In yesterday’s post I mentioned this article by Maria Popova. I’m glad I read it again. I needed to be reminded that I’m doing the right thing as I get ready to leave my job and move to a new city in a few weeks’ time. For months I’d been worrying about finding work. Then one day I decided to just stop stressing. And within the same week, found myself turning down three separate job opportunities.
Why, after all the stress of applications and multi-stage interviews, am I now saying no to security and potentially jeopardising my chances of staying in Japan? Accepting the first offer seemed like the sensible, logical thing to do. At last, I could have some relief after months of uncertainty. But the next day, I was overwhelmed by discomfort, both physical and mental, which would not go away until I’d sent an email saying I could not take the job. And after that it was easier to reject the next offer. Again, why?
It’s taken me 38 years to find the courage to do what I’ve always wanted to do but resisted one way or another. I can’t bring myself to take on another job that consumes all my energy and time and does not make me want to get up in the morning and get straight to work, the way writing does. I’m sure this sounds like I’m romanticising. I know that writing involves a whole lot of insecurity, doubt and rejection. But I’ve spent a lifetime doing things I didn’t really enjoy, mostly because they were safe. In Popova’s article she includes a link to this essay by Paul Graham on how to do what you love (which I highly recommend reading in full). He writes:
How much are you supposed to like what you do? Unless you know that, you don’t know when to stop searching.
For years I believed that I wasn’t someone who prioritised or did things just for money. Not true. I was always worried about money. And always did things I didn’t really want to do, for money. It wasn’t that I wanted to be wealthy, but having grown up poor I realise now just how much I’ve always feared being broke, and I have not been without a job for a single day since I was 18.
I was asked in an interview recently if I would describe myself as a risk taker. My ‘no’ was so vehement that the interviewer was noticeably taken aback. This was the job I accepted and then turned down the next day. I’ve been thinking about the interviewer’s question since. As he pointed out, four years ago I left everything – my family, friends, career, and, hardest of all, my dog and cat – to come to Japan. Still, I wouldn’t call working on the JET programme, which pays well and assists you with every aspect of living and working in Japan, a risk. What I am doing now feels risky.
Then earlier this week I was scrolling through my phone and found a screenshot of a post by Elizabeth Gilbert. She was talking about the voices that have always told her what to do. One of them says:
Keep gambling everything for creativity and an exploratory life of the mind.
I have written this out and stuck it on the wall above my desk. And I’m putting this manifesto, also referred to in Popova’s article, next to it:
So, I may be broke for a while. Or forever. Or (very possibly) I may cave after a week and take the first full-time job I can find. But for now, I’m taking a leap of faith. There are many people out there, some wealthy some not, doing what they love. I’m sure I can, too.