Exactly a year ago, I quit my job.
More accurately, I sold my business, which was my job.
As this date approached, I was curious. Would I get sentimental? Feel joy? Have a sudden but powerful urge to attack a jar of peanut butter?
None of the above, especially not that last one (whew). What I do feel is a sense of done-ness, something I ached to feel much, much earlier.
I owned, managed, blood-sweat-and-teared in my dental practice for almost a decade. I spent the last few of those years feeling restless, trying to alternately suppress and resolve feeling stuck, scared, naive. All the battles you might expect with career change decisions raged inside me. Ultimately, but not as gracefully nor confidently as I would’ve liked, I moved forward.
In the thick of things, though, “forward” becomes highly debatable.
Now, a year later, I admit the road after was tougher than I imagined.
Starting over: Things no one tells you
On one hand, it definitely helped that I didn’t have to take another job right away (I had planned for it and had my husband’s support). On the other, I knew this was at best a temporary reprieve, not a forever decision. Not knowing exactly what’s next, or what my forever would be was its own special kind of scary, no matter how right this decision felt.
Of course, after a major transition, even the simple things change. Your daily routine. Being at home versus an office. Working with employees and customers all day and, initially at least, noticing the walls in your home more closely than you ever had.
Sure, you think you’ll use all the extra time to do things you’d been putting off, but if you’re like me, and don’t feel right when you don’t have a lot to do, relaxing is unsettling. I never figured taking a pause would feel so uncomfortable.
But there are other things, like more opportunity to reflect and marinate in fear, terror and uncertainty as the reality of what you did has time to sink in. This was unexpected, and a far cry from what I secretly expected; a giant exhale, then smooth sailing and a fast, giddy ride from one accomplishment to the next.
Starting over: Later rather than sooner
Another thing I learned was that it takes a lot longer to process and let go of thoughts, feelings, hang ups, coulda-woulda-shoulda’s, and other things that fell between the cracks but now had time to resurface. I was eager to move on to the next phase of my career, be more intentional about where to go next, but kept drawing a blank. Going back to practicing was (is) still an option, but I wasn’t ready for that.
My mindset was so resistant and negative at times it was baffling. Weeks went by and I couldn’t shake off that dark cloud. I had moments of panic, and tragically, I had plenty of moments to spare.
After exhausting myself in a me-vs-me cage fight, it hit me that I needed to go back to what had worked before, starting small and taking little steps each day instead of expecting to know all the answers, regretting past failures or focusing purely on the outcome. After all, it’s how I had managed to write books, meditate every day or change my diet, all while I worked, raised kids and did normal life stuff.
Over time, I moved through that funk, but only after doing some tough inner work and getting over some of my own b.s. When we’re considering any change—exercising more, waking up earlier, a new project—we put it off for reasons that sound good but they’re usually not the real reasons.
It’s usually not money, lack of energy, or our busy schedules, it’s the excuses we make to let ourselves off the hook. “If only” becomes the catch phrase of the moment, when in reality we’re scared, lazy, or don’t truly want it, just think we do.
We’re really good at camouflaging our excuses in our busyness, but until we call them what they are and work through them, they’ll hold us back even after we quit that job, when the kids grow up, when we have a few extra bucks.
Starting over: The future is uncertain, but then it always was
I knew I had turned a corner when I began writing on a regular basis, made a schedule that fit my new life, accepted (and appreciated) support from friends. I also reached out to connect with people I trust about contributing to my profession in a different capacity. Although not right away, this led to my first consulting client.
Starting over is neither as easy nor as clear cut as it seems before you make the leap, when you’re still dreaming, wishing, hoping. It still takes work, discipline, and persistence amidst flares of self-doubt or failures on the way. Come to think of it, I was doing that even when I had my practice. There were a thousand little steps that allowed me to take the big step.
Years ago I wished I could quit and start over, but I focused more on the quitting because it seemed more enticing. The unknown seemed so far away it didn’t seem worth fretting over.
Then I realized it was always unknown, just familiar.