It is midnight in the middle of June, and I am lying on my living room floor trying to slow my frantic breathing, letting the cold tiles press hard against my sweating skin. Rent is due in two days, and no matter what funds I scrape together and how many times I redo the calculations—I do not have enough money. I cannot tell my friends or family because I cannot bear to drag them into this. Needless to say, I feel worthless and utterly alone.
How did I get here? By my own choice, really.
Last February, with just $4,000 to my name, with my family 2,400 miles away from me, and with no real plan other than “start a writing business and travel more,” I quit my well-paying office job in Silicon Valley, California.
But the struggle was just beginning. I had videography and writing clients, and I made money. But with the insanely high cost of living in one of the most expensive areas in the United States, it just wasn’t enough. I made mistakes. I waited too long. I didn’t plan ahead. I suffered the consequences.
“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” – C.S. Lewis
If I had known that three months from my last day at work, I would be eating spoonfuls of peanut butter out of the jar at night just to calm the rumbling in my stomach, if I had known I would sell my beloved guitar, if I had known I would pawn an item I thought I’d never give away just to make rent the next day, if I had known all these things before, would I have still made the decision to leave my job?
I have asked myself that question many times in the past few days. And the answer is always “Yes.” I have made many mistakes, but deciding to pursue my dreams was not one of them.
I have experienced the soul-crushing reality of ignoring your passion for the sake of doing what is practical. The effects of that existence were much worse than any hardship I face now.
Now, in every way, I get to live life on my own terms. And at the end of my life, I will be able to say, “I gave it my best,” which will always be better than the haunting question of “What if?” All those mistakes I’ve made? I’m chalking them up to experience and moving on.
Rest assured, there have been happy things too! I have met generous strangers who’ve offered me business advice (one even wants to partner with me), I have gone on trips I never could have gone on with an office job limited to ten vacation days, and when a client loves my work—I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to my dad, an entrepreneur who’s seen more than his fair share of hardships, about how much I’ve failed.
“I know you’re struggling,” he told me. “And I’m proud of you for it.”
To be doing what you love, to have someone pay you to do that work and then love what you create, to have friends and family who endlessly encourage and support you—and for some baffling reason are proud of you despite your failures—it makes all the sleepless nights, all the struggles, and all the tears worth it.
While I do not regret my decision, there are a few things I would have done differently. My tips for if you choose to follow your dreams:
1. Have a plan and a budget.
I didn’t have either, and let me tell you, that is the fastest way to fail.
2. Be clear about what it is you really want.
I was all over the place at first, trying to do videography, photography and writing—when all along, I had wanted to focus on my writing. Once you narrow down what it is you truly want, things will be much easier.
3. Don’t be too afraid or too proud to let others know you need help.
This one has been particularly hard for me because I am fiercely independent, and I don’t like to be a burden to others. But you’d be amazed at how much people are willing to help you, if you’ll just let them.
“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires”
― Nelson Mandela
This road has been rough and exhausting, marked with potholes and obstacles I could never have predicted, but it is the path I chose. And though I have stumbled and scraped my knees dozens of times, I get back up and continue to walk this path every day, even if I’m limping, because I can see the goal in the distance. I am not there yet. But I am getting there.
For those of you who are mulling over a decision to pursue your passion, I know you didn’t come to this blog post looking for The Answer.
You have already heard it resounding in your heart a million times over: “Yes, go for it.” I have no idea what “it” is.
But you do.
* * * * * Photo credit to: Raul Fernandez
Amy is a freelance writer, traveler, and endless dreamer. Born and raised in Florida, she packed up her car in September 2012 and drove to California, where she planned to figure it out as she went along. She is still figuring it out. Read about her travels at The Wherever Writer. You can also follow her adventures on Twitter and Facebook.