How have you created more freedom, mobility, or flexibility in your work life? We are celebrating members of the Unsettled community who have done just that. Read Shani’s story and then tell us yours in the comments of this Instagram or LinkedIn post to win! #DesignForFreedom
It was 2016, and my soul was beginning to stir up a sweet storm.
I was working as a fashion buyer in the UK. A job that millions of women dream of.
I didn’t feel like one of the lucky ones though.
I wasn’t racing out of bed each morning ready to face a new day.
The rose-tint of the industry I once loved had long since worn off. And I knew in my heart that this was no longer where I belonged.
I had a bad case of the Mondays, every damn day.
And that made me feel ungrateful.
Ungrateful for the paycheck I was collecting each month.
Ungrateful for all the free clothes and shoes I would take home.
Ungrateful for getting to shop and call it work.
I’d dedicated the past seven years of my life to get here. The long hours at university. The student loans I still hadn’t paid back. Working for pennies in exchange for work experience to list on my resume, so I could eventually get someone to give me a real job.
All of that was for this?
For an 8-6 job, with mediocre pay, bullshit office politics, and zero freedom.
Everything about my life seemed wrong to me.
Taking orders from people you don’t like or respect. Getting two to four weeks off a year to explore the world, and feeling trapped the rest. Looking at your manager and realising you don’t want her job, or her life.
Tapping my keycard on the scanner and walking through the front door began to feel like I was walking into prison. And the funny thing was, I had designed it.
I had created this reality.
Nobody had a gun to my head.
I was free to leave, yet I was choosing to walk in there every day.
Counting down the hours in my grey cubicle, I’d often pause for a moment and look around me. And I couldn’t help but wonder, is this all there is?
Is this what my life is going to look like for the next 30 years?
Am I supposed to just put my head down and stick it out, so I can eventually retire and finally start living?
That’s when I would hear the voice.
Y’know? The inner voice we all have, but most of us choose to ignore.
And she said, fuck that. I choose to live right now.
“Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.”
― Walt Whitman
Photo by Kalibri Travel
At the time, I had started writing again, just for fun. I loved it as a child, and it was something I always thought of maybe doing, but didn’t really believe I could make a living from.
I’d wake up at 5AM before work, and write, just for me.
It was a much needed release for all the pent up stress and anxiety I was experiencing through my job. I looked forward to it, and it brought me joy and a deep fulfillment in a way that nothing quite had before.
It quickly dawned on me that this was what I was meant to be doing. This was my calling, and my gift.
I stuck it out in my job for about a year longer than I wanted to, just so I could gather some savings to keep me going on my next journey. My heart said, screw the job, but my head said, you need time to plan your escape.
I kept writing the entire time. Before work. After work. Sometimes while I was at work, too.
I started submitting my work to various online publications, and slowly started to build up a portfolio. Eventually I took on paid freelancing work. The money wasn’t great to start with, but it wasn’t long before I learned to charge my worth.
I wasn’t earning enough to support myself, and I had no idea what I was going to do next. All I knew was it was time to go. I had outgrown the garden I found myself confined in, and I was ready to venture into the wild.
So in December 2016, that’s exactly what I did.
And the first thing I did was hop on a plane to Sri Lanka.
The next two months were devoted to nothing but freedom. Freedom to explore, play, and dream. Freedom to do whatever I wanted, and spend my time with whomever I wanted.
Isn’t that the entire perk of adulthood anyway? Getting to make your own choices, and be in charge of your own life? Isn’t it strange that so many of us still allow ourselves to be treated like kids?
This was the first time I had ever taken a real break, and had no idea what was coming next. And I think that’s why my time in Sri Lanka was so magical. It was infused with a real sense of adventure and possibility.
And it was there the idea for my first book, Bloom, was born. I wrote much of it while travelling through this beautiful island. Being there created space for inspiration to find me, and for my creativity to reignite.
Photo by Christine Adel
And after a small sip of this freedom, I knew I could never go back.
“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.”
― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara
The next few years have been filled with a medley of highs and lows, and every shade in between.
I wrote and published three books.
I had no idea where the next stream of money was coming from, or if I’d be able to continue supporting myself. And there were days when I’d sit cradling my head in my hands, and couldn’t stop the tears flooding my face.
I started a business, and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Most of the time I was throwing spaghetti at the walls, waiting for something to stick.
My partner and I travelled 7000 miles around the world, and lived in Bali, Singapore, Sri Lanka (again), Ireland and Thailand.
I began teaching other women how to reclaim their power and create more freedom in their own lives, the way I had done in mine.
But above all, I was really living.
Photo by Mango Moon Photography
I was waking up wherever I wanted, and designing my own day. Sitting by the beach with my laptop one day, and riding the ocean waves the next.
I was trusting my intuition, and allowing her to guide me even when it didn’t seem logical.
I was allowing myself to do less, and be more. To embrace the stillness, without guilt.
Hand on heart, it hasn’t been easy, but every second has been worth it. Because every moment has allowed me to learn, grow, and evolve as a human being.
Each step I take forward on this path requires my soul to stretch a little further. To journey deeper. To do things differently today than I did the day before. To do things that scare me, and force me to walk all the way to the edge of my self-imposed limitations.
When I stop and think about it; all the beauty, success, and adventure that has come my way is a result of choosing to say no to the cage society tried to keep me in, and saying yes to following my soul.
And the truth is, that will look different to everyone.
Despite what we’re often taught, there’s no one life that fits us all.
So I invite you to ask yourself what a life of freedom looks and feels like to you.
And the only thing left to do is say yes to it.
Say yes, and don’t look back.
This article was originally published on She Rose Revolution.