The Futile Fear of Failure: It is Quitting Time

I resigned.  I am no longer working as a nurse.

I have waited years to utter those words. And it was a long time coming.

I had to sort out hard held beliefs that were holding me back.  The belief that you didn’t have to like your job. That it was just something you did if you were responsible. The belief that I needed the approval of everyone. My friends. My parents. My brother. My workplace. The stranger in the coffee shop.  You, the readers.  That it was not responsible to quit the perceived security of my job now that we had a child.  That you worked at a job that you didn’t like so that you could afford to do things you actually enjoyed. That a “good partner” didn’t potentially jeopardize the (illusion of) financial security by following her dreams. That I didn’t deserve to have a turn.  That I wasn’t an entrepreneur. That I didn’t have anything to offer. That I would fail. Fail, fail, fail. The stagnating and utterly futile fear of failure.  And even more paralyzing, being perceived as a failure.

In most of my life I am someone who just makes shit happen. If I want to do something, I make it work. Figure it out. Jump right in.   Come out as queer? Sure, no problem.  Do an Ironman? Well, of course I can.  No questions about whether I should or should not. Can or can not.  So, it has befuddled me that I felt unable to get into that space about work.   Stuck. I was stuck, stuck, stuck. Fear of failure kept me stuck.

I have been a nurse for going on 17 years.  And for almost 17 years I have done a job that increasingly didn’t feel like me.  Sure, there were things I liked about it. The flexible schedule. The paycheck. The security. Some of the patients.  My most recent co-workers (the most amazing set of people I have ever worked with).  However, I’m a pathological caretaker at my core. And working in a care-taking role is just not healthy for me. It drains my soul and leaves me nothing left to care for myself and my loved ones.   Important work, yes. Good for me, no.

To do my job I needed to shut myself down, silence my real self and put up walls of self-protection. Those walls, that silencing, that shutting down…it all starts to solidify.  The work place becomes performative and you end up spending a lot of your life not being you. And that, quite honestly, sucks.   When you shutdown, silence and build walls you also cut yourself off from the emotions of work.

Eleven years in oncology nursing and I have no effing idea how to grieve!  Why? Because I didn’t let myself feel at work. I was very busy shutting myself down to get through the day.  I was numb to work.  Want to know a crappy little thing about all that grief?  All that stuffing of feelings? of yourself? of your needs?  It is all still there. It is still inside you, damaging you in some way.  You think you found a way through and are doing all great being split like that. Until you realize you aren’t. And that you have been hiding, shrinking, playing small and slowly dying inside.  That realization is panic inducing until you change something. For me it felt like suffocation. A trap. A hardening. It screamed for klonopin.

Lucky for me the Ladyfriend is a dreamer. She dreams big. She believes in possibility. In generative ideas. In creating what you want.  She has long encouraged me to jump ship, spread my wings, take the plunge, follow my bliss or whatever other clichéd phrase you want to use.

I want to interrupt myself here and acknowledge my privilege.  The Ladyfriend and I were both raised in white, middle class families where higher education was an expectation.  I am extremely grateful to have unbelievable support and love from both sides of our family, as well as a great support system of friends and community.  I don’t think I’ll say too much more about this now except to point out that a lot of my confidence in quitting stems from unearned privilege. Such as knowledge the that my education grants me a solid Plan B to fall back on if needed.  Or that I could even consider quitting in the first place “just knowing” it will all work out.

I’ve been slowly working to start a business that will incorporate my passion for edible gardening. I thought I would wait until my upcoming business was running to make the leap. Through a lot of tears and conversations with the Ladyfriend I realized I needed to flat-out quit my job and the line of the work all together to make room for expansiveness and creative possibility.

In doing so I had to leave the illusion of safety offered by my job.  For whatever reason (or therapy. whatever.) just before quitting it became very clear to me that it wasn’t actual safety.  I don’t know why I didn’t reframe it like that before. In the present day job market, economy and world situations working for a big company isn’t true security. Job layoffs. Company mergers. Shrinking or evaporating benefits.  Increasing instability. Not safety.

It used to be that people worked for one company their entire careers. That shifted to workers having multiple employers and likely multiple career paths.   I believe there is a shift starting that people will actually have less security working for corporations and companies than they do working for themselves or their communiti(es).  Real security will involve the participation in and creation of communities.

So, yes, I am scared. Yes, I am anxious. Yes, all my fears of judgement are wildly intact. No, I don’t know what this new adventure will look like in 3 months, 9 months or 5 years. But I’m excited, passionate and open to the road.

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20 Responses to The Futile Fear of Failure: It is Quitting Time

  1. jess s says:

    There are so many things I could say, but mostly Congrats!!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. You are not alone. The courage to share your story is immense and will undoubtedly benefit your readers immeasurably. I really appreciate your transparency, raw honesty, and tell-it how-it-is practicality. You are fierce my friend and the world is a better, stronger place with you in it….especially when you’re doing what you love. Here’s to you, to the journey and to growing and resisting.

  3. Laurie says:

    Follow your Heart!!!! Good Luck!!

  4. Ellen says:

    Passion can out-trump perceived safety net, especially as you realize that ‘net’ is full of holes anyway, as you said.

  5. Congratulations! Homebrew Husband had a job that was slowly (actually, quite rapidly) sucking the soul out of him. I won’t go into details, but he was being told to lie to everyone: students, loan people, etc. etc. After a bottle of Maker’s Mark and a long night of writing a resignation letter, he lept into the great world of unemployment without a backup job. Best decision he ever made….we really believe that when you take often when you take the big chances the universe comes along to help you out. Good luck, you’ll do great.

  6. Travel Dad says:

    The comments of your practical dad and your grandfather. Your Grandfather was mister practical, mister security in a job and all of this with 5 careers from a telegrapher to a college instructor. quite a feat for a child of the depression from a Missouri farm. He would say go for it. I join him. You can do what ever you want to try. If one doesn’t work the next one will.

  7. Becca says:

    Congratulations. I have also recently “retired” from over 16 years in (veterinary) medicine, so that I can focus on parenting and growing food. It was a difficult thing to give myself permission to do, and sometimes it is hard to deal with the reactions of the people in my life. Ultimately though, I think there is more security (and vastly more satisfaction) in providing directly for our own needs than there is in participating in the mainstream economy. Keep up the good work!

    (Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes was great for a pep-talk when I was deep in the self doubt)

  8. Deanna Erickson says:

    So good I shared it on FB. Resonance makes it that good! If substitute “no longer working in the legal field” and your post illustrates the same fear motivated angst that I endured while working in the legal field. Congratulations on taking flight!!! It’s so worth it! 🙂

  9. Deanna Erickson says:

    URGH….typos…

  10. Rubesy says:

    Great post, and good on you! It sounds like you did some good thinking and made a choice that was right for you.

    Ruby

  11. Amy Sirk says:

    congratulations! Welcome to the self-employed life. Sometimes it will feel like heaven and other times it will feel like a roller coaster that you can’t get off. The main issue with being your own boss is that when you have money you will have no time and when you have free time you will have no money. That said, it is absolutely worth it! Best of luck. Please keep us updated on your dream.

  12. Iron McKroll says:

    Brilliant! I hope you and the Ladyfriend and Babylady are able to take some time to breathe, unwind and be with the change. Looking forward to hearing about what comes next!

  13. hejemonster says:

    I could not be more proud or more excited for my best friend, partner in the ‘crimes’ of subverting dominant paradigms, and my sweets! Won’t do too much PDA here….just a congratulatory note and a little plug.

    Locals…one of the reasons I chose Meg as my partner (and was so glad she chose me back) was because she is exceptional in teaching others to grow. She has honed this talent in an array of ways (love, confidence, parenting, gardening, landscaping, etc.)….

    I am excited!

  14. Memaw Elise says:

    Meg, I love you blog because I love how much of yourself you share. Thank you for being so open. Having been in your home so many times I have been the recipient of your abilities in cooking, parenting, growing, caring about the world we live in. I have great faith in you! Go for your dreams!

  15. Thank you so much for all the support, love and confidence! It means so much to me. Raising it up to big dreams and following your intuition!

  16. Grace says:

    Good for you and I hear you. My job is slowly killing me. It takes absolutely everything I have and I have nothing left for my loved ones, no energy to take care of my home, no time to do anything for myself or anyone else. Two years, that’s my goal. I want to quit working on my 50th birthday, so that I can begin to live. I’m really happy for you. If you can find it, Gene Logsden has an article entitled something like “Stay Home and Make Real Money.” He makes a lot of sense.

  17. Ashley says:

    Thanks for a post that resonates so much with what I’m going through these days too. I’m sure that everything you need will meet you along the way, as long as you stay open (in mind and heart) and moving along whatever path you choose. 🙂

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