As part of our #BREAKFREE from Fear week, Laura Jane Williams explains why sometimes you need to start over from scratch - even if it's scary
I spent two largely unproductive, drunken years living in London, because I thought that is what I should do. That’s what everyone else my age did. It’s a rite of passage to spend some time in the capital city because that’s where the London “Media Scene” is, and I thought that in order to be “successful” and “known” that I needed to move in those circles.
But then I got let go from the soul-crushing PR job that paid my rent, and I thought: sod it. There has to be another way. There has to be my way. The day I got the news it was like a weight being lifted from my shoulders. It was a relief. Losing my job was a relief.
I was about to turn twenty-eight and knew, from my toes to my eyebrows, that this was an opportunity to build a life for my adult self instead of stumbling into one. To do it – my life – on purpose.
In leaving a 9-5 with a steady, regular pay-check, I knew I’d have to improvise if I wasn’t going to head right in to another one. In fact, I didn’t want another one.
If we have to figure out what is worth suffering for, what is worth discomfort for, it was true for me that I honestly did not mind how I made rent if I could write. I knew I couldn’t find peace within myself until I had finished the book I’d been playing around with since my creative writing degree. That was my one focus. So, I took a temporary teaching job in Siberia (SIBERIA!) and spent my evenings writing.
As I made this choice, my blog traffic started to grow. I’d get emails and Tweets and Facebook messages from people telling me, generously and kindly, that I was “brave” and “inspiring”. I stopped worrying what everyone else thought of me, and that was when my work suddenly got the attention I’d been longing for.
Because of this attention, I got offered a freelance writing contract for a well-known website filled with writers I’d admired for eons. Literally, within a month of leaving the city where I thought I’d “make it”, I made it. I made it from a small Russian village in minus thirty temperatures, somewhere near the Ural mountains, because I let go of the path I thought I “should” follow and instead walked the path actually meant for me.
I had to step out of my “shoulds” to step into my life. Had to stop asking for permission and give it to myself.
The money from that freelance contract was enough keep me in clothes and food if I lived somewhere where clothes and food where cheap. Somewhere like, say, Bali – a place I was scheduled to take a vacation to, but would now cease to return from. So off I went. I lived in paradise and paid for it by doing a job I loved, writing, and only had to do that for a few hours each day – leaving swathes of time to focus on that book.
I got interviewed by a few websites and magazines about this “incredible” decision to “give everything up” for “life on the beach”. Which wasn’t strictly true. I wasn’t living on the beach, and nor had I given anything up. I’d simply chosen what meant something to me and made that a priority. I’m not special. I’m not “different”. I found the right conditions at the most serendipitous time to build a life around values I had deliberately chosen because I lost my job, something that I could’ve lived in fear of but instead let drive me to fulfilment.
Six weeks after arriving in Bali one of the biggest publishing houses in the world reached out to me about my book. THEY emailed ME.
Isn’t that insane?
I’d struggled for two years trying to do things the way I’d seen other people do them, and got frustrated and upset and disheartened and disillusioned, but the moment I put my eyes on my own paper – when I did me, from a place of genuine curiosity – everything I ever dreamt could be my life started to fit together like pieces of a jigsaw.
I’m not saying buggar off to backpack India or give your boss the finger or live in a cardboard box as long as you can make your “art”. My story won’t be your story. But I’m presenting my timeline as a way to say: nothing good comes from faking it.
My whole vibe, my entire energy, it shifted when I permitted myself to truly want what I want. You might want the fancy PR job I was so ungrateful about. That could be your version of authentic, of real and true. Good for you! I wish you the best! Maybe you’re pretending to want to work at all, when really you wanna stay home with the kids. Perhaps you’re living in a city that doesn’t really suit you, or you’d just be really grateful for a little encouragement to take your dog-walking business full-time, or to pluck up the courage to sell your artwork on Etsy as a side hustle.
If it feels right to you, then it is right. You’re the boss. Now that I assert that I am, in fact, in charge of myself, magic drips from my fingers. It just feels different.
I know that you’ve got no choice but to lean in to who your truly, really are, because so many people told me that when I started to do that it empowered them to do the same. And so it’s your job to pay it forward too: unconsciously permit those around you to want what they want, by unabashedly chasing what you want. Need. Desire. We make the world a happier, mentally healthier place, when we stop placing limitations on ourselves. On each other. We get to choose our attitude, even to something as potentially devastating as redundancy. That’s how to #BREAKFREE from fear.
This is an excerpt from Laura’s ebook The Book of Brave. Buy it here.