A few weeks ago, I quit my researcher job to focus on my writing. And now that the mental and physical fatigue, which this decision brought about, are finally starting to abate, I’d like to talk about how I took this monumental step.
What I found out while pondering my options is that I will never stop feeling apprehensive about stepping away from the well-trodden path. Not unless I had a huge advance from a three-book-deal in the bank. But how to get to that point with a day job that eats away a considerable number of hours and creative capacity?
The truth is, taking the decision to step away from a steady job will always entail a certain amount of risk. So it basically comes down to how much risk is bearable vs how unbearable the current situation is. But there was another factor to add to the balance: how much my current situation was damaging my chances to succeed in my coveted profession.
In my case, a few things converged to a point where the balance tipped, and I made a choice: 1) I finished the first draft of my trilogy. 2) I couldn’t go on with my double life without serious mental damage. 3) Financially, it wasn’t totally crazy to quit (just a little bit), thanks to my husband being happy at his day job and being absolutely supportive of my dreams. Bless him!
Let me elaborate on the third point because this is what most decisions hinge on: the finances. My husband is a researcher, and researchers often don’t get permanent jobs until their forties. And we have a small child. So, taking these two facts into account, I was mad to quit. But on the other hand, my science job was not permanent either, we are ok with one salary for now, and, in science, it’s common not to have permanent contracts, so there’s a high turnover of jobs. Later, I might have to find a new job, but I won’t go for one that takes all my brain power. I would choose carefully and go for something that allows me to write.
There you have it: It was not the right time to quit, but it was also not the worst time to quit.
This much for the practical side of it. One can stop here, but anyone in my situation knows that there is so much more to the choice to follow a dream than a simple balance of pros and cons. It’s not about getting out of the 9-to-5 rut to freedom because this is not where freedom lies. If one has a 9-to-5 job which brings fulfillment, one is still free. It is about not having to go against your own grain. In my case, no regular job will ever fill the void that writing fills, so I made the choice I had to. The alternative was depression. At some point, making a less-than-sound decision financially can still be the right decision. What’s the point of a heavy wallet when one is so worn out and unhappy that one can’t be a good parent or partner? There are other currencies than dollars or euros, and we often forget about them when we take decisions.
A world where these other currencies count with equal weight will be a world where the choice I took wouldn’t be a hard one to make. It often saddens me that this world has not yet arrived, though I know it will. Call me naïve, but I do believe that a money-less world is the way to go. Like the one in Star Trek, where to discover a better version of ourselves is the driving force of society.
I can see the beginnings of such a world in initiatives like citizen’s basic income. The nay-sayers are against such an initiative because they think that having a guaranteed income would increase the number of lazy bums exponentially. But the truth is that there will always be lazy bums around with or without money in their pockets. And even if the number of lazy bums does increase, this will be offset by the many other people who will suddenly be visible because they will have time to create, to work with their grain, to reach their full potential, and thus enrich society. Also, think about how much money the state will save when there are fewer depressed and anxious people around because we wouldn’t have to stress with choices such as “Do I make money so I can live, or do I live a life worth living?”