Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Quit Your Day Job

So. Hey. Hi. I’m Alisa and, not to be confused with the Pope, I am quitting my full-time job Thursday, February 28. Tomorrow.

If you’re anything like my colleagues, the inevitable next question is, "Why?" Or, "What is your next adventure?" Or, my personal favorite, "What are your long-term plans?" Yikes.

To be short: I’m not sure.

Here’s what I do know: I am stupidly close to 40 years old; solidly middle-aged. Throughout my entire adult life, I have worked at jobs that I liked (or not) but definitely did not love—jobs that I found my way into through a series of purely practical decisions, not all of which were made by me.

The trajectory of my life can pretty much be summed up by an exchange I had with my guidance counselor as a high school senior. During the obligatory meeting in which I was asked what I wanted to do with my life, I replied, "Art," and was immediately met with the flabbergasted response, "ART!?!?! Why would a girl as smart as you want to go into ART???" Ahem. I won the senior art award and a handful of juried art competitions that year. I applied and was accepted as a student in the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the school of my choice. But before I even set foot on campus, everything changed. My financial benefactors parents got cold feet.

As a parent myself, I understand where they were coming from. Of course I wonder how things might have turned out had I stayed the course. Certainly the fear was that I’d be living in my parents’ basement well into my 30s, making pots in the garage *shudder* As it turns out, my mother knew an occupational therapist and thought that this profession would be the ideal marriage of art and science, so that was it. I became an acute care OT, wrecked my back before the age of 22, and decided there was no way I could make a long term gig out of something so strenuous. Of course I didn’t try different practice settings. There was no point. I knew I didn’t love it.

So I enrolled in graduate school for public health, of course. What else would I do? Certainly creative pursuits were not an option for competent adults, and besides, I’d already gone and completed an education in something totally unrelated. That goose was cooked. I went on to work in various healthcare data and research roles and met with a decent amount of success (go ahead, PubMed me... and next time you’re having trouble sleeping? "Resource use and costs of branch and cetral retinal vein occlusion in the elderly." You’re welcome). But I didn’t love that either.

Nonetheless, I plugged away. I got married, had kids and, perhaps out of necessity more than anything else, got to expend a little bit of that pent up creative energy on renovating a house or two. Because I am both a freakish miser and married to an academic scientist, a tight budget forced me to become a Craigslist aficionado and I realized I had a knack for spotting hidden gems and turning fugly into fabulous. AND, more importantly, I really love it.

But working more than full-time with two crazy kids and a workaholic husband doesn’t really allow much time for such activities...

After childcare expenses, I currently bring home barely enough to cover our monthly grocery bill, and the stress of it all ("juggling chainsaws" is like the greatest phrase ever) is just so darn tiring. SO—I’m quitting because I need balance. I’m quitting because the status quo doesn’t make financial sense. I’m quitting because I’m one "Happy Birthday" chorus away from the big 4-0 and despite my lifelong obsession, I’ve never allowed myself to pursue anything creative in any kind of meaningful way.

So what are my long-term plans? I don’t know, but hopefully they involve spending more time doing the things I love. I actually bought a book (mock me. It IS embarrassing) about how to turn your creative passion into a career.The book really hammers home the point that one must have a "business plan," before going live.Does this count as "going live?" Oops.

Nevertheless, this is where I plan to show off some work, share inspiration, and chronicle the journey. And maybe along the way, I really will figure out how to make a career out of doing the things I love… but in the meantime, let the experiment begin!


  1. way to go Alisa!!! Loved reading this

  2. I think the name of your business should be "From Fugly to Fabulous" :)

  3. Good for you! I, at the age 45, went back to college for my Bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies. Changed my degree to Sustainable Business. And cause I had so much fun, I applied for my Master's (I start this fall). Years of working hard to earn money (I had been working since I was 12 years old with paper route/babysitting gigs), I am constantly surprising myself (and others) what I can do and have learned. In the future, I will not work full-time (looking for a 30 hours a week job) because I realize that I enjoy my time to exercise, hike, play, visit with friends, design/remodel, house maintenance, etc., so much more than a paycheck.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story. I love hearing how others have found their passion--even if a bit later than planned--and are learning how to achieve the right balance in their lives. Good for you!