Life is short / Mid-life goals

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? 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 jump out of bed 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 love, 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 have always worried about money. And always done 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.

13 thoughts on “Life is short / Mid-life goals”

  1. Hello! I just wanted to say firstly, thank you for your lovely comments on my blog. Your most recent comment in particular was a comfort. I’ve kept things bottled up for so many years, and not told a soul. Receiving supportive comments such as yours means so much, so thank you.

    Secondly, I think you’re right in deciding not to pursue a position which consumes your energy and time and doesn’t inspire you to get out of the bed in the morning. I believe that if you hold out for what you love, something exciting which makes you happy, it will come! Congratulations on three job offers though, that’s great! I’m sure there’s more to come. I am inspired by your life in Japan and look forward to reading more of your writing!

  2. I can so relate to this. Four years ago I kept turning down the job offers and eventually moved into another country to start a new life. I believe if you take risks and pursue what you passionate about, something good will happen and you will have a happy life. 9-5 jobs can offer us money and security, but if you feel painful to get up in the morning to go to work, then it is better to look for something else. Life is all about taking risks. If you do not , you will risk even more.

    1. Hi Julie I can’t seem to find my reply to your comment – I think I must have posted it somewhere on your side. I hope you received it, and thanks for stopping by and following! 🙂 

  3. This is so inspiring. As a fellow writer, I can relate to the risk factor. I’ve spent years writing blog posts and books and haven’t made a dime… yet. It’s what I love to do. The money will follow. Good for you seeking your passion. It’s what life is all about.
    Thanks for bringing this to the party! Nice to meet you. Have fun meeting the guests!

    1. Thank you, Susie! It’s really encouraging and comforting to hear comments like these. And I fully agree with you. It may not be the easiest route, but over the years I’ve found that earning more or having a ‘good job’ has never made me any happier, and I also believe that as long as money is your main reason for doing something, it will never really satisfy you. Lovely to meet you too!

  4. I lived in Japan (as a CIR on JET) for a few years so I know what you mean about it didn’t seem very risky at the time! After living back in the UK for 9 years after JET, I just moved countries again. Now I’m a little older it does all seem more risky. I am finding it hard to find work, but I was planning to take the first job that I am offered, and then keep looking afterwards if I don’t love it. Your way does sound better…I am just not sure it is right for me in a new country. I feel like I need to build some experience before I go for dream jobs here…

    Anyway, GOOD LUCK with your move. I hope it works out for both of us!!

    1. Hi Josy! Nice to meet a fellow JET! That is exactly what I decided, that I would just take any job I could get and leave after a few months, but then I changed my mind. There is still a possibility that will happen, as I can’t stay in Japan very long without working, but I’m hoping to find enough part-time work to stay here and also have time to work on my own projects. We’ll see! If it was a new country, though, I would definitely do what you’re doing. Best of luck to you, too!

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