Recently I was hunting through my outbox in Yahoo looking for a particular email and I came across this email that I sent to a reader about 2 years ago. I started reading it again and wondered to myself if I had ever shared this story before on my site. My friend Amy who is planning a career break with her husband Brian at The Roaming Rileys website sent me this question wanting to know what my tipping point was for my career break and this was part of my answer I gave her:
(this tipping point occurred in 2003)
You ask a great question. I don’t know if I have an exact answer. It was a culmination of years of unhappiness. However I do remember one day coming home from work from a particularly bad day. I sat on my couch and looked around my beautiful apartment and started crying. All I could think about was that I was so miserable at work – and not just my specific company – but working in IT in a field that I never felt like I belonged in. Somehow I kept getting rewarded and promoted in a field that I felt like I knew nothing in. On top of this, it didn’t help that people I worked with were some of the most brutal, insensitive people I had ever encountered in my career. I sat on my couch and wished for simplicity, but I was surrounded by complexity. I started to wonder if I would be just happier to be less well off financially and simply do a job like waitressing or something – no money, but better work/life balance. I thought about my college days when I had so little – and longed for it again.
That was the moment where the pain of my present situation became greater then the pain of leaving the situation – and change happens when you finally reach that point.
Shortly after that episode I remember realizing that I didn’t really have to stay. No one was making me stay except for myself and what I thought others expected of me. I knew I had a year contract with my employer – and I started to tell myself I would leave when that contract was up. Once I had a plan like that – my whole attitude at work changed. The people that I disliked became more bearable. I fantasized about the day I would put in my notice. Granted – I ended up staying 2 more years – but I always knew that my time there was temporary and that’s what got me through.
However I don’t know how I came up with the idea to travel around the world. It was a combination of many things. Going on vacations that I never wanted to end. Meeting people from other countries who were traveling for months at a time and wondering how in the world they could do it. I always admired people that are doing things I am intimidated to do (like the Mongol Rally!). Then I somehow have to prove to myself that I can do it too.
It’s fitting to re-live this story today as I sit in Portland ready to attend Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit. A conference all about starting movements and embracing the idea of not conforming to society’s expectations. In addition, I’m sitting here next to my Career Break Movement business partner, the awesome Michaela Potter, and we are working away at planning the next great Meet Plan Go! event in order to bring the unconventional idea of the career break travel movement to North America. In 5 years, I have somehow managed to visit 30+ countries, live as an expat in Vietnam, kiss corporate life behind, become closer to my family, learn how to live minimally, started a business, and basically simplify my life.
The journey has not been easy, and there are still plenty of things I’d like to tweak about my life, but it’s possible to transform a tipping point into a new life. You may need to wait until the pain of making the change is greater than the pain of the present situation, but eventually it will happen – and then you’ll move like the wind. The key is to keep following your passions, no matter how crazy they are. You don’t have to do it conform to the typical path. It’s only you and the barriers you place in front of yourself that stop you from achieving.
Here’s the Google version of my Tipping Point:
Do you have a tipping point? Share it with me!