One night in mid-December, I had a vivid, intriguing dream. I dreamed I’d had another child, a beautiful baby girl named Elle.
The dream took me through the final stages of pregnancy, through giving birth, and then the appearance of a small serene face, swaddled in a soft baby-pink blanket, resting comfortably in my arms. It was one of those long, drawn-out dreams that stay with you long after you wake.
It was interesting, to say the least. I’ve had my three children, and there will be no more, which rules out the literal interpretation. So what of this dream, I wondered at the time. What could it mean?
Apparently, a dream about giving birth is often a metaphor for starting a new life phase or making a fresh start. But it didn’t hit me until a few weeks later how incredibly prescient it was.
You see, after months of uncertainty and intense stress about my status at my journalism job of 13 years, and much soul-searching, agonizing, and consulting with those I trust and respect most, I’ve recently decided to leave to pursue other opportunities.
It was a huge, life-changing, emotional decision and one I struggled to make. While there were elements of the job I still enjoyed, in many other ways it simply wasn’t working for me anymore. The stress was taking an incredible toll, physically and emotionally.
I absolutely love working in news, but the schedule was becoming increasingly difficult to accommodate. I was missing countless weekends and holidays with my children and by the end, working nearly seven days a week. I couldn’t plan anything.
My life completely revolved around my work schedule, and I gave it everything I had, but had no security, vacation time or future prospects. The possibility of advancement was nil. The constant uncertainty was eating at me constantly.
Over the fall and winter months, it became crystal clear that it would be in my best interest to move on. But as a parent, I was filled with guilt and self-doubt.
In an unquestionably tough economy, and particularly brutal times for the media industry, do I have the right to walk away from a job, any job, because I want to be “happier”?
My children rely on me. I have obligations. What if I’m not able to find, not only something better, but something even close to equivalent? Am I letting them down? Am I a quitter?
It’s no exaggeration to say I was tortured. Then I discovered a fascinating book, Quitting: Why We Fear It and Why We Shouldn’t, in Life, Love and Work.
The book, by author Peg Streep and psychotherapist Alan Bernstein, argues that persistence isn’t always the answer; that when we can’t achieve a goal, whether in work, love, or relationships, we need to be able to quit to be able to ultimately move forward in our lives. They point out, using personal stories and scientific studies, that quitting is actually a healthy, adaptive response that fosters growth.
I quickly devoured the book, and can say it was an essential tool in coming to peace with my decision and coming to realize that, contrary to my fears, I’ve made a well-thought-out decision that will benefit my family. It’s not selfish.
And more importantly, while in the midst of wrestling with my decision, flip-flopping daily, consumed by fear of the unknown, I asked myself how I would advise any of my three children in the same situation.
The answer came to me without hesitation. I would want and encourage them to take the leap. And to not look back. So here goes.
What kind of leap are you taking this year? Share it with me: firstname.lastname@example.org