin into a few movie rentals this week.

Where the hell does one rent movies anymore? I think all the Blockbusters around here are out of business. And Netflix takes a couple days to arrive.

What happened to the world of the instant movie rental?

Have a nice Monday!

resolution #2

A few days ago, I shared one of my four resolutions for the year – to take loving care of myself.

My second resolution is – get this – to only weigh myself once a month.

I weigh myself too much. Period. I actually don’t *feel* like it’s negatively affecting me. But I do know that if I had my druthers, I’d probably weigh myself at least once a day, on average. And part of me thinks that’s too much. Once a day seems like too much. For ME.

So I’m gonna give a whirl, this year, to only weighing myself once each month and to see how it helps or hinders me.

As many of you are well aware, when I was in my late teens/early twenties, I weighed 265 pounds. I’m 5’5. I was so heavy, and it felt so miserable. When I was 21, I started to lose weight and over the course of two to three years, I lost 115 pounds. I’ve maintained my weight loss, more or less (within ten pounds) since then. That was seven years ago.

I certainly struggle with occasional overeating. I have to always remind myself to listen to my body and my hunger and to avoid simply consuming too many calories without burning enough off. At parties where there is food, I’m challenged. After dinner when I’m feeling snacky, I feel challenged. On a daily basis, I eat healthy foods, stuff that’s good for my body and my immune system. I also, probably once a day at least, eat something that’s not that healthy. No big deal. Gotta have a cookie sometimes.

I exercise regularly and I live in New York City, so even when I don’t consciously workout, I’m still moving around. The intensity of my exercise routine waxes and wanes in the course of a year. Sometimes I’m gung-ho, getting something in six times a week. Sometimes I can only fit in three or four workouts and sometimes a couple of them are mediocre. For years my routine was a combination of cardio, weight training and pilates. For the last year or so though, I have almost exclusively run/walked and done yoga. My yoga practice has become a key part of my weight maintenance. Plus, I like it a lot more than lifting weights or doing pilates.

As a soldier and survivor of a major weight loss battle, I have a ton of tools, tricks and rules that I use to help myself stay on track, and for the most part, it all works pretty well. I am convinced that I could never return to a lifestyle that supports morbid obesity. When you are that overweight, you live a lifestyle that supports it, otherwise you wouldn’t be that overweight. Fast food was often a staple of my diet. Oh yeah and I felt like shit all the time. Seriously, you guys. Ugh.

I now know that that was a phase I went through. And although I will always want nachos, I will never have a bad weight problem like that again in my life.

A couple times a year, I gain a few pounds, but I always lose it. And I’ve recently heard that that’s natural, that women especially will do that throughout their lifetimes, fluctuate between a 10-20 pound range.

A-duh.

So my goal is to finally get that through my head this year. To finally live the truth that even THINKING ABOUT THAT STUPID NUMBER is such a waste of brain space for me. At least that’s what I anticipate I’ll learn about myself at the end of the year – but maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll realize weighing myself often was the way to go all along.

We’ll see!

resolution #1

I’ve made a few resolutions. Do you make resolutions? I guess I always do. I find it’s important to choose a few attainable goals. And then celebrate when you achieve them!

I have four resolutions this year. The one I’m going to write about today is that I resolve to take loving care of myself.

When Kevin and I were visiting the midwest, we bought so much stuff! We went shopping several times and got new shoes, bags, coats, clothes, books – we got stuff on sale! It was great. I don’t like to focus on material things, I recognize the temporary cheer they cause and I recognize that that eventually goes away, because that’s not the stuff that really matters anyway.

But it sure is fun for a few days, right? To have new bracelets or new shoes. I’m wearing new clothes and have been since Christmastime, and it’s lovely. I got a sweet new purse that I’m crazy about. And I’m going to soak up the couple weeks I get to really enjoy that purchase before I grow bored of it because purses don’t matter anyway.

One of the ways I took care of myself over the holiday break was by buying myself some new essentials. I also took care of myself by exercising occasionally (not as much as I wanted to, but I’ll come back to that in a moment…), by eating three squares a day, something I hadn’t done at all in the few weeks before vacation began. I slept a solid 8 hours a night, I had valuable conversations with my favorite family members and caught up with a bunch of old friends. I took care of myself.

In 2010, I resolve to continue to do that in all the areas of my life. I want to keep active and healthy, by moving a little every day and eating meals that aim to be kind to my body and kind to the environment. I want to sleep well and enough. I want to trust my instincts, not second guess myself too often, and have faith in myself. I want to get my focus off the details and let things unfold as they will. I want to take care of myself. I think it’s important.

Part of that concept, for me, includes limiting some of the negative chatter my brain feeds me all the time. You know the voice, the one that caused me to write above, “…not as much as I wanted to,” about how much I exercised over the break. What the hell is that about? I could’ve not worked out at all. But I did.

And I could have eaten much, MUCH more food than I did. As it was, I indulged at times and didn’t plenty of times too. But still, I gave myself a finger wag about how much I was eating time and again. WHY?! We do we do that? It’s nuts. It’s just not worth it.

I’m human. I will overeat and oversleep and be alive. And I will also sometimes skip meals and not rest enough and try to do it all. So as I work to find balance, I’m also going to work to shut up that nasty voice in my head that literally wants to criticize my every move. Because all that does it cause extra work for me.

I’d like to encourage all of us to stop the self-criticism. It’s good to be self-aware, but there’s no need to get all over your own case about the whole adventure. Take loving care of yourself! If you won’t, who will?

the last day

Picture 112

This post has been over a year in the making.

Today’s the day. The big day. The last day at my desk job. I’ve anticipated this day more than I’ve anticipated my birthday this year. (And I love birthdays.)

But I’m feeling some unexpected things!

I’m feeling scared.

Now, I consider myself a brave young lady. I’ve been through some complicated, grown up stuff in my life, all of which has taught me to be courageous in the face of almost anything. So I’m shocked, frankly, to feel scared today.

Maybe scared is the wrong word. Maybe I’m anxious. Anticipating. Questioning. Feeling nervous.

A million questions have been running through my mind in the last 48 hours: Was this the right decision? Is this the right timing? Am I going to miss my coworkers? I only really enjoy the company of a few of them! Is that only because of my attitude? Am I going to miss the busy work? Maybe it’s good for me to have busy work! How am I going to KNOW what to DO?! Why didn’t I figure it out more specifically? What progress have I made in the last year that makes today a more logical day to quit than this day last year? Why didn’t I stay on through the holidays? What if I end up in another office job? NO. THAT CAN’T HAPPEN.

Madness. I know. And I also know that these feelings of mine will shift, change and grow and in the next few weeks, days, and even hours. So I’m not genuinely worried that I’ve made a terrible mistake.

But change can be very scary.

I’ve said before that I didn’t start writing this blog to share only the wonderful, exciting parts of making a huge life change. I started this blog to share the journey. And journeys are, by their very nature, all over the map. So here we are.

Earlier this week, I was very fortunate to have so many of you warmly receive my article about Kath Younger from Kath Eats Real Food. And after I posted it, I ended up “meeting” a few insightful people who I may not have otherwise met, including a popular blogger named Angela, who writes a beautiful, inspiring blog called Oh She Glows. Oh She Glows is about Angela’s journey to pursue a lifelong dream of starting her own healthy bakery and also about her passion for healthy living. I discovered her lovely blog just in time.

Today, she’s written a post that is subtitled “Knowing Yourself Is The Beginning of All Wisdom,” which is a quote that her mother had inscribed on the outside of a beautiful time capsule she gave to Angela as a graduation present. Inside the gorgeous wooden box, there were pictures, notes and a letter from her mother, all about how important it is to stay true to yourself and to live a life that fulfills you, while never taking for granted the simple joys of being human. It was a lovely gift from her mother and I’m so glad Angela shared it today.

Near the end of today’s post, Angela writes:

When I first read (the letter from my mom), I didn’t really know how to apply it to my current situation. I felt stuck in a job where I was unhappy and I felt like I was destined to do work that I didn’t really enjoy. Perhaps, this letter planted the seed for me though.

Reading it over last night, everything sort of clicked for me.

Over the past 8 months, I have learned these lessons. I have learned that money doesn’t bring happiness and it sure as hell won’t give you self-esteem or character. I have learned that being true to myself is possibly one of the most beneficial things that I could ever achieve. I have learned that if you do something you love and are passionate about, the money will eventually follow.

She then goes on to describe how she used to be a guarded person, because she felt that showing her true, sensitive side was discouraged by other people, especially in a workplace atmosphere. She explains that she finally felt free when she decided to take her walls down, let herself be vulnerable and use her strengths and abilities to her advantage, instead of hiding them. She says:

I now believe that one of the keys to pursuing your dreams is to let go of all those walls. Stop hiding who you are because society is telling you to be someone who you are not. Each and every one of us has some unique ability to share with others. A way that we can contribute and feel that our purpose for life is fulfilled.

This was exactly what I needed to read this morning. In a rush, the reason I decided long ago to leave this job and find a lifestyle and a career more suitable to who I am came flooding back to me.

Sure, I could work at this company for years, for the rest of my life if I wanted to. And I’d be financially comfortable, I’d have health insurance and I’d take my two weeks of vacation every year, chat with my coworkers from time to time, and immerse myself in my hobbies during my free time. And there is nothing wrong with that path. That might be the perfect life for someone. It sounds quite content, in many respects.

It just doesn’t appeal to me, personally. I hate sitting in one place all day, I like to be creative, to be innovative, to have new experiences all the time, to stretch myself and grow and learn and change. And I want my career, where I spend the bulk of my waking hours, to reflect those interests. Unfortunately, this job, and others like it, can’t offer me that. Angela wrote, “Stop hiding who you are because society is telling you to be someone you are not.”

Thank you for writing that post today, Angela. It helped me shake myself out of my nervous place.

I decided long ago to embrace that I’m not meant to be an office worker. It might offend some people. It might not be the easiest thing I’ve ever done. It might not be the most financially safe thing I’ve ever done.

But the choice to embrace precisely who I am is the greatest gift I could give myself right now. Nothing else in this world will make me happier than being myself. That is one thing I know for sure. Knowing that, and being reminded of it by Angela’s post, has taken some of my fear away this morning.

And lastly, as if there aren’t enough good vibes flowing around me already today, my darling boyfriend just sent me an amazing email, one that he typed on his blackberry no less, probably while sitting in a busy bagel shop. What a guy. He’s honestly the best guy I know. He wrote:

I love you and am inspired by you, please remind yourself of how many
others you’ve inspired and enjoy this day you’ve given yourself. You
took action in September when you quit, you’re taking action today by
committing to it being your last day and in the coming weeks you will
be taking daily action to produce the working life that you desire. Be
proud, be strong and own it, baby!

I’m so lucky to have him.

Perhaps all my entries leading up to today, and today’s entry, and the big night out with margaritas, Mexican food and great friends that’s happening tonight (YES!), is all together too much fanfare for quitting one’s dumb job. But it’s my fanfare. And I’m so blessed to get to have this awesome experience.

Thank you all for your insight and encouragement. Because of the incredible support I’ve received from all of you through this blog, and in my real life, one of the goals I set out to achieve when I started follow my bliss almost a year ago has been achieved today. And this is only just beginning! Stay tuned to see what happens next. Here we go!

YAAAY!!

my interview with kath younger

The story of a young woman who quit her job and ended up somewhere she never expected.

In 2007, Kath Younger took a leap of faith from an unfulfilling desk job to pursue something that made her happier. She decided to go back to school to study nutrition. But she had to find the money to make it happen somehow. And even more intimidating was that she had to “start all over,” as she described it, by taking required courses that she dreaded, and attending classes with brand new freshman who were in much different places in their lives than she was.

But she did it. She quit her job, enrolled in school, and started down a new path. And then she found something completely unexpected and incredibly rewarding along the way. She found something that she didn’t set out to achieve, something that has not only changed her experience of returning to school, and has supported her financially while she studies, but something that has also changed how she views her potential career as a dietitian and nutrition expert. Kath Younger, who quit a job she disliked in search of something greater, has become a nationally renowned food blogger and freelance writer.

The first photo I ever saw on Kath’s blog was of a bowl of oatmeal. I remember it well – it was a creamy cup of luscious looking oats topped with blueberries, granola and – is that peanut butter? This girl is after my own heart, I thought, remembering the sideways glance my boyfriend had given me that very morning while I ate a tablespoon of chunky organic PB right out of its jar.

It’s fitting that my introduction to Kath’s website would include a bowl of her classic multi-topping oatmeal because she is, after all, The Oatmeal Queen of the Blogosphere. (That’s not an official title.)

Breakfast-creator and blogger credentials aside, Kath is a young woman who lives in Charlotte, NC, attends Winthrop University in pursuit of becoming Registered Dietitian and achieving a masters degree in human nutrition, and lives with her husband, Matt, who is a baker and a beer-maker. (He writes about his love for making bread and beer on his blog Brew and Bake.)

You don’t need to spend much time on her site, Kath Eats Real Food, to understand what she does. (Although, once you’re there, you won’t want to leave!) Kath blogs about every single thing she eats. From a bite of a banana before a morning run, to an incredible looking Christmas dinner with her beautiful family, to the wine and cheese picnic she and her adorable husband laid out for their friends during an outdoor summer concert. She takes photos and writes a bit about each meal that passes her lips.

I discovered Kath’s blog through a “weight-loss friend.” Having lost 115 pounds during my early twenties, I’d gathered a group of online girlfriends, women I didn’t know in real life, and wouldn’t have otherwise known if we hadn’t all had one thing in common: We’d all once been heavy, were in the middle of our journeys to lose the weight, and we’d chosen to share our daily struggles with each other on the internet. My online friendships with these women were a huge source of strength and support for me as journeyed through my weight loss.

So I was always interested in finding inspirational personal websites about healthy living, exercise or eating naturally and organically. But until one of my internet weight loss friends linked to Kath Eats Real Food, I had no idea an online space existed that combined all of those elements into one beautiful photo and lifestyle blog. The moment I happened upon Kath’s site, I was hooked.

Her blog is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a health-conscious woman who strives to eat natural, organic, “real” food, and who enjoys exercise, nutrition, cooking and married life with a partner who’s very talented in the kitchen himself. It’s also inspiring to see a fit woman who occasionally allows herself pizza, beer, wine, sweet treats and plenty of other mindful, wisely chosen indulgences along the way. Her philosophies on eating a balanced diet and maintaining a balanced life are an inspiration to thousands of people who have concerns about their weight, or even people without weight struggles who enjoy eating real food and living healthy lifestyles.

And to think – this history major from Davidson College who began her career in publishing and public relations ended up becoming one of the web’s most popular food and fitness bloggers, all because she decided to quit her boring desk job!

So of course, I had to get in touch with her and ask her a few questions  about her experience as someone who has not only survived quitting her desk job, but someone who has found great success by doing so.

I began by asking Kath if she was always interested in nutrition and she said she grew up eating healthy foods and exercising, having always been athletic.  But she chose a history major in college, “because it was open ended,” she said. “I used to hate history, I ended up in it by default.  I should have picked science, but I didn’t want to be in labs for twenty hours a week.”

“If I had gone to a school with a nutrition major as an option, maybe I would have picked that,” she added. “I was always interested in it. But I also never knew there were jobs in nutrition. It never crossed my mind.”

She went on to explain that once she graduated with her history degree, she’d planned to get into the public relations field. She thought that such a career would afford her opportunities to plan fun events and maybe even take interesting trips. “But I couldn’t get a job in PR right away,” she said. So she ended up finding a publishing job, a job that she didn’t really like. Eventually, though, she used that job as a stepping stone into a public relations role. Finally, this was what she’d wanted.

But the PR job left a lot to be desired too. It certainly wasn’t what she’d expected. “If I’d ended up at a cool PR firm with local clients I probably would not have left my job,” she confessed. But that wasn’t the case. She described feeling isolated when working at the PR firm. “It’s a good company,” she explained, “but I was unfulfilled, bored, and had little work to do…I was able to do some cool stuff a few times, but that was, like, one weekend over the entire year.”

Totally disenchanted with her situation, she felt stuck. “I didn’t want to be trapped in an office building,” she said. “I’d go out for a doctor’s appointment during the work day and stop by Starbucks and I’d see these people who were living life during the work week. And I said to myself, ‘What do these people do for a career?’ I always assumed they were bartenders or waiters and that they worked until late at night and hung out at the coffee shop during the day.”

“Then,” she went on, “I started reading the ‘Eat Like Me’ blog.” Eat Like Me is a blog written by a woman named Cristin who also writes about diet, exercise and her daily meals. Kath says it dawned on her that the people she saw at Starbucks on their laptops at 10am weren’t necessarily night-shift employees, but that they were also probably people like Cristin. “It opened my eyes to switching careers.”

Kath started to do some research about becoming a nutritionist. “I looked into the different certifications, but I had some people on the internet tell me, rather rudely actually, that I had no business telling people about nutrition if I only had a certification. Then I thought about being a personal trainer. I got all the materials for the fitness certification. And then I realized I wasn’t into muscles.” So she started to consider getting a more in-depth degree as a Registered Dietitian. “Over a month long period I figured out that it was going to take two and a half years to get my RD and I thought, ‘I can’t do this.'” Her distaste for science lab courses was on her mind, plus she’d already been through four years of undergrad. “But then I realized, I would rather be in Chemistry class than at the office. Anything but the office.”

According to Kath, her goals at the time were simple. She wanted to leave a job that she didn’t enjoy, be her own boss, and have a flexible lifestyle. When I asked her if she was scared that she’d be broke or that making ends meet while she going back to school would be tough, she said, “I knew this was bigger than the money.”

Isn’t everything?

During her days as an office employee, long before she went back to school to study nutrition, Kath first began blogging about her meals in a private web community on a site called Calorie King. Other users followed her posts about her own personal mission to lose the weight she’d put on during college, which Kath says was due to an unfocused diet and a foot surgery that caused her natural athleticism to take a back seat.

(You can read more about Kath’s weight loss journey on this page of her blog.)

A year and a half later, her friends and family encouraged her to start a public photo blog of her meals and recipes, and she did. As the months passed, and she began her nutrition courses, her new blog began to gather more and more readers. She was getting a lot of well-deserved, positive feedback. “I was really excited!” she said happily. As her readership grew, it was only a matter of time before she started making money from her hobby.

The popularity of Kath Eats Real Food continued to expand as foodies, bloggers and healthy-living fans across the internet caught wind of the blog, linked to her site, and passed her posts around to their friends and families. Eventually, Kath’s blog became one of the most well-known healthy food blogs on the internet. She writes on an “about” page on her site, “Starting with only five loyal readers, I am shocked and excited by the success of the blog today!”

Her daily stories about inventive oatmeal breakfasts, invigorating workouts, impressive study and homework schedules, well-balanced dinners and even her fear of bugs, her dislike for onions, her husband’s beer-making efforts, and her travels to visit family, friends or attend events as a blogger are all devoured by her readers, many of whom comment enthusiastically after each of her posts. She writes honestly and warmly, and one feels as if they know her after only a short time spent reading about her life. Besides getting to connect with so many different people on a topic she’s passionate about, what’s additionally rewarding for her is that she has been able to parlay this fun activity into an income stream, which has helped her to stay focused on nutrition and healthy living while she finishes up her degrees. “If I didn’t have the blog, I’d have to work weekends babysitting, or work a restaurant job,” she said, when explaining how grateful she is to have an income from her blog.

In fact, not only has Kath’s unexpected success as a blogger been a big help to her financially and an enjoyable and fulfilling part-time (sometimes full-time!) job, it’s also done something even more important for her: It’s changed the way she views her career as a dietitian.

“When I originally started nutrition school, I wanted to have a private practice. Now, with blogging and the freelance opportunities I’ve gotten through the blog, I still want to do nutrition counseling, but I see it as more of a secondary side business to being a professional blogger and a freelance writer. I’m definitely going be more involved in media than I ever thought.”

I asked Kath how it’s been for her to become ‘famous’ for her blog, if there are positives and negatives to being well-known online. “It’s been a pleasant, unexpected blessing. I didn’t set out to do this,” she said. “Sure, sometimes the grass is greener. Sometimes I wish I had a job that ended at 5pm. But I still wouldn’t trade it for a desk job.”

And then I asked her the question I like to ask almost everyone I talk to about career paths: If money was no object, but you still had to be productive for eight hours a day, how would you spend your time?

“Honestly, I would blog. It’s so much fun. I go through my entire life thinking ‘How can I write about this?’ Even when things are going badly I think, ‘This is gonna make a great blog post.’ If someone gave me 100 million dollars, I would still blog. Actually, I would go shopping, then blog,” she added, laughing.

It seems that Kath Younger, who set out to work in one field, and then took a risk by quitting her job to seek a career in another field, has ended up exactly where she should be. She’s doing something she loves, something she’d do even in her free time, something that fulfills her, and the money has, as they say, followed. Even though she could never have imagined she’d end up exactly here, she’s obviously glad that she did. And it’s all because she refused to be tied down to a life that didn’t make her happy.

She accredits much of her success to her supportive husband and family – her mom, dad, sister and her grandparents. When she told her parents that she wanted to quit her job, they weren’t critical of her choice. “My parents did not say, ‘Your first education was a waste of time now,’ or anything like that. They supported my decision.” And now that she’s become a famous blogger? “My mom is my biggest blog fan,” she tells me. “She reads every single comment. Sometimes she’ll email me before I’ve even had a chance to read them and say ‘Oh I really think you should respond to Jen because she was so nice!’ My mom’s a writer too and now she always says, ‘My daughter the writer.’ She’s so pleased with me.”

I asked Kath to share some advice for anyone who might be considering quitting their job to pursue something more fulfilling. “The big hurdle is the financial part,” she says. “But your happiness is more important than the material things you’d buy with that paycheck. If you want the change bad enough, your paycheck won’t matter. We’ve had to readjust our lifestyle (to afford this change), but it’s been totally worth it.”

When I hung up the phone with Kath, I was smiling. We’d had a nice chat about her story, and she’d even graciously asked me about my own plans, goals, and ambitions too. She was very encouraging and I left our conversation feeling inspired. Kath is not someone who has it all figured out, but she has made smart, strong choices along the way, and she’s now being rewarded for the risk she took in ways she never dreamed. And if that isn’t a lesson to all of us that we ought to seek out the potential that awaits us, I don’t know what is.

Thank you, Kath, for your inspiring story, and for sharing your life with all of us, every single day. And thank you, also, for your brilliant oatmeal recipes.

You might also like these related posts:

i quit my job today

life is too short to skip dessert

10 ways to save for a desk job escape

the envelope method check-in

13 things i’ve learned so far on my journey to follow my bliss