I Quit My Job To Follow My Dream. Now What?
A year has passed since I quit my 9-5 job in order to follow my dream of leaving the city and embarking on an alternative life in the countryside. Since then, my blog posts have focused more on sharing some of the internal changes that have occurred in this time rather than the external ones. I have talked about our explorations of rural Spain, my progress with my (now completed!) permaculture design course, as well as my involvement in the community garden.
But, what about that small and inconvenient detail of work? Some readers may have been wondering what happened next after I made that bold step of leaving my job and walking along ‘the rainbow bridge’, as I called it. Now, with my permaculture design certificate finally under my belt, I think it is time to fill in the gaps of what has been happening behind the scenes over this last year.
What has been my process since I got out of the rat race to follow my dream whilst still in the full swing of a global pandemic? What was my plan and was it successful? What challenges have I come up against? And most importantly, do I have any regrets about leaving my reasonably well paid and comfortable teaching job and stepping out into the unknown?
In the rest of this blog post, I am going to answer some of these questions and bring you up to date with what has happened since I took that big leap of faith a year ago!
The initial high after leaving my job was one of joy, excitement and disbelief. I couldn’t believe that I would no longer be making that commute across the city or eating my lunch out of a Tupperware box. I was excited to see what the future held and confident that I would be able to make it work.
I had the vague plan of using my years of experience teaching English as a foreign language to start my own business teaching online, but initially I just wanted to enjoy the summer and celebrate the fact that I had made it through a very difficult period of my life (teaching during the pandemic) and was dying to get out of Madrid for the summer.
And so I made a plan with my dear friend and soul sister Suze to do a three week road trip around Northern Spain. Myself and Sergio also travelled down to Marbella to visit his family who were over from Argentina, as well as doing a wild camping trip in the mountains of Gredos (just a hour and half from Madrid).
Needless to say, last summer was full of celebration, adventure and new experiences. I was even lucky enough to cap it all off with an incredible women’s festival in the mountains of Cataluña, which is deserving of a blog post in itself!
Going Against Logic
Spending the summer travelling when you have just quit your job and don’t have any sort of income arranged for when you return may sound like a not very sensible idea. But I needed to move, to travel, to take in new scenes and meet new people. It had been a very strange year and my relationships had changed a lot as a result. So time spent with like-minded people was just what my soul was crying out for.
Travel for me is like food for the soul. It’s a medicine that helps me to find perspective and clean my spirit of negativity. It liberates my mind and helps me reconnect with my dreams and the joy of being alive. It gives me the space I need to integrate any big changes and heal any wounds that have occurred in battle.
Plus, truth be told, I was tired of the city and my routines and needed to get away. There is nothing like being stuck in a routine for too long for sucking your spirit of all its life force and vital energy. They call it ‘being stuck in a rut’, but I think being ‘stuck in a bog’ is a more accurate description. For not only are you stuck, but you also begin to dirty your mind and spirit up with all that stagnant energy. Consequently, it can take a while to get hosed down and feel free again of all that accumulated muck that had been weighing you down so long.
The best way I have found to undertake this spiritual cleanse is to be in motion. To move, walk, wander, meander; to catch a train, bus, boat, or plane… meet new people and get new perspectives, and have new experiences.
So, was spending the summer travelling a logical thing to do? To some people perhaps not, especially since money (or in my case, lack thereof) is an important (and necessary) component of following my dream. However, I knew I had to get away and so when Suze invited me to do the road trip with her, I just knew it was a sign that the Universe was lining things up in my favour.
After all, we had just got through a year and a half of pandemic for god’s sake. It was time for a holiday!
And so I did what I have always done after a period of great inner and outer change: travel.
However, as any seasoned traveller will tell you, the toughest part of travel is always the same thing: the return home. After all that galavanting and freedom, the inevitable reality of having to come back to normal life always brings you down to earth.
Luckily, I had been able to save a bit of money over the years of full time employment and due to our low rent, our cost of living is quite low. Plus, I was entitled to use the ‘paro’ that I had accumulated during the years I had spent working. This is money from your salary that is set aside for you automatically via your taxes to help you in periods of unemployment. Unlike in the UK, you can only take out what you have put in, which means it is only for a limited time. In my case, 6 months at around two thirds of my monthly wage.
In Spain people use this ‘paro’ (which literally translates to ‘stop’) to help them not only when they find themselves out of a job, but also when they are starting a business of their own. You are even allowed to take all of your accrued money out all at once as a form of capital if you need it to invest in a new business, for example. Therefore, between my own savings, low living expenses and ‘paro’, I had a bit of breathing space to find my feet and some room to manoeuvre for a while. I also picked up a few private classes to start me off at the beginning of the academic year.
So, truth be told, I was in a very fortunate position. Whilst some people may feign contempt for this apparent laidback attitude to finding work, I saw this as a rare moment of breathing space where I could just figure out what I wanted and needed next. How many people have the luxury of taking some time off work to just be for a while? Why not make the most of this rare opportunity and just enjoy life a little bit?
After all, we spend all of our lives working, only pausing for breath during those precious two weeks summer holiday or retirement. Personally, I think it is imperative for our own growth to have the opportunity to stop and survey where we are in life, and take a step back from our day to day routines. It is important to have space in life to reflect and gain perspective and this is very difficult to do whilst being trapped on the hamster wheel. Also, I don’t subscribe to the belief that my value as a person stems from my ability to be constantly productive, so I had no qualms about making the most of this rare opportunity whilst it lasted.
This reminded me of when I first came back from my travels aged 23. I had returned as a completely different person, and whilst part of me, and indeed, outside sources, put pressure on me to find a ‘proper’ job, my intuition just said: “take it easy for a while and it will all be ok”. I meandered around for six months or so, just earning a little here and there. But in the end, a good opportunity came my way and I soon started work again just like any normal, ‘respectable’ person.
Why would it be any different now?
So instead of putting myself under pressure to start earning a full time wage again quickly, I spent time acclimatising to this new found freedom. Soon October rolled round signaling the start of the new academic year. It was strange yet liberating knowing that I wouldn’t be returning to the academy; no start of term meeting, no new text books and no first class anticipation. I couldn’t quite believe it!
I must admit, at times I felt overwhelmed and scared. At this point it wasn’t the fear of financial insecurity that scared me but more my completely open timetable. Now I was the master of own work day. How was I going to organise my time? What routine did I want to create for myself? I was officially my own boss; a completely new experience for me and I was well and truly out of my comfort zone. Plus, there was the added challenge of working from home. Distraction alert!
However, it wasn’t just the distractions that were a problem, but also the fact that working from home meant that I sometimes didn’t leave the house until way into the afternoon. By the time I had done some chores, prepped lunch, taught a class and then had lunch, it may have been going on for around 4pm. This proved to be a perfect recipe for stress, as it soon became apparent that this way of organising my time was not a healthy one.With no balcony or outside space, cabin fever soon set in and at times I found myself aimlessly wandering around the city just to get out the house.
The other challenge that I came up against was that I had too many projects on the go. I was trying to get my teaching website up and running, finish my permaculture course and try to focus on my writing for this blog. This led to my energy and focus being too dispersed and I felt like I wasn’t making enough progress in any direction. This led to more stress and frustration and aided to a general feeling of dissatisfaction.
Not only that, but now that I was working from home, I no longer needed to grab my bike and cycle to work in the morning. Suddenly, my life was a lot more sedentary and I began to get aches and pains in my body from being sat down for too long.
The Way Forward
That’s when I decided that something needed to change. I was clearly in a downward spiral and needed to take some kind of action. My permaculture course deadline was looming and I was feeling very much under pressure to get it finished.
It was clear that I had to get my priorities straight. So I decided to just let myself off the hook a little bit with my online teaching business and accept that this academic year was not going to be the year that I set the world on fire with my online teaching empire, much to the disappointment of my ego which would have loved to be able to show the world that I had it all under control and was fast becoming a successful online entrepreneur.
The truth was that I was earning enough money to get by. Not that ‘just get by’ is part of my business plan, but for the time being, I wasn’t going to starve. Instead I put my focus on finishing my permaculture design course. This really did have an expiry date and is the foundation for the real direction I would like to take my life in, so it really was my priority.
Time to Roll Up My Sleeves
However, my course tutor wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get it done in time. “Are you considering asking for an extension?”, she asked politely and tentatively in one of our zoom calls.
“I’m not even entertaining the thought”, I replied.
I don’t know about you, but a bit of pressure always improves my focus. Now it was time to knuckle down, no excuses. I was determined to get it finished on time and wasn’t going to accept the possibility that that may not be the case.
Therefore, I put all my efforts into getting the course finished. I had to dedicate quite a lot of time to the community garden, and I started to take myself off to the library to study as to have a place free of distractions and a reason to be out of the house for a while. Slowly but surely, things started to feel more settled and I began to create more structure in my life.
I also reached out to a few past students and picked up a few more classes, as well as collected a few testimonials for my teaching website. A friend passed another student on to me as well and before I knew it I was already earning around half of what my salary was at the language academy. Not bad for 9 hours a week, instead of 40!
It looked like the leap of faith was beginning to pay off after all!
And so for the first half of the year I plodded on with my course, and gradually, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, in mid-may I submitted my video presentation of my final design for the community garden and was presented with my permaculture design certificate.
This felt like a huge accomplishment and a massive step forward for me on this journey. I even felt more joy upon receiving my permaculture design certificate than I did when I received my psychology degree! For me, that shows that I am going in the right direction towards living a life that is more aligned with who I am and what I want to bring to this world. And that is cause for celebration!
However, there was one small detail that was yet to be addressed: what was I going to do for work in the summer? English language teaching is notorious for drying up in those summer months, as people are on holiday and their focus understandably shifts from work and studies to fun in the sun. I did still have some savings in the bank but by this point I had already dipped into them quite a bit and was reluctant to do so over the summer.
So I took this all as an opportunity to focus on love and abundance rather than fear and lack.
“Something will show up”, I thought.
And sure enough, just when I needed a boost, something did show up!
Friends in the Right Places
My friend and ex-colleague Anthony (he has made an appearance on this blog already in my post “First Time Foraging: An Encounter with The Goddess”) got in touch one day to ask if I would be interested in working at a camp that he was leading this summer. It was in the Lake District, set in the idyllic grounds of a 15th century boarding school. My accommodation and food would be all provided and the salary would mean that I could earn back in one summer all that I had spent over the course of this year.
Of course, I jumped at the chance!
It seemed like things were working out nicely after all. And all this just in time for my Argentinian in-laws arriving for a long visit, after 4 years of not seeing them, plus my travel bud Suze was in town for a weekend break. So, after coming through these rather turbulent last two and a half years, I allowed myself some time to just enjoy the spring in the city with people I care about and celebrate how far I had come in this time.
A Return to my Roots
So now, here I am as I write this, sat in my mum’s back garden, in her new house that she moved into just before the pandemic, complete with dogs, ducks, hens, cats, and rabbits, taking in the greenery, the smell of rain in the air and the feel of the wind as it whips around the trees. It’s been over 2 and a half years since I have been back on UK soil. A lot had changed in that time, for everyone, myself included.
When I think about it, I recognise that I could have stayed at my comfortable job for another year and maybe I would still be here now preparing to go to this summer school anyway. I would certainly have a healthier bank balance, less pressure and less uncertainty in my life, if this were the case.
So do I regret leaving the comfort of a full time salary guaranteed at the end of every month to follow my dream?
Not at all!
It was time for me to step off that train and make a change. Its final destination was not one that I wanted to discover. It is true that when I got off, there was a bit of confusion as to where my next train departed from, but I’d much rather face the discomfort of the unknown and trust that at some point I’ll find myself in the right place and the right time, than spend yet another year trapped in a carriage in which I had no more room left to grow.
How this dream will come about exactly remains to be seen. But for now I intend to continue relishing the fact that I am back in my own country, speaking my own language, drinking copious amounts of tea and eating my own weight in hot desserts (particularly rhubarb crumble!). I’m enjoying catching up with old friends and family, meeting the new additions that have been born recently, and celebrating marriages that I unfortunately had to miss during the pandemic.
I am also keeping the fire of my dream alive by reading lots of inspiring books, walking in nature and enjoying having some space to consider what my next move is going to be when I return to Madrid at the end of the summer.
Whilst it is true at times I have wobbly moments whereby I wonder what the hell I am doing with my life, but I always remember my friend Paul’s favourite quote which gives me the strength to keep pushing on:
Fortune favours the brave!
So let’s keep going, keep believing that the impossible is possible and keep moving in the direction of our most authentic dreams .
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I would love to know what your dreams are and how you are going about making them a reality.
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