July 2, 2015

Big, Bold, Brave: Lessons from a Year Living my Dreams.

cliff jumping

It’ll be a year on July 10th that I left my “normal” and “stable” job to spend as much time as I could living my dreams, pursuing my passions and living my boldest, bravest life.

My plan when I left my job was simple: follow my heart and my dreams wherever they led me until I ran out of money and had to go back to the “real” world. In about a week, I will have made it a year.

In the last year, I’ve heard almost everything a responsible person might say to one who quits her job in her 30s: “It’s just a quarter life crisis….what are you going to do?…what about retirement? You’re having an Eat-Pray-Love moment, aren’t you? You’re like Cheryl Strayed in Wild!…”. These last two are perhaps my favorite, because, although I highly respect Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed and feel honored that others see my journey as inspiring as theirs, I hadn’t gotten a divorce and I wasn’t depressed (in Ms. Gilbert’s case) and I hadn’t gone into a drug-induced stupor because my mother had recently died (in Ms. Strayed case).

I had simply decided I wanted to change my life…and so I did. And I’ve learned a few things in the last year of living my dreams:

1) This shit is scary…and hard! Not a day has gone by that I wasn’t scared shitless at some point. I’m constantly terrified that I’ve made the wrong decision, that I’m going to end up in massive debt, that I don’t know what my next source of income is, that my heart is leading me in the wrong direction, that I’m not sure where my heart was leading me. Getting to know yourself and your dreams and then living them is just about the scariest thing in the world.

2) But it’s so worth it. I have never been happier. I understand myself, the people around me and the universe in ways I never knew I could…or knew was even possible. Almost every day I have at least one moment where I say to myself, “ah, that’s it. This is what I’ve been chasing…bliss!” In the six years prior, I had very few moments of perfect bliss. It’s amazing to experience them daily now.

3) People are judgmental…and I used to be one of them (and I suppose I still can be at times). A month into this adventure, I went on a hike with a friend. About two years before (when I was still doing the “normal” thing), she had left her exciting, well-paying job. She took a few months off and went back to work part-time at a simpler job. I had been terrified for her. I asked, “How was she going to make this work? What was she going to do with her time?”. By the time of our hike, she had settled into her life nicely, and I had started to admire her. She had gotten married and was pregnant with her first child (both of which had been dreams of hers). After we talked about her happiness and joy I asked, “What’s your husband think about you only working part-time?” She said, “He seems to understand that I’m happier when I work less.” It was that simple; the money didn’t matter, but her happiness did. Learning to not judge others for what makes them
happy is tricky but so important.

4) On the other hand, people are amazing. This has really come to me in two forms: the support from people I never thought would support me, and the pure, unadulterated, generosity of others. Looking back, the people I thought would have supported me the most have been some of the most judgmental. But the people I thought wouldn’t understand—my mom who worked at the same stable job for over 35 years, for example—have been my biggest champions. My mom may not have made the choices I have and she may not understand them, but she damn well supports my crazy dreams. Second, call it rooting for the underdog, or believing in other people’s dreams, but I have never known such kindness—from my loved ones and strangers alike. The retired couple living in rural New York that I met at a coffee shop who opened their home to me for a few days; the help I’ve gotten developing my business from friends and family; the friend of a friend on Facebook who let me crash on his couch while I attended an out-of-town conference. If you let them be, people are generous beyond measure. I couldn’t have made it through this year without them.

5) If you can do it, you are one of the luckiest people alive. Even if you only have a month or a few weeks, if you have the chance to go after your dreams and live a full life, do it. There are literally millions of people in this world who live in conditions—poverty, servitude, and wars, just to name a few—who will never be able to go after their dreams, who may not even know what a dream is (trust me, in my “normal” job I met many of them). If you have the ability to do it (and many of us in the West do), you owe it to them and to yourself to at least try going after your dreams because you a very, very lucky. So take that leap, dream big and live a big, bold and brave life.


Author: Rebecca Harris

Editor: Caroline Beaton

Image: Flickr

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