In the autumn of 2015, I experienced what I guess some people would call ‘burn out’. My 9 to 5 corporate job in London had turned into a 7 to 9 Monday to Thursday. On Fridays I would manage to escape to yoga at 6 for good behaviour! I was not enjoying most aspects of the job I was doing: endless pointless meetings, continuous death by PowerPoint presentations plus the tedium of the daily commute. I had reached a place I didn’t want to be, and I wanted out!
Anyone who has found themselves in the same place will know what I mean. I felt physically ill, trapped and like I was no longer in control of my own life. Trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance felt impossible. I was constantly chasing around and not really getting anywhere. It took me several months to realise that I could not continue to live like this. That Christmas I sat down with my parents to explain how I was feeling and it wasn’t until I did so that I was in a position to start to do something about it.
By the age of 34 I had personally achieved a lot: I owned my own property and car, had a successful career, was financially flexible which allowed me to enjoy holidays and weekends away, was surrounded by loving and supportive friends and family, and had 16 good eggs in the freezer! Despite this, all I could focus on was what I had not yet achieved I was constantly feeling like I had failed: not doing a job I enjoyed, not finding the ‘Wonderful Man’, not having a child…
As I’ve said previously, I am very fortunate to have a close and supportive family and like so many times before and since they were there to catch me. It was during that no mans land time period between Christmas and New Year, where, if you’re single and child less, you find yourself either working, or on holiday so that you have something to keep you busy instead of sitting around watching endless TV and eating & drinking even more than is acceptable during the festive period, that I decided I needed to take action. So, on 29th December 2015 I decide I needed to talk to my Dad…
Throughout my life my Dad has been nothing but loving, caring and supportive, and he always wants the best for ‘his girls’. Despite knowing that I could ask for help, I really felt that at the age of 34 I should be able to stand on my own two feet and I had been putting off talking about how I was really feeling. What I was most apprehensive about was that instead of changing jobs, which I had done numerous times over the last few years, I actually wanted to take a career break and try something completely new. My concern was that he would see me as a failure.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. As ever, Dad was measured, calm and insightful in his response to my ideas. My opening up led to us to have one of the best adult conversations I think we have ever had. He shared many of the events and situations in his career that had forced him to change jobs. He also explained what had driven him to set up his own management consultancy business in his early 50s. During our chat there were two questions he asked me that have stayed with me and I often now share with others who have reached a crossroads and are on the edge of making a huge decision.
- If money was not a factor, what decision would you make?
- Will you look back and regret not trying?
Ultimately the answers to these questions were what led me to the next stage of my life…
On the first Monday of the New Year I sat down with my boss and told her exactly how I was feeling. I asked if there was a possibility to change the way we had been working to allow us to gain back some work-life balance. The response was ‘if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen’! I found this inflexibility unacceptable, particularly as I was thinking ahead to what I wanted in my life in the not too distant future. So I took the decision to hand in my notice. This gave me three months to get some training and prepare to launch my image consultancy business in April 2016. Launching and operating a business like this was a completely new challenge for me. Despite not knowing whether it would work, for the first time in a long time I was doing something that I felt truly passionate about.
I recognise that I was incredibly fortunate to be in the position to take that leap into the unknown and what was truly amazing was how taking that first step then led onto so many other things happening for the better in my life. By the following year I had gone through somewhat of a transformation; I had created a home I was proud of and happy to live in, I had started a business which whilst not hugely profitable has over the years given me a flexible way to earn part of my annual income, I had started some marketing consultancy contracting work, I was attending weekly yoga to continue to develop flexibility in both mind and body plus I was dating ‘Mr Nice’.
The key thing I learnt at this stage was that, no matter how old you are, it is OK to ask for help. Life is never perfect, however if you really don’t like the direction your life is going you do have the power to change it. It was certainly scary, I was definitely afraid and I didn’t know whether it would work, but my goodness am I pleased I tried it. Making the decision to reclaim how I worked gave me the opportunity to rebalance, reassess and ultimately, I think, asking for help, slowing down and then trying something new was what has helped me to get to where I am now.