Why I Left my Career With no Backup Plan
Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time, there was a little girl. This little girl never knew what she wanted to be growing up, and envied her brother and sister who always came up with impressive career plans, and who followed their passions, turning them into their dream jobs.
Growing up, this little girl remained clueless as to what career to pursue. She studied law at university. Not because she wanted to become a lawyer. But because she thought law was interesting to study, and would teach her good solid transferrable skills she could apply in other jobs.
However following her degree, having worked various jobs in different industries (recrutement, an estate agent and last but not least a French cheese company!), the little girl who was now a young woman, felt a little lost. She decided to give law a go, because, she had afterall spent four years studying it at university. She found a way to qualify as a lawyer that didn’t involve going to Law School (because although she didn’t know much, she absolutely knew that this was not the way for her to qualify).
She found a job in a Bristol law firm, and worked her way up to a role in the Employment Department, where she eventually qualified after years of training and working.
Then one day, she decided enough of all that. She quit with no back up plan, and lived happily ever after.
So… Why Did I Quit?
Yep. You see, I used to work as a qualified lawyer. The little girl turned woman is indeed me (didn’t see that coming did you!).
I was so excited when I got the job in Employment Law. After years of working three jobs, and starting from the bottom of the law firm to work my way to a department I wanted to work in, it felt really good. I made some great friends over time, and to this day, many of my close friends were people I used to work with in those law firms (and it is where I met Barry too!).
So What Happened… Well, at the risk of sounding cliché, I had kids. Two of them. But my decision to quit didn’t happen overnight. It took a few years.
Career Post Babies
Before I had my children, and even after their births, I had never considered not working. I took short maternity leaves for various personal reasons, and was always happy to return to work when I did. I worked full time with Siena, and part time with Hugo. It worked for me. It worked for Barry and I. It was what I wanted. I liked being in work, learning new things, having my desk, seeing my friends and colleagues. We had no family or anyone to help us out, but we did find a great nursery for the kids where they thrived, and they loved their key workers and friends there.
I knew many people who chose to stay at home once they had kids, but it wasn’t something I wanted at the time. Being at home with the kids all day, everyday slightly terrified me if I’m honest… I had Siena quiet young and was still working on qualifying as a lawyer. I didn’t have much (any?) experience of babies and couldn’t afford the baby groups in the area.
Also, I used to love my job. Until I didn’t.
Not only did I stop enjoying my job, but the effects of it took over my life, my health, my relationships… Suddenly, financially and emotionally it didn’t seem worth it anymore. I had lost three close family members at the time my son was born, which really drained me emotionally (on top of looking after a toddler and a newborn).
My son as a newborn was also very different to my daughter. With allergies undiagnosed for a long time, we went through a long few years of projectile vomiting and not eating. He was also a light sleeper, and only needed very little sleep. He had asthma which I knew nothing about at the time, but again didn’t get a diagnosis until he was nearly 4 despite many, many hospital visits in the night and me asking the doctors to diagnose him! Oh the fun…
On top of that I was having health issues of my own following the birth, that no doctor or dietician could diagnose or find the cause of it. They couldn’t find anything, which was good, but they couldn’t explain the case of my pains…
I was not in a good place, both emotionally and physically. I felt stretched too thin and had become irritable and not particularly pleasant to be around… At work, I remember getting into the office and bursting into tears when the telephone rang or even just if a friend said good morning to me. I was not in a good place.
The Final Straw
In June 2014, we took a family holiday to Bordeaux to see some family. It was going to be my “decision making” week. I had talked to Barry at length about everything going on and how I felt. I was considering leaving my job, leaving my career… and staying at home with the kids until I figured out what to do next. Barry was fully supported of my decision either way, telling me to do what was right for me, and we would work on the rest.
We had worked out that financially, we were better off for me not working, rather than working and paying for childcare for two young children (don’t even get me started on how ridiculous this is!). We also had the headache of trying to sort out childcare for the following year, so that my daughter to attend the local preschool. But that meant finding childcare for before and after school, as Barry and I were both in work for long days… I know so many people have to do this, but it just seemed so complicated (and expensive!). It didn’t feel right…
During our holiday, my 3 year old’s appendix burst, and became horribly infected… It took almost a week to be diagnosed (not a great track history with diagnostics!) and I then spent the following few weeks in a French hospital room with her whilst she recovered.
Barry had to return to the UK as Hugo was a baby and not allowed in the hospital. The insurance also only covered for one of us to stay with Siena. With a heavy heart, he therefore went home with Hugo, and I stayed with Siena in France. In a way, this enforced period of sitting still in the hospital room whilst Siena recovered, changed my life.
Finding inner strength
Siena was an absolutely trooper. Kids are so strong. Despite the pain she must have been in, she never complained. She spent a few days in Intensive Care but she was chatting away and asking about the hole in her tummy (they had to keep the wound open due to the severity of the infection, for it to then seal itself naturally). Her strength amazed me, and grounded me.
The nurses loved her as she only speak English and they only spoke French. Siena also insisted on watching Dr McStuffings, and kept making me play doctors with her and her teddy, essentially repeating on loop what had happened over the previous week with herself. One way to get over the trauma I suppose…
A week later, seeing her all frail and emancipated, but determined to get out of bed and walk around pushing her drip feed with her, made me immensely proud of her. And I’m sure it helped me be brave too.
I had a full week of sitting quietly in the hospital room whilst Siena slept, popping out to get delicious baguettes and cakes from the hospital bakery.
It had already been a traumatic couple of years, and this was the cherry on top. I remember sitting in the chair by the window, and typing my email to work. I was resigning and was going to make sure I was at home for September, so Siena could start preschool.
However terrified I had been in the past about becoming a stay at home parent (please don’t ever use the phrase “full-time mum” in my presence… I get evil!), I suddenly felt calm. I knew this was the right thing to do. My gut feeling was 100% on board with it, and it has never failed me in the past.
I remember being nervous about telling my family. Telling them after years of studying and working, I was leaving my career in law. And no, I had no back up plan. Yes, I was sure it was the right thing to do. It just felt right.
Once I had resigned and told my family, I knew I had made the right decision.
So Why Am I Telling You This?
Since leaving my career, I have come across SO many people who have done the same. So (so!) many lawyers, who left their careers to retrain in photography, open their own shop, start a new venture. But also others. Others who, through tragedy, got a wake up that life really is short, so why spend it being miserable in a job that doesn’t fulfil you?
There is always a great feeling of meeting someone who’s followed a similar path to you. Someone who understands why you did what you did. Even though you hadn’t figured it all out beforehand.
But I’m telling you my story because I would love to inspire you to be brave, to make you really look at your life and your job, and take action before tragedy strikes. Not waiting for something bad to happen to take action. Instead focussing on the good you want to happen, and taking steps towards making it a reality.
I’m not saying everyone should resign from their current jobs with no back up plans.
But you should trust your guts.
When I resigned, I told myself I would give myself two years to figure out what to do next career wise. Worse comes to worse, I always had a legal career to go back to. But so far, nearly four years on, it hasn’t come to that.
I had absolutely no idea what to do next. But I decided to go with the flow, and keep an eye out for opportunities.