The Moment: Don’t Just Accept It

by Kim on May 15, 2011 · 11 comments

Kim’s note: This is the third in a series of guest posts from fellow travel bloggers about the moment they decided to trade in their conventional life for long-term travel.  The topic, specifically: describe the moment that you decided to change course. Today’s post comes from the wise Lily Leung of Explore for a Year.

My lesson: Look for what you want, don’t just accept what’s offered.

“Difficulties come when you don’t pay attention to life’s whisper. If you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you’ll get a scream. Whatever you resist persists. But, if you ask the right question—not why is this happening, but what is this here to teach me?—it puts you in the place and space to get the lesson you need.”

- Oprah Winfrey, Stanford commencement speech, 2008

I had a great job, a comfortable salary, a nice boss and impressive responsibilities. 

From the outside, things looked good.

On the inside, something didn’t feel right. Deep inside, I knew I could be happier. But, I didn’t know what to do about this disconnect so I took the easy route and ignored it.

Over time, this disconnect grew until I spent mornings wishing I didn’t have to go to work. I spent weekdays counting down to the weekend, and the weekends dreading the inevitable Monday.

What was causing my unhappiness?

I thought if maybe I switched companies, found a different position, secured a higher salary, I’d be happier. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t find the motivation to initiate this change.

What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I have the willpower to take action even though I was miserable?

During this time, I had watched my classmates move from their first jobs to big roles like Vice Presidents at major financial institutions. They seemed to excel in their careers. Why didn’t I have the same drive to achieve more?

I started questioning my abilities, my intellect and my worth as a person. The questioning later extended to areas outside myself: the 9-5 lifestyle, the “normal” path of getting promotions, aiming for more responsibilities and a getting a higher salary to buy bigger and more impressive things.

Was this corporate lifestyle all there is for the next 40 years of my life?

Would I actually be happier if I had a new boss, a new position or a higher salary?

What would actually be different from how I’m feeling now?

Eventually, it became clear that nothing related to these upgrades would make me happier.

After this small epiphany, I took a month off work and traveled.

Being away from the regular pressures of how I was supposed to live, gave me clarity to finally realize that the typical corporate environment wasn’t for me.

By end of my month off I decided I couldn’t stay at my job any longer.

However, on the first day back from this vacation, the universe decided to test the strength of my resolution – I was approached about another opportunity in my company.

Distracted by the better title, higher salary and a better boss, I suddenly forgot I already decided this environment wasn’t for me. I ended up pursuing this shinier opportunity and started the new position a month later.

The new job, just like my past jobs, was great – at first. It was exciting and engaging to be learning skills, meeting new team members and learning a new discipline.

However, three months passed and the honeymoon period ended. Again, I found myself wishing every morning I didn’t have to go to work.

I was in the exact same spot I was in three months ago.

Then it hit me.

If I don’t make a change now, nothing is ever going to change.

I couldn’t continue just accepting what is offered to me, even if it comes with more money or prestige.

I have to look for what I want.

And even if I didn’t know what I wanted, at least I now knew what I didn’t want.

So last April, I quit my corporate job to pursue my interests in web design and to travel solo for the first time.

Following through on my choice to take a year off wasn’t easy. It took courage to face colleagues, friends and in particular my own internal critic.

That was over a year ago. Looking back, I can’t think of having made a different decision. At the fork of the road, I chose the less beaten path.

Lessons I’ve learned

Happiness is possible. Just because you’ve been doing something a certain way for years doesn’t mean you have to continue in that direction. Recognizing you have the power to make a change is empowering and scary at the same time, but it’s this shift in mind set that moves you from feeling like a victim to becoming the active director of your life.

Start saving.  Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does bring opportunities for life experiences like travel, education and personal growth.

Take a vacation. Traveling will not solve your problems, but being away gives you mental room from the day-to-day life you are trying to change and helps you to find clarity about what you need to do when you come back.

Start nowWhatever change you want to make, start today by doing something small to set the wheels in motion. If you want to quit in one year, start tallying your finances. If you want to travel, buy a Lonely Planet guide. If you want to turn a hobby into a full-time job, email someone who has done it.

Never be scared to dream

About Lily Leung (Explore for a Year)

Lily is a banking professional who quit her corporate job a year ago to pursue her interests in web design and to travel around the world. She blogs about personal development and travel at Explore for a Year.  You can also follow her on facebook and twitter

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Ali May 15, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Awesome inspiration! It’s scary sometimes to think about making a big change like this but it feels great to finally commit to making that change. I really believe the best decision I ever made was to pursue a big change in the direction my life was headed.
Ali recently posted..The Secrets I’ve Been Keeping

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Katie May 15, 2011 at 5:00 pm

I feel like I practically could’ve written this! I left my first big law firm job for a smaller law firm job, thinking it would make me happier, only to be back in the same frustrated place within about 6 months. Then, although I started having thoughts to take time off to travel and pursue a career in travel, I went the “easier” route and found a new job, not practicing law any more, but still within the legal industry. But within a couple years I still couldn’t shake the urge to travel so I made that my goal and have been saving up for it ever since, hoping to make the break very soon!

Congrats to you for listening to your inner self early on and getting out when you did! :)
Katie recently posted..Five Favorite Things in Oslo

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Lily (Explore for a Year) May 17, 2011 at 7:03 am

Hi Katie,

I know what you mean about not being to shake an urge (even if you can temporary forget about it). I only mentioned two jobs in this article, but I’ve been working since I was 19 in a corporate environment, and it’s come up over and over that the typical “office” environment didn’t feel right. So it took almost 8 years for me to *really* recognize it and realize I have the power to make change.

I love how the universe faithfully kept giving me the same lesson until I really learned it :)

– Lily

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megan May 16, 2011 at 2:35 am

This is really inspiring. Lily is a great example of someone following their dream – and really, there’s no excuse for us not to follow her example. After all, who is ever going to look back and wish they *hadn’t* listened to their heart?
megan recently posted..My room in Kathmandu

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Lily (Explore for a Year) May 17, 2011 at 7:07 am

Hi Megan,

Thanks for your kind words! You’re so right about not regretting listening to my heart. I was really scared when I was getting ready to take the plunge, but now that it’s been over a year, I can’t imagine having made a different decision. I think sometimes the anticipation of pain of an event actually ends up being far worse than the pain of the actual event itself.

– Lily

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Anthony May 16, 2011 at 5:31 am

What an inspirational story. It is people like you that will change the normal work week into something that is more manageable and self fore filling. There is no excuse and you should always follow your dreams.
Anthony recently posted..Essential First Aid Kit Items

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Sunee May 16, 2011 at 6:27 am

It feels like this post was written specifically for me. Everything she mentions here is applicable to how I feel right now. Food for thought – thanks.
Sunee recently posted..Following in the Footsteps of Mrs Ples

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Ruth May 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I’ve really been enjoying following your adventures from the comfort of my basement office.

Great post Lily.
Ruth recently posted..Top 10 List- “Reasons you can’t Ignore Social Media”

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Lily (Explore for a Year) May 17, 2011 at 7:09 am

Hi Ruth,

It’s great to hear from you! Thanks for saying hi – it means a lot. Hope things are well in the lovely world of Toronto and web :)

– Lily
Lily (Explore for a Year) recently posted..Europe by Rail Next Month! Plus- a Secret Announcement

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Henry Lee May 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Lily, thanks for your article; Kim/Brian, thanks for hosting the article. I’m about to embark on a similar life-change and plans for a year on travel!

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Kim May 18, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Hi Henry! Congrats on your life-change and upcoming plans. Life is one big adventure :)

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