Last Wednesday marked the scariest things I've done in the past year. No, I didn't swim with white sharks or vacation in that town overrun with maniacal clowns.
I quit my job.
But let me back up a sec.
Following college, I landed an absolutely terrible job where I got paid next to nothing to hand out fliers and other pointless crap to strangers, often while wearing a costume. A great use of my journalism degree!
It was awful.
So after a year, I did something perfectly naive: I put in my two weeks notice with zero plan.
I spent the next month celebrating my own personal Summer of George, doing awesome stuff like going to the farmers' market on Thursday afternoons and laying by the pool.
There were also many, many margaritas.
But I knew I had to figure out my life. As cheesy as this seems in retrospect, I watched the movie version of The Secret (didn't read the book.. who has time for that?!). It made me realize the importance of goals. So, I set one:
Get paid to eat, travel and tell people about it.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Even more naive talk here, right? Who wouldn't want that job?
But during my summer of freedom, I focused on it. I thought about it all the time. I pictured what my life would look like. I even took an online class on how to be a travel writer.
And then I had an epiphany.
There was this guy named Andrew Zimmern. He had this new show on Travel Channel called Bizarre Foods & I loved it. As it turned out, he also lived in the Twin Cities. I decided to ask Andrew Zimmern how he ended up getting paid to eat, travel and tell people about it. Then, I could just do the same!
On July 26, 2007, I cold-called (more specifically, cold-emailed) him, asking how he had achieved my dream job. I also attached this photo of me from a recent flight:
Instead of ignoring me or sending some canned response, Andrew took a risk and hired me.
Yes, you heard me right: I emailed Andrew Zimmern and he hired me.
I've spent the last 7+ years immersed in the world of food, travel and journalism.
Together, Andrew and I have written three books (this one, this one and MY FAVORITE, this one!). We've traveled to Miami, Wisconsin (exotic!), visited New York a lot, once even getting trapped at the W Hotel during Hurricane Sandy.
I was literally eating, traveling and telling people about it.
I can't even explain the fantastical nature of this job.
I've met so many amazing people and honed all sorts of skills (Twitter wasn't even a thing when I started; now I'm a whiz!).
However, there comes a time in every career when your gut starts talking.
The moment you realize you need to move on to make your life happen is bittersweet. It's especially difficult when your job is really good. Not only does it pay the bills, but you love your coworkers (loveloveLOVE!), the work is exciting, you're having fun.
Sometimes you need to let go of good.
I just got married. We're not starting a family any time soon-soon, but you know, probably in the next few years. I've realized my next two years are pivotal. My time, energy and creativity are finite and so valuable. Since starting Hey Eleanor, I've spent every morning and night writing. In between, I go to the office and write and write some more.
I absolutely love everything I'm doing with Hey Eleanor, but simply haven't had the time to make it into my vision. I had to make a big decision.
Last month, with butterflies in my stomach, I asked Andrew if we could change our working relationship.
He said yes.
Andrew and I will continue being our snarky selves on the Go Fork Yourself podcast, and I'll still be pitching in on a few projects here and there. I'm devoting 90 percent of my time to building Hey Eleanor, working on a book proposal (!) and freelance writing.
Without a doubt, leaving my job is scariest thing I've done to date.
(Yes, even scarier than going to Costco on a Saturday).
But quitting that stupid marketing job seven years ago was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
I'm trusting my gut and leaping again. It's a lot harder this time, but I'm ready.
I am thankful for the love and support of my coworkers, friends, family, and of course, Andrew. I'll be forever grateful for him taking a chance on me, and for not only being a great boss, but amazing mentor and friend.
I gotta give a huge shout out to my amazing husband, too.
I don't think I'd have the courage to make this leap without his love, support and faith in me (and, on a practical note, his company's health insurance plan). I promise I won't be a freeloader forever!
* * *
Any advice for a newly self-employed freelancer/book writer/not-exactly-sure-what-they-wanna-be-er? Comment away; I need all the help I can get! EEEEEEEK!