This is a guest post from Michaela Cristallo.
We’re the masters of our own destiny, or so it would seem. For all the choices we have the freedom to make, though, it’s quite amazing how many of us find ourselves living a life we don’t enjoy.
In the blur of expectations, responsibilities, and commitments, often a whole series of so-called rational decisions lead us to a place we never really wanted to be at all.
Two years ago I found myself in this exact situation. I had just finished a course in fashion design, and was incredibly excited to be planning to launch my own business as a designer doing what I loved. I was full of energy and motivation, and it felt like nothing could stop me.
Instead of launching straight in, though, I decided it would be a smart move to get some experience in the industry first. Unfortunately the fashion industry isn’t an easy one to get into, and six months after graduation I caved.
Instead of continuing to search for work in the industry I wanted to be part of, or just throw caution to the wind and start my business then and there, I did the exact opposite. In a decision I genuinely question looking back, I took a well-paid job in the corporate world doing something I hated.
Rationally, it made sense. I needed a job and I couldn’t find the one I wanted so it was the next best choice. In reality, though, I was walking straight back into a situation I’d known and loathed before.
As expected, my life working there was miserable. It was full of anguish and mini breakdowns that no one except me understood.
Many of my friends and family questioned how I could be so upset working in a “good,” well-paid job where I was treated well and had so many opportunities for advancement. What no one else seemed to understand, though, is that it was so far from where I wanted to be that it made me miserable.
Every day felt like just another day in an endless continuum of being chained to a life I didn’t want, and every hour I’d spend there was one I knew could be better spent working towards my dreams.
Reading this story, you might think working there was some kind of financial necessity or essential stepping stone. Unfortunately, it was neither. I could have easily taken a lesser paid, more enjoyable job, or even a part time one, and gotten by just fine.
What was really holding me there were my own and other people’s expectations.
What I realised (perhaps a little too late) is that I was unable to say yes to my own needs first.
I had convinced myself that if I wasn’t yet starting my business and I couldn’t land a job in the fashion industry, I should do something productive. That “something productive” for me was making some money in the meantime and being seen to be doing something acceptable by other people’s standards.
In doing what I believed to be rational, though, I set myself up for misery.
I struggled to leave that job for almost a year before I finally did because, despite how upset it made me, I convinced myself it was the next best option to living my dream. I hadn’t shelved my dream, of course, but I’d resigned myself to the fact that, until I was ready to take the plunge, this would be my life.
That resignation to a life I didn’t want to be living almost crushed me.
The final straw came on a morning in May a little over a year ago now. I was stressed to the max and at absolute tipping point. In a bout of craziness (or lets call it bravery) I told my manager I was leaving. I had no job lined up and no definite plan, but there was not a day more I could take it.
To others my choice was crazy, and perhaps a little brash. To me, though, it was the best feeling in the world. I was saying yes to me, finally.
A year on now I can confidently say that saying yes to me has been the best decision I ever made.And, despite all my trepidation, when I did things oddly fell into place. Days after I quit I received a part-time job offer, and within weeks I was moving into a studio space just ten minutes’ walk from my house to work alongside a bunch of amazing creative people who are also following their dream.
Today I’m living a life I love. I’m a fashion designer running my own accessories label, working out of an awesome studio space with other creatives, and writing about creativity on my brand new blog.
Of course, not every day is perfect. There have been challenges, setbacks, and low days along the way. Every day, though, has been one I’ve intentionally created by choosing to put myself first, and to me that’s the best feeling in the world.
If you’re in a place you never wanted to be, perhaps you can relate. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt along the way it’s that for all the so-called rational decisions based on expectations, commitments, and responsibilities, there is only really one person you need to face up to at the end of the day, and that’s you.
Start saying yes to you today. It might just be the best decision you ever make.
Do you say yes to you and your dreams? Or do you find yourself trapped living a life you don’t enjoy by a series of seemingly rational decisions? Share your experiences in the comments.
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Michaela is a fashion designer and general creative enthusiast who writes on living a creative life at For the Creators. Join her at For the Creators to embrace your creativity and live it every day with passion.