Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Holding Back The Fears

I was woken this morning by the ringing of my mobile phone; my ever-charming recruitment consultant James had a potential lead at a financial institution in the City. "I can't promise that it would lead to a vacancy," he told me, "but my contact seemed interested, so can I forward your details to him? It's likely that it'll lead to a temporary job, but like I said, at this stage I can't promise that it definitely will."

I've been hearing this virtually every day in the past two months, so I gave him my usual jaded yes. I hung up and spent the rest of the morning pondering last night's revelation about a colleague of my boyfriend who I know and had been, to everyone's knowledge, happy in his job.

It turns out that all this time he wasn't. My boyfriend (along with his inner circle) has been asked to keep this quiet, but the lad is quitting his job in 3 months, and going back to university to study a degree in politics. Needless to say, it came as a shock.

For me, it also brought home my own fears. I know I've been too scared to take the plunge all these years, but even now, when I am actually taking baby steps towards a career change, the idea of being out of an accountancy job brings me a mixture of relief... and terror. Last week's realisations that I'll have to alter my original game-plan of staying in that field until I'm "ready" to leap should have galvanised me into action, but it left me paralysed with fear.

What is it that I am so scared of? I questioned myself, and came up with the following answers:
  1. I am scared of disappointing my family.
  2. I am scared that the career change won't work out, and then I'll be left unemployable.
  3. I am scared that I will have no money.
  4. I am scared that I am being foolish, or expecting far too much from life or from work.
  5. I am scared that, for all my overwhelming desire to write, I can't actually write. I am scared that I have no ability in that arena and that no-one would be interested in what I've got to say.
  6. I am scared of being considered a failure.
I thought for a moment, then wrote down the following:
  1. Striving for what I thought my family would approve of, led me up a path that I hated and felt I didn't fit into for ten years.
  2. I won't know that until I try. Besides which, most of the most successful people are unemployable. That's why they've struck out on their own path.
  3. My current "career" has actually ended up costing me far more (in expensive suits, training fees, salary deductions, severance fees, and emotional/health issues) than I've got out of it.
  4. It's not expecting "far too much" from life to ask that "the good outweighs the bad" about one's job - as my lovely boyfriend constantly reminds me, spending 8 hours of one's waking moments per day (not even including travelling time) is too much time to spend being miserable.
  5. According to the author Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer "can't write worth a damn". That hasn't stopped her Twilight series becoming one of the biggest-selling book series around the globe. Madonna (no offence to her fans) hasn't got as good a singing voice as many other pop singers, but hasn't let that stop her becoming the worldwide Queen of Pop.
  6. I am fairly resourceful and self-reliant. Anything I've failed at in the past, I've tried harder, tried again or tried something different till I succeeded. Why should this time be any different?
It's not as if I don't have the knowledge or the tools to get writing, or explore other subjects I like (like sociology and English literature), or even to research some more how to break into another field; yet I find that fear is the biggest obstacle to taking any sort of action at all. It can even be worse than having a physical disability: once, when a sports injury meant I could barely walk for a week, it never stopped me showing up to work until I recovered (although my limp caused much amusement in the office). But being scared and fearful stops you from even limping to your destination, let alone walking to it. In fact, it makes you unable to move at all.

I suppose one way of moving forward, in spite of everything I'm afraid of, is to motivate myself by remembering just how bad it got - the searing chest pains, like red-hot knives, that I had before I quit that job last year were one example. How did the rest of you hold back any crippling fears you had?
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  1. I have so much admiration for you! You saw what was wrong in your life and you took the steps to change it. That's amazing and in itself, makes you a success. I'll be following you to see how you get on (and supporting you all the way!)


  2. This is a very good, thought-provoking post. Someone once told me that action terminates panic. I believe that to be true! I also believe that change is good and that it makes our lives better. I've made many changes in my life ... both personal and career-wise ... and each time, my life has improved. So ... don't be afraid ... just trust that what you need will come to you.

    BTW ... thank you for following Reduce Footprints. I'm following you, as well, and I will add you to my blog roll.

    Small Footprints

  3. It looks like you have worked through most of this on your own. If it is something you want to do, go for it. I quit my job and moved from the Southeastern part of the US to Alaska just because I liked the idea. I had a lot of doubts at the time but I have no regrets for doing what I did.
    If you feel any doubts refer back to #6.


  4. Hi guys,

    Thanks ever so much for your thoughts; sorry I didn't see these early enough to reply individually!

    Lou - many thanks for your support! Here's hoping I'll succeed (I don't think you ever do completely leave the fear behind)! Loved your writings on your blog, by the way :-)

    Small Footprints - I will try to remember that for the future, that "action terminates panic" when I'm next paralysed with fear (it happens more often than I would like). I think "trusting that what I need will come to me" is the hardest bit to implement, but I will definitely try!

    Squirrel Queen - Hello again and thanks for your comment! Wow, that's a big step you took, and very brave of you to do so. Judging by the excellent pictures of Alaska you put up on your blog, I can see why you have no regrets about moving so far! And thanks too for the advice.

  5. You are quite an remarkable and determined person. Oh, and I find it amusing that you're afraid people might not like what you write. I have come across many blogs and yours is one of the few I actually enjoy reading. Also, from what I've read previously, your family only wants you to be happy. Sure, they think only a stable and high paying career will bring that, but who else would know better as of what really brings you happiness than yourself.

    As for the people who might tell you you're a failure - I think people tend to put others down and discourage them, especially when they themselves envy the other for taking steps, they themselves never had the courage to. I have absolutely no doubt that you will find the right path and come out a much stronger and successful person. Best of luck.

  6. Wow! Thanks ever so much Zain, I'm really touched! I'm so glad you like my blog. I didn't see your comment earlier as I was in the middle of putting up a new post, but thanks ever so much. And I stand by what I originally wrote on your blog: you really should post more often. I know I'm certainly interested in the global business topics you post about (the fact that I no longer want to be an accountant doesn't mean I'm not interested in business and entrepreneurial issues, you know) :-)

  7. Wow! I have those same fears. Will anyone read my book if I do publish it? Will I have passed up real paying jobs to fail at this endeavor? Yet, when I read my manuscript, I like it. I am always surprised at how good I think it is. Thanks for the encouragement I received from this.


  8. You're quite welcome, I meant every word. Oh, by the way, I met a professor at the University of Waterloo while I was in Canada, who stressed all of his students to follow the path you're taking. I don't know if he can help you out specifically, but he's a renowned economist who has a lot of contacts and experience. I recall him telling me that he was quite involved in the UK economy. You can always mail him for advise since he enjoys helping people with pursuing what they have a passion for. You could always claim to be a former student, if you wish. He's been teaching for decades. His name is Larry Smith, and his e-mail address is lwsmith@uwaterloo.ca.

  9. I second Zain's comment- you have no reason to fear you don't have writing talent, these posts are pretty high quality and in my opinion could easily have been written by a journalist or other professional writer. I understand where you're coming from though: it's always hard to accurately assess your own work. Even when you feel like you've done something well, there's the niggling doubt that perhaps no-one else would think it was that great. And it must be even harder when you're working by yourself, without any kind of feedback from colleagues.

  10. I recently read a quote that went: “When the wind of change blows, some build walls, others build windmills.”

    From your well-written and thought-provoking post, I can tell you have opted to embrace change rather than fear it and to build windmills rather than walls.

    Cheers to you! Or, as we say in California, "Kowabunga, Dude!"

  11. Blimey - I really should check my blog more often - I had no idea that I'd have so many posts when I rolled out of bed this morning!

    I'm glad I encouraged you. I think the old adage "you don't know till you try" very much applies in your case - and my case too I suppose! - but the fact that you like your manuscript is a good start. I certainly liked your blog so I'm sure it's good!

    Thanks again :-) and thanks for pointing me in the direction of that Canadian professor.

    Thanks loads. I'm not sure working on my own without any feedback makes a difference in my case, I think it's just because I always worry my writing's not up to scratch. Funny, because I never worried about being a crap accountant - perhaps because it was never something I cared about. It was probably not a wholly bad thing that I tried the whole "high-flying" career thing when I did - otherwise I'd never have known for sure that I wouldn't like it.

    K. B. Keilbach:
    Welcome! And of course thanks for the message of support! It's good to welcome new people. You made me smile with "Kowabunga" - I haven't heard that since I was watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on TV as a kid! :-) I shall check out your blog in a bit :-)

  12. I just saw this list - wonderful. I forwarded your blog onto a friend who I think would love to hear your words and journey. I'd really love to have you write a post for my blog and have a couple of ideas, so let me know if you're interested! You can send me a note at my e-mail at laurareviews@gmail.com :)

  13. Awwww, thanks Laura! I would love to write a post for your blog, thanks ever so much for the offer! Is email the best way to reach you? Actually I'll post on your blog and discuss it there :-)

  14. Wonderful! Actually, I'm starting a review series of travel books - and while I could pick any of my ones from London to feature, and use my visits there, I thought it would be great to have someone who actually lives there highlight the 3-5 top things one must do when visiting London (either the obvious or not so obvious things!). Full credit goes to you as the author, link back to this blog, etc. Let me know! You can email me if you want to talk more, but would love to get you as one of my guest bloggers :)

  15. Good for you!!! Love this post... *very* thought provoking - in a very, VERY good way. (found you via the lovely "Ava" over at the Serendipitous Freelance Writer blog...)

  16. Thanks, Good-Grace! I'm always glad to hear people like my posts :-) I'm glad you've also discovered "Serendipitous Freelance Writer" too, hers is one of my favourite blogs :-) Do come back and visit!