Quit your day job and do what you want.
It’s screamed across the internet like a beacon of hope in a world of soulless corporate drudgery.
But I’m a realist, not an idealist, and like I’ve said many times before, sometimes running off into the sunset to live the dream doesn’t quite go to plan. Even if it does, you might not enjoy your dream life as much as you’d expected to.
The one question I think everyone should ask themselves before setting out to do their own thing is:
Will I still like it when the glamour’s gone?
It’s easy to love something during the fervour of the first few months. You’re free from the office! You’re pursuing something you love! That annoying colleague from marketing doesn’t hover by your desk to ask you questions anymore!
The first stage of working for yourself feels a bit like the first stage of a new relationship.
The job can do no wrong. It is beautiful and tall and amazing. It tells funny jokes and all its little quirks and foibles aren’t irritating yet. You want to spend every moment with the work. You decide it’s the most important thing in your life, and somehow it takes over every minute of every day.
When you’re not sitting with it, you’re thinking about it, and making little notes to your job on your phone so you remember them later. You stay up late, skip dinner, spend long languid mornings in bed imagining your future career path.
But what about when all that wears off?
What about when you suddenly realise you haven’t had a full night’s sleep in months, and that it’s really not fun when you have to spend every waking moment thinking about something, and that it’s REALLY FUCKING ANNOYING WHEN THEY LEAVE THE TOILET SEAT UP?
OK, maybe not that last one.
But still, the example applies.
Of course your dream is going to sound amazing when you’re stuck in corporate hell all day filling in spreadsheets and trying to dodge unnecessary meetings. It’s going to feel amazing when you can finally introduce yourself to people as a writer / journalist / private investigator / whatever you wanted to be.
But after a few months, when the initial romance has worn off, you’ll probably come to a realisation of what your job actually entails.
Yes, it sounds cool to say you’re a writer, but a lot of it involves sitting for extended periods in front of a computer screen, typing things other people have told you to write. It sounds great to say you’re an investigator, except that you also have to do your accounts and make sure you have the right type of business insurance.
So when you’re thinking about the dream you’re going to quit your day job for, don’t just think about introducing yourself as Maria Jennings, Badass Extraordinaire. Ask yourself which bits of the job you won’t find glamorous. Which bits you won’t enjoy. Which bits will make you want to pull the duvet back over your head in the morning and roll over groaning.
Think about what it’ll be like to do the day to day practicalities of the job, not just the fun bits. Ask yourself which bits that sound fun might not be in reality. Surveillance, for example, sounds like a badass thing to do – and it is, kinda – but it’s also really freaking boring. Sitting in a car for eight hours, unable to pee, isn’t as cool as they make it look in the movies.
In the end, the knowledge that you’re doing something you actually care about will probably make the pain of doing your own admin worthwhile. But it’s important to have a realistic view of things before you merrily ride off into the sunset to pursue an idealistic vision of what your life will be.