Dear Mandy,

I want to completely overhaul my job and industry.  I hate being an accountant and want to pursue my dream of being a yoga instructor.  I don’t know how much longer I can take it, but I worry about the impact it will have on my growing family and finances.  How do I make this viable?

Sincerely,

Jenn S.

 

Dear Jenn,

Girl, you are preaching to the choir.  We have all, at some point, dreamt of reinventing ourselves.  Who hasn’t fantasized about being a yoga teacher?  Or a travel agent?  Or food trucker?  Trying on these NEW and DIFFERENT evolved versions of ourselves is healthy, and a necessary part of our growth.  But let’s just make sure it isn’t an escapist fantasy, or an uninformed daydream; that your dreams have substance and are guiding you from an honest place.

Let’s start with why you chose accounting in the first place.  At one point in time, maybe many years ago, pursuing a career in accounting seemed like a good idea.  Why?  Well, your father and brother and uncle were all accountants.  You fell into being a math major and were always just so good with numbers.  And, it did feel very safe and warm to say you work at Ernst & Young (or wherever), and to have such good health insurance.  I’m making this up, but you get the idea!

You had your reasons, and it was enough to compel you to go down that path.  Your rational brain said “yes, do that” and so year after year, there you sat, in your grey cubicle with fluorescent overhead lights, manipulating spreadsheets eight hours a day.  Something kept you there.  What was it?  A need for stability?  Credibility?  Professional clout?  Some manic voice that whispered that you weren’t good enough and if you left, you were throwing away your potential?  Girl, we all have our demons that feed on fear, and there is only one way to expel them.  You have to look at your fear head on, acknowledge its existence, lie down next to it, stroke its hair, and then kindly ask it to leave.  Your baggage (for lack of a better word) isn’t going to magically disappear just by switching jobs.  Until you do the deep soul work of exorcising it and cleansing it from your psyche, you will likely carry that with you, in some form or another, into the next job, and the one after that.

What this means is that the void you are trying to fill must be nourished from within.  It starts with loving yourself, and accepting yourself, unconditionally.  It’s tough.  But try this:  do you love yourself as an accountant?  Say yes.  Explain why.  Forgive yourself for the choices you made.  Stop beating yourself up.  Give yourself credit for realizing that this is no longer what you want to do, and that’s okay.  Will you love yourself as a yoga instructor?  Again, the answer is yes.  Not because it is a cooler job that essentially mandates a sense of calm, but because it is closer aligned (hopefully) to your true self.  Will you love yourself, six months from now, if you wake up and realize oh shit, you hate yoga and resent peddling to the upper middle class yuppies who are masquerading as zen when in fact they are workaholic monsters?  Yes, and yes, and yes, and yes.  Always yes.  Keep on this path and no matter what you do, you’ll always have yourself to come back to.

Now in practical terms, how do you do this?  How do you execute on a plan to make the switch viable?  I’m getting paid a nice six figures right now, and being a yoga instructor I’d barely be making what I was paid in my first job, twelve years ago.  Is this a step back?  Am I throwing everything away that I worked so hard for?  It’s so damn terrifying that I think I’ll just keep crunching numbers for another minute, month, year, lifetime.  OK slow down.  You can do this.

Let me draw out a little analogy for you.  Imagine you’re planning a trip, a nice little one week vacation for you and your lover to Paris.  You’re going to book a nice AirBnB, reserve your train tickets, buy your flight, and maybe bookmark a few cafes with croissants that you have to try, right?  The whole point is to enjoy the fuck out of Paris and live spontaneously, but you also need to make sure your hotels are booked and your seats are reserved.  Because otherwise that creates unnecessary stress and detracts from your comfort of traveling.

The same theory applies for the career switch.  You’re going to be driven to choose something based on your heart (i.e. yoga), but you also need to make sure the basic needs are met (i.e. breakeven, not be homeless, etc.).  I suggest doing an evaluation of your current expenses, and see which ones can be cut out or reduced.  For me, I decided to reduce expenses drastically by moving from New York City (where rent was $3,200 a month, I know – it’s mental).  In doing so, we left our son’s fancy pants Upper East Side daycare (where 3 days a week cost $2,700 per month) to a combination of me being the primary caretaker and sending him to a loving local daycare one day a week.  I cancelled my subscriptions to Spotify, Netflix, Tivo, started cooking from home a lot more, and pretty much stopped shopping.  I honestly didn’t really even miss any of these things.  I was just fine.

Before you make the leap, there will likely be an “overlap” period.  This is where you will need what I call a “raft” to keep you afloat.  This might be teaching a few yoga classes a week, or maybe even doing some personal accounting consulting on the side.  For me, I did a combination of MBA consulting (helping pre-MBA kids get into b-school) which allowed me to work virtually on my own schedule, and later did my own digital consulting for a few months (helping companies, large and small, launch their websites).  Leverage whatever skills you have and let some friends and co-workers know you’re looking for a few consulting jobs.  Is there something part-time that you can do to make ends meet?  Maybe talk to your current employer and ask to work remotely on a part-time basis for 6 months while you earn your yoga certification?

Get creative, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  I know I can get shy sometimes and talk myself out of asking for help, convinced that people think I’m crazy for taking so many different gigs and switching my career so many times.  I promise you though, people don’t care; they’re too busy running their own lives to judge you.  They will either help you, or not.  Either way, you haven’t lost anything.

Now, for the advanced peeps out there, there will come a point where you realize all your free time is being eaten up by your “raft.”  Wait a minute, you might say, I left my corporate job to become a yoga instructor, and now all I do is spend time on the phone with my accounting consulting clients?!  How do I break the cycle?  I don’t even have time to work on my stuff…I’m so busy still working for other people.  Here’s the hard part:  at a certain point, you will have to ditch your raft.  This is where things get really scary and shit gets real.  You watch your bank account go down.  You say no to consulting jobs.  You put all your chips in, and say, OK fuck it, it’s just about me now.  This is graduate-level on the precipice of greatness stuff, not for the faint of heart.  If you are at this moment, the only advice I have for you is:  keep going.  Go all the way.  PUSH THROUGH this moment, glory is on the other side.  I commend you, I applaud you, and I give you a big, long hug of moral support.  So, keep it real and good luck with the yoga.

Namaste!

Mandy