Steps I’m Taking toward my Mid-Career Break | Processing the Fear

I’m leaving it. Selling, donating, and giving away almost everything I own to follow a path that will lead to an unknown outcome. I never saw myself being someone who would even consider stepping out of the workforce for a mid-career break, and yet, here I am, considering that very thing. That scares me to such a degree I have a difficult time articulating the scope of fear I feel. To follow a voice inside of me that has been muffled for far, far, too long, for the sake of making a radical change to my life as I know it.

On one hand, I’m scared that leaving the work force at a pivotal point in development and advancement opportunity may be damaging for my career and my long term earning potential. On the other hand, I feel such an internal dissonance, I cannot continue to remain in such state of being.

mid-career break

So that being, I am taking the risk. I have been saving a substantial portion of my gross income for quite some time, and while financial insecurity is a big fear of mine (note the trend of fear), I’m making a calculated gamble and feeling thankful I have a financial cushion to support my step out. Quite a few more steps have to be made and I won’t receive confirmation of the current plan (this would be Plan D-2 of my life, D being my PhD).

There is a very strong likelihood (not 100% confirmed but all, current, indicators are my new reality will be) I will be living in another country this time next year. Not working, traditionally. Living in a much reduced standard of living than I am accustomed to, so far out from my comfort zone I don’t even have a word to describe how much my world will be rocked.

My mother is already having some of her own anxieties about me moving so far, but to her credit, she is supporting my choice. She is my biggest cheerleader and advocate, and is behind this move of mine to step out for a mid-career break and leaving the country. Supporting me in spite of the sacrifice that means to her for me to be so far away and with reduced access to communicate with me.
mid-career break
I’m <so> scared. But it’s time for me to get really uncomfortable. Because, I surpassed the magic American salary that is supposed to bring happiness and contentment, and although I am a generally happy woman, I’m not content. I can do more than this.

Viejo Sola.

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Learning to Sail My Ship | Preparing for Planned Life Change

Louisa May Alcott is attributed with stating the following: “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning to sail my ship.

Isn’t that good, in theory? As a PhD, I know all about theory and application. I also know I have not taken my ship far from port. As well as have incurred damage from drifting in too close to the shore and rocky bottoms. I think of Alcott’s confidence in self in the face of uncertainty and difficulty. It’s on my mind so much because I am preparing to make a huge, planned, life change that will require my on navigation and confidence in self.

I have an acrylic cube of 2″ X 2″ cards, upon all, are written would you rather type of questions. One card question has remained with me through the years. Something along the lines of: would you rather have a life of uncertainty and adventure or a life of quiet safety?learning to sail my ship | preparing for major life change

While a part of me is comforted with the idea of safety and security, I am almost always in some sort of unsettled state.

My truth is I have been ignoring a life I want to have for so long. For so long I have been settling and reassessing and resettling and finding myself in a very comfortable, outwardly appealing life in a rather comfortable middle class lifestyle. I work hard, and I have worked hard, to create a very stable, financially secure, socially satisfactory, generally healthy life.

I am not rejecting my life or my lifestyle. I am TRULY and earnestly grateful for my blessings. I do not, for a second, believe I am entitled to any of it.

I have a career in which I am able to contribute to a positive, life-altering, outcome for many people. The character of the work is uplifting for me. However, the nature of the work isn’t compatible for my long-term well-being.

So I’m making some changes.

Stepping far out from my comfort and radically blowing up this life I worked so hard to build.
learning to sail my ship | preparing for major life change
What is the most frightening life decision you ventured into and how was your outcome?

learning to sail my ship | preparing for major life change
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A Performance Review Reviewed | Good, Bad, and the Ugly

This day surely compensates for yesterday’s blah. Okay – yes – I am still scrambling to finish tonight’s paper so I have time to spend with rugby fellow (and don’t forget about the Moose Drool beer koozie)…. I will get to sip Kronenbourg 1664 in my very own coozie with my very own cutie in my over chlorinated jacuzzi…. Relief for my brain stress and relief for his muscle stress. I wonder what five rugby games in two days does to a person. I’ll soon see. Oh, and right… I had a performance review today.

Tonight is a celebration night.

a performance review

Today, when I had my review, I nearly fainted. No, really, and then I almost cried. I just got a huge raise! HUGE! At least I think it’s huge. I’m so thankful and so happy my director saw how hard I bootie busted with my team. Even better, this was all over such a positive review.  Which was a stark contrast from my previous review.

My previous review…

… was a total sh*t show I disputed it and found my director made an “error” that would have cost me 15% on my salary raise. Sadly, he argued with me on it and I believe if there hadn’t been a witness who suggested to look into my challenge, the “erroneous” review would have stayed.

Based on our history and what I’ve seen of his character, I don’t have high confidence the error was of the honest mistake variety. I rarely have victim paranoia but our dynamic is toxic and he is abusive, and during the time I worked under him, I felt under constant attack. Worse, I felt completely unable to protest or complain to an audience of superiors who would hear me. He’s that good at what he does. It’s been Hell.

This is also a review from a director who is borderline in sexual harassment (actually, IS in) and created such a hostile environment for me that my reputation is all but obliterated.

a performance review

My current director celebrated my review with me.

We discussed highlights she was excited about but we spoke so collaboratively and openly about how I can plan to improve in the areas that I see (and that she sees – but fortunately we were totally on the same page for my opportunities). This was such a glow-y experience, I think it’s possible that my feet did not actually touch the ground as I floated back to my desk.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like this Jennifer Parade Fest – there was critical assessment. I work myself up so much when my reviews come up because I so overly critique my performance and accomplishments. I’m so glad she saw honest areas where I sold myself short. A performance review should be a robust and overall positive, empowering experience. I work so hard on the ones I create for my employees, and it was nice to experience that for myself.

Have you ever experienced a completely different shift in your work satisfaction and success by the change of a single supervisor?

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