So I followed my heart, and quit my job
I did it, I really did it. I quit my day job. Excuse me while I take a moment to appreciate how big of a deal it is to me to write that down. Because it's a big deal.
I haven't talked much about my day job much online over the years, because it doesn't have much relevance to all the other things that I share here. I've also always been a bit nervous about the crossover. My employers knew I had a lot of other interested outside of my job, and also that I would occasionally take on some photography or teaching work on the evenings and weekends. They also knew about my blog, followed me on social media and so I was careful to assume that anything I put out on the internet was read by them. I worked hard at my job, but also at my own side projects and I was always conscious of not giving the wrong impression of myself or upsetting the people who paid my wages. I enjoyed my job, loved my colleagues, and knew how fortunate I was to get to work from home. But there was always something missing for me. It was just a job, not a career. Not something I felt wholeheartedly passionate about, nor something that was going to fit for me forever. On one side I had my office day job (as a Sales Manager/Tour Booker for a theatre company), but on the other I desperately wanted to pursue my dream of being a freelance photographer. I felt like I couldn't talk honestly about either of those things online, or that I even really knew what I was working towards sometimes. In truth, working from home was a great lifestyle that suited me a lot and I think it kept me from really going for what I wanted. It was a nice, quiet life without too much pressure or stress and I was good at what I did. I had a lot of freedom, worked with colleagues I really liked and didn't have to commute. And in this city, a job with no commute is the holy grail.
When I got pregnant with Rory in April 2015, I knew that having a baby and going on maternity leave would be the best chance I'd have to make a go of working for myself. Otherwise, the future for me was to either become a full time mother and lose myself to raising kids, or to return to work and balance my day job with a family. Neither option left me with any space to pursue my passions. Either give them up for my family, or retreat to the safety of a familiar career path and a monthly wage. I decided that what scared me most was regret, and that my dreams were not going to be collateral damage in the process of starting a family. However hard it would be to make it work, I was going to do it. Because how I could I raise my daughter and tell her to follow her dreams if I was too afraid to follow mine?
Without much of a plan (because that's sort of my M.O) I hired a business coach to help me figure out what working for myself was going to look like. We talked about branding, how to find my dream clients, writing better content, ways to market myself, and a whole lot about just believing in myself and putting the work in to get where I wanted to go. It was a smart move, and set me up with the right mindset to go on maternity leave. It felt like it was the start of a new life for me, not a year on pause while I had a baby. When Rory was born in January, I took every spare moment I could to keep things ticking over. I completely re-designed my photography website in the first three months, working over her while she slept on my lap after feeds. I kept up with emails, blogging and social media as much as I could. In hindsight, I regret not taking more time to rest and soak up those newborn days. They pass so quickly, working on my business could have waited. It probably should have waited. That said, I do think my desire to keep busy helped me not feel like I was losing myself to breastfeeding and nappy changing. Because some days, some weeks, you can feel like that's all you do when you have a very small baby to care for.
For much of the year, Rory didn't sleep for long periods of time. She rarely went longer than two hours without waking up needing to be fed or soothed, all while we had building work going on to convert our attic. Don't get me wrong, two very nice problems to have and I count my blessings daily, but I was exhausted. It wasn't the vision I'd had for my maternity leave, and I felt the pressure I'd put on myself to build a business and clients while taking care of a small baby. I talked to Gav one night over the summer about how I was feeling, and a few days later he came back to me with a plan. We were going to re-work our finances, and put find a childminder for Rory for one day a week from the September. It would give her a chance to settle in, and me time to build a business and clients. If by the end of the year I felt like I needed to go back to work then I would, but I didn't need to make a decision until then. I could have space, and time, and the knowledge that Gav believed in me and what I was doing.
For almost three months now, Rory has been going to a childminder every Monday. I miss her like hell, but I know with every fibre of my being that it's the right thing for both of us. She is happy to be there, and even happier to be back home with me. I have been working on my business, and it has been going better than I ever could have expected. So well, that I quit my job. I quit my job! I'm yelling that from the rooftops, can you tell? Until a few weeks ago, I was still trying to do the maths about going back to work. How much would I earn per month if I factored in childcare? Running every scenario through my head and trying to make one feel like it fit, when in truth, there was only one scenario that felt right. Having Rory has changed everything, and changed me in ways I never expected. I want to move forward with her, change with her and show her that I have the courage to follow my dreams like I will teach her to follow hers. I listened to my heart, and I knew there was only one decision that I could make.
And so, here I am. Freelance photographer. Knitting teacher. Working mama. Building a business alongside my family and figuring it all out as I go along. I'll leave you with this quote that I am chanting like a mantra...
"Onward ever, backward never" - Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic.