The last five years had been hard on Sarah. She always thought she’d grow up to be an adventurer. When she was little, she dreamed of becoming a travel photographer.
So where did everything go wrong? Why was she sitting here in this call center trying to sell kitchen knives to grandmothers?
“Something has to change,” she’d say to herself as she sat down with her cup of mediocre coffee each morning. “Someday, I’m going to get out of here.”
Weeks went by and things got worse. One day, someone yelled at her for calling during dinner. She cried. Her boss said that was “unprofessional” and put her on probation.
That night, Sarah decided to make a plan. “I want out of this job in six months!” she thought to herself as she pulled out her notebook and pen to start scribbling notes. “But how am I going to make that happen?”
She thought for a minute and came up with a list of things she’d need:
- Enough money to live for six months.
- A new place to live that’s less expensive.
- Some connections to help her get her freelance business started.
And just like that, the plan was in motion. Soon, she’d be off and traveling, not a care in the world.
She told a few of her close friends what she was up to, and they were all scared, but excited for her. They had lots of questions, and Sarah was happy to answer all of them.
But then, one of her friends asked, “What’s the very first thing you’re going to do once you quit?”
Sarah thought for a second and realized she didn’t have an answer. “I don’t know!” she said. “I guess I’ll figure it out once I get there.” No one thought twice about it, including Sarah.
A few months went by and Sarah had been mostly faithful to her plan. She was saving money, she’d been on the lookout for a cheaper place to live, and she’d even made a few new friends that were freelancers.
Out for beers one night, her new friends asked her, So, Sarah. You’re only a few months away from your goal. What’s the very first thing you’re going to do when you quit?”
Sarah realized she still hadn’t worked on an answer, so she just replied, “Well, I’ll probably just take some time off and then figure it out then.”
Everyone shrugged it off and went back to drinking.
One month before her deadline, Sarah started to panic a little. She’d made a lot of progress toward her goal, but she still didn’t know what she’d do once it actually happened. For years she’d imagined what it would feel like to be this close to “living the dream.” Now that she actually was, it was all a little confusing.
She had a vague idea of what she’d like to be doing, but that pesky question, “What’s the very first step?” kept creeping into her mind and she kept pushing it right back out.
The next week, Sarah’s car broke down. For a few days, she rode her bike to work. “I’ll only have to do this for a little while until I quit,” she reminded herself.
But then a funny thing started to happen. Sarah started to panic more and more. She knew what she wanted, but she just couldn’t commit to putting her plan together. She tried to reassure herself that it would all work out once she got away, but she could hardly buy her own story now.
One day after work, she was riding by a new car lot and saw the car she’d always wanted in just the right color. There was a sign out front that said, “SPECIAL SALE! TODAY ONLY!”
“What could it hurt to take a look?” she thought. Two hours later, the papers were signed and she was driving off the lot.
That night, when she told her new friends about the car, they seemed disappointed. “I thought you wanted to quit your job, Sarah?” they asked.
“Oh I still do!” she fired back. Her savings were gone, and it would take another six months to get them back. “But this is just what I needed. Now I’ll have more time to think about just how I’ll get started with the new job once I’m ready to quit.”
“Well, do you at least know what your first step will be once you do?”
“I’m working on it. I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon.”
Sarah knew she was going to have to be diligent to save all that money again, so she started working longer hours, and taking as much overtime as she could.
Five more months passed by, and Sarah was exhausted. She’d been working like crazy to meet her goal. And then she noticed that panicked feeling again. This time, she knew just what to do. Rather than let the feelings get to her, she’d just work right through it! If you can’t address it, just ignore it, she thought.
One evening after a particularly long day, Sarah’s boss approached her.
“You’ve been doing such a great job, Sarah,” she complimented. “I’m really impressed by all your hard work.”
“Thanks,” Sarah replied halfheartedly.
“I’ve talked to the management team, Sarah. We want to give you a promotion.”
All of a sudden, Sarah perked up. “You do!?”
“Yes. We think you’re just right for the job. You’ll be making a lot more money, but you will need to go back to school for a while,” said her boss. “You can start the new job now, but the school will take about two years. We’ll cover some of the cost, but plan on spending about six months of your own pay. What do you think?”
Sarah sat quietly for a moment. Her heart was racing. She thought about her goal to quit, that was coming up again shortly. She thought about all the money she saved to do it. Most of all, she thought of her new life as a freelance photographer. No more phone calls with angry people. No more bosses telling me to work late. No more sitting in a cubicle.
Then, she thought about how any of that could even be possible. She realized she’d still never thought about the first thing she’d do once she broke away. All she saw was the end goal, not any of the steps to get there.
She panicked again. Her boss was waiting for an answer. “Sarah, you seem shocked. What do you think of all of this? It’s a great opportunity!” she said.
Sarah took a deep breath and composed herself.
“I’m thrilled. And I already have the money saved up. When can I get started?”
That night, when she got home from work, she walked into her apartment and sat down to think about what had happened that day.
As she replayed the events over in her head, she slowly soothed herself.
“I made the right decision,” she muttered aloud to no one in particular. “Obviously I wasn’t ready to quit. Now I’ve got some time to really think about this.”
Image by: h.koppdelaney