Wednesday Wisdom: Walking Away— It’s Not Selfish, It’s Self Love!

I wrote this post about waking away from my teaching job in Camden, NJ in 2016, a year ago. Little did I know I’d be finding myself in a similar situation, walking away from renewing my teaching contract a few days ago. BUT the motives behind leaving both jobs are the same.

I’m coming on almost two years on an important anniversary, the day in which I left my job and my life as I knew it, throwing myself into the unknown to go on a soul searching adventure half way across the globe. Reflecting on the last two years of my life, there are a few life lessons I’ve learned that I think are worth sharing, and one in particular, learning when to walk away.

Let me set the scene of my reality one year ago:  Six months prior I lost my father. Although I subconsciously knew he didn’t have much time left (several months before his death I had a “feeling” I needed to repair our complicated relationship), the loss was sudden. Still dealing with unresolved grief from his passing, and feeling stuck at a job that perpetuated my already intrinsic belief, I am not enough, I had breakdowns during my morning commute daily. Feeling utterly lost, my passion and satisfaction with life dwindling, my dissatisfaction consumed me. Just like anyone confronted with an existential crisis, I decided to read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, hoping I’d find direction, purpose, a sign. Three pages into the prologue, the Aha! moment hit me square in the gut as I read Paulo’s words:

“Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.”

ProLOGUE, The Alchemist

Sitting there reading Coelho’s description of the slow death of one’s soul when we do not follow our personal legend, warm tears flowed endlessly down my cheeks. I knew I was not living my personal calling, and as I read his words I became acutely aware of the crushing weight caused by the “bearable suffering” I had been tolerating for many years. In that moment, I realized I needed to take action to save my soul from its creeping fate. I shut the book, and bawled until I regained enough strength and awareness to continue reading. I read the book in two nights, the fastest I had ever read ANY book.

I started reading The Alchemist on a Sunday and by that Thursday I handed in my letter of resignation. Although I felt relief and excitement the moment I handed in my resignation, I also felt guilt, shame, embarrassment. I had this overwhelming feeling that I was a failure. I harbored what I perceived to be other people’s judgement and let that influence my self- talk. I am abandoning my colleagues. I’m not strong enough to stay. I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. I’m a failure. I’m not good enough.

I made this decision without consulting one important person, my mother, and with good reason (love you mom!). I was most hesitant to admit to my mother that I had quit my job, without any plan for a new one.  I expected I’d get bombarded with judgement riddled questions such as, “Do you have another job lined up? How are you going to pay your bills? How are you going to get insurance?” When I did tell her, and after asking those first few questions, she also inquired “So what are you going to do now?”

Humbly, I asked if I could move home, to take some time to process my grief, learn more about self-care, and save money. Thankfully, she agreed. 

During those two months, despite doing the tough work to heal myself, my social anxiety peaked and I was caught up in a debilitating depression. My embarrassment over quitting my job affected my self -confidence which presented as awkwardness and silence in social settings. I confined myself to my mother’s house, to work on my self-healing. Ultimately though, after the two months of healing, I set myself up for success to unnerve myself and go solo backpacking around Australia, and in the end move to Colorado, the place I knew to be my home since visiting at age 15.

I learned one very valuable lesson during this time, there is no shame in walking away, or quitting something that no longer aligns with your values, your worth or your integrity. Had I stayed at my job and still be living in Philadelphia, my soul would surely be crushed by the weight of not living my life’s purpose. Therefore I’ve changed my views on quitting something midway, or walking away when it no longer resonates. It’s not selfish, it’s self love!

When the offer was on the table to renew my teaching contract a few days ago, I remembered this feeling, the crushing weight of not living my life’s purpose, and for that reason I declined to renew. I have no idea what my next move is, and yes it’s anxiety inducing, but I know I’m making space for an opportunity that is more aligned with my soul’s purpose. Here I am jumping, making the leap of faith, as I know the net will be revealed… slowly but surely!

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