This week’s blog is from Lisa Hueneke, kinetic individual, art promulgator, globe trotter, and serious keyboard masher. She’s also a contributing writer to Savannah Art Informer, an online space that showcases creative people, places, and events in Savannah. Read on as Lisa muses on the risks and rewards of choosing your own path. FYI – The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonders. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map…
I got two reactions when I announced I was quitting my job as Director of an art organization to travel abroad for four months. Some cheered me on, “Wow, that’s exciting! I wish I could just pick up and go!” Others responded with a non-verbal horror awash on their faces, followed by a flurry of ‘hows’ and ‘what ifs’. Their questions and lack of enthusiasm were not unfounded. It was risky to leave a secure job in a recovering economy, added to the fact my boyfriend and I didn’t know where we would be living or what jobs we would have upon our return. We didn’t have high paying jobs and the logistics of a really big change was both scary and overwhelming. It would have been very easy to give into the self-doubt and unknowns before us. What we did know was that if we didn’t make it happen it would only get harder or may not happen at all.
Any kind of major change that has significant consequences for yourself and others is not something to take lightly. The barriers of personal finances, family, health and many other responsibilities are very real. My choice came because travel had been such a formative thing in my life. To travel on an extended level was the only way I knew that would bring me the kind of learning and growth I needed at that point in my life.
If you’re stalled out on the edge of your next endeavor, feeling crushed by the choices ahead, I am here to cheer you on. Having made it through life and career leaps that have taken me several times across the country and across the ocean, here are a few things I did to help me take the jump and may help you to take your own.
If the dream just lives up in your head than that may be as far as it gets. Letting it get dusty, quietly tucked in the corner of your mind will do it no good. Verbalize what it is you want to do to family or friends. “I’m making a career move.” “I’m going to start my own business.” To simply give voice to your intention can have impactful results. Simply stating what you want is extremely powerful in and of itself. It allows those closest to you to be your support system and even assist you to in taking it happen. They can reversely be a devil’s advocate to help you identify real challenges ahead. If it’s a leap that affects them, sharing it provides a less abrupt experience that now everyone can better prepare for. We told our families our plan to travel about two years before it actually happened.
Make It Tangible
Time to take action. Break a big endeavor into smaller ones is an effective way to move forward. What can you do now to gain momentum towards the larger goal? It could be as simple as compiling research, joining a new group, or finding ways to cut costs. The smallest steps can make it less overwhelming, keep you focused on your goal, and allows the dream to become all that more achievable. I moved to a much smaller, cheaper apartment the last six months before our trip. Did it matter that the bedroom had no windows, most of our stuff was in boxes, or the kitchen could possibly be smaller than the one we had before? These were small sacrifices compared to the reward of saving money and a daily reminder of the larger goal.
Accept the Sacrifices
Why is this so important to you? What will you be risking? Are you willing to accept those sacrifices? Have an honest conversation with yourself to gain insight into your own feelings, motives, and wishes. This provides you a foundation when making tough choices because along with the known sacrifices, there will be unknown ones you can’t plan for. You have to be willing to accept those as well. If the answer is no, it doesn’t have to mean never. I had to get to a place where I was ok with the sacrifices to my career, personal relationships, bank account, and comfort zone. There is no perfect time to reshuffle your life. Get a clear vision and be intentional with your choices to see your goal through.
There may be things you won’t have answers to or just can’t plan for. The unknown can also be a good thing. Not having it all planned out can leave you open to ideas and outcomes you may not have thought of. Openness also can decrease the high expectations you put on the final result. We outlined the first two weeks of our trip then planned as we went keeping it flexible when and where we went. This allowed us to meet up with friends along the way which turned out to be some of the best parts of our trip. Sometimes the unknown is better than the best of plans.
You Are Not Alone
Once you jump, you may discover you were not as alone as you felt. Going back to school? Suddenly you are a part of this whole network of others doing the same. Starting a new business? A network of entrepreneurs may open up the possibility of mentors, professional development, or even future business partners. Seeing others on a similar path can make it all less scary. Even if you are doing something totally out of the box, I don’t know anyone who solos their way to their dream. My career revolt and subsequent wander were not revolutionary. A whole community of expat networks, full-time travelers, and wanders became a resource to tackle travel questions and concerns.
It can be easy to lose sight of the journey when all you can think about is the destination. But it’s the journey that holds the real reward. Self-empowerment, personal trust, resourcefulness, and greater perspective are just a few of the invaluable rewards that can come when you go with your gut and take risks to make your path your own. When self-doubt creeps in to test your resolve, the trust you build in yourself will make it harder and harder to break that resolve, even through failure. I can’t regret the choices I’ve made because through each leap I gained experiences and skills too crucial to who I am to give up.
Everyone has their own unique set of resources, responsibilities, abilities, and challenges in the pursuit of their goals. But whatever gnaws at you from inside your gut or haunts your thoughts is there for a reason. We all have the choice to ignore what calls to us or grab a hold of it. What calls you to? It’s time for that dream to come true.