“You deserve to be happy,” I kept (and keep) telling myself.
“You are worth it!”
This was my mantra during the time I was making a significant change in my life and decided to take a big break. In late 2012 I quit my job after 6 years of hard work and long hours dedicated to product marketing and began a 10 month journey of self-discovery through Southeast Asia, India and parts of Europe. The process from acknowledging I needed a change to actually getting over the hurdle and hopping on a plane to Bangkok took time, understanding and a bunch of support. The good news is if I can do it, so can you.
Here are five steps I experienced in creating change and manifesting a life that felt more…like me.
Acknowledge a change is needed
Whether it is making the decision to quit your job, postpone grad school, or take a break from a certain kind of life you’ve been leading, knowing you need a change is the first step in making what you truly want to actually happen. However, making the decision to stop what you’re doing right where you are and say, “No, I don’t want this,” and move in a new direction isn’t easy. You might have an inkling, a feeling deep in your stomach that’s telling you, “This isn’t quite right”. There might not only be a yearning for more, but a knowing that there is more to this life than what you are currently experiencing. By honoring and listening to that inner voice, our deepest desires, we naturally begin the process of cultivating change.
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Knowing you are worth it
It takes more than listening to your gut to make big decisions like taking a career break. I knew I needed to make a change, but it took a good 3 years to feel “worthy” enough to act on it. In my case, I was living a life of fear. I was afraid to disappoint those around me: my family, employer, colleagues and friends. I made others’ happiness more important than my own. This only made me feel more stuck, more unsatisfied, less productive in my work, and just unpleasant to be around. I was sick of hearing myself complain. Gradually, through therapy, self-help books, TedTalks, yoga and an introduction to meditation, my self-worth grew and grew. I started practicing putting myself first, setting boundaries, saying “no.” Little by little I could feel my courage and inner strength brewing. I was getting ready to act on making an even bigger change in my life.
Letting go of attachments
As humans we generally cling to comfort. If given the option of choosing between something you know and something unknown, we tend to stick with “the usual.” We carry a soft spot for what we know, this life we’ve worked so hard to build. Even though I knew I needed a change and was beginning to feel worthy enough to experience this happiness, I was still greatly attached to my life in the Bay Area, California. But if I truly wanted an alternative, I needed to make room for it. I began to analyze my relationship and identity with my work, my friends and community. Would the company survive without me? Could I survive this journey without my friends? Would I risk losing a friend to experience something new? How could I create community in the places I hoped to visit? Making a change and taking a break definitely comes with a bit of letting go, which is probably one of the hardest steps along the way. And it’s the letting go process that requires support.
Create a support network
So began the search to find people and communities that would support me, because God knows I was not going to pull the plug all on my own. I tried focusing less on my mother’s concerns and more on who could help me make my desire a reality. Friends connected me to other friends who knew people who traveled for long periods of time. I made tea-dates with yoga teachers who had practiced in India, and Skyped with current travelers wandering abroad.
In my outreach I discovered my friend from college, Anne and her new husband Mike were getting ready to leave for a year-long honeymoon around the world. On a trip to New York, I popped over to Hoboken and had an uplifting pow-wow with my around the world bound friends at Honeytrek. Almost in unison, Mike and Anne said, “Have you heard of Meet Plan Go?”
They had recently attended a meet-up and said they met tons of like-minded people eager to take career breaks and received loads of inspiration and support on how to make it happen. Lucky for me the national meet-up was scheduled in just a few weeks. In October, 2012 I attended the San Francisco gathering. Filled with helpful information and more importantly, encouraging pats on the back, I quit my job by the end of the month.
If you’re in the New York City or San Francisco areas , Meet, Plan, Go! is hosting meetups in both (Ashley, the author of this article, will be at the San Francisco meetup). Both are free, but you do need tickets. Visit the sites below to get your free ticket and for more info:
Embracing the unknown
Going against the grain is uncomfortable and is not without risking a splinter or two. While the world around you is cruising in one direction, it can feel quite daunting to wave goodbye and take the next exit. If you get off the known highway of life and take an alternate route, well, there’s no telling what sort of potholes and unpaved streets lie ahead. The fact is, you will never know. You can be as prepared as you can be with your maps and all-weather gear, but you really don’t know where this amazing journey of life is going to take you. Getting comfortable with this “not knowing” is the key to experiencing great happiness. In my experience, when you have trust in the unknown, acting from the heart and not out of obligation, there is only room for a positive outcome.
If any of this is resonating, I encourage you to put your blinker on and take the road less traveled. Listen to your inner voice and trust you know what you truly want and can make your deepest desires a reality. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and surround yourself with people who lift you up. There is no question making a big decision is difficult, but I can guarantee you, it will be one of the most liberating experiences you will feel in your life.
I’ll leave you with the words of Mark Twain (which also inspired me to shave my head in Dharamsala, India)
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Ashley Garver made the switch from an under stimulated, disconnected work-a-holic into a joyously free-spirited world-class wanderer. With a full backpack and a sublet apartment, she spent ten introspective months traveling alone throughout Southeast Asia, India, and Europe. She studied yoga, eastern healing modalities, meditation, and — most importantly — herself. Ashley detoxed her body, shaved her head, biked through the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, and volunteered at a yoga retreat in Portugal for a month. During her journey of self-discovery, Ashley realized that, with love and honesty, she is capable of just about anything. You can read more about Ashley on her website I See Ashley and follow her on Twitter.