“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. ” – Morpheus, The Matrix
I gave up my corporate career a few months ago to chase my dream of building my own business doing something I truly enjoy. I’ve always loved sewing (and often hidden how much I enjoy it, because it’s such a girly hobby, and I’m not sure how I feel about being seen as girly….) But I was fed up with the rat race and I’d watched it crush too many friends’ and colleagues’ souls, so I figured that I could cope with being labelled as girly if it meant I could escape.
At the time it was scary as hell. We had no idea how the finances were going to work – we were chasing the dream and very definitely not doing the logical thing. I’d been the breadwinner for the family for so long that it had become ingrained into me (by myself) that the family relied on my income. I worried that I was failing the people most precious to me by following my heart rather than doing the responsible thing.
For a couple of weeks, I kept telling myself that I should get a grip, dust my CV off, get that responsible job and get back to reality – but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I took the first few tentative steps in the direction of the alternative.
Working for myself took a teeny bit of adjustment. I’ve never lacked for self-discipline (especially when it’s something I enjoy doing), so if anything I’ve been working longer hours for myself than I have for a very long time! It was the complete freedom to rearrange my work and my life that I found the hardest to get used to. The first time I went for a run in the middle of the day (to get some precious winter sunshine, rather than my usual 5:30am run in the dark), I kept looking over my shoulder, sure that I was going to get into trouble for not being at my desk where I should have been.
A few days later I went to the gym, again in the middle of the day. I struggled with guilt – I should have been glued to my kitchen table, doing my work like responsible adult. But then I noticed just how many people were in the gym in the middle of the day. WTF – didn’t they have jobs to go to or something? What were they doing mucking about in the middle of the day? I was so sure that I was one of a very few select people who were hiding from The System, and that the majority of the rest of the world was safely employed in a 9-5 job.
It was at this stage that I realised how brain-washed I’d become. I believed the doctrine that everyone must have a salaried job and be tied to the rules that come with it. I really, honestly believed that most people were at work during the day, and that the rest of life simply went into semi-hibernation while they waited for the hard working and decent among us to come out of work. I believed that the gym only had a few lonely bodies in it, that the coffee shops were half empty, and that shops had little dribbles of business during the day. That day at the gym felt like I’d discovered a whole sub-culture out there of people who are “off the grid” in terms of the 9-5 doctrine. The’d escaped from the system and were free to make their own rules. (In hindsight, I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to escape – I don’t believe in rules for the sake of rules – I’m much happier when I’m making it up as I go along!)
So now I discovered that I was un-pluged from the machine that had fed me the accepted doctrine of a responsible lifestyle, and I really, really didn’t want to go back. If it meant that I was being irresponsible by chasing my dreams and just dealing with the consequences, then that’s just what I’d have to do. So against my best judgement, I took the red pill and decided to give it my best shot.
Just like in any decent Sci-Fi story, the alternative reality is gritty and it’s messy. Life on this side very definitely does not follow any structure and frankly laughs in the face of all my carefully set out plans. I’m learning that you can only make the best of it, take one day at a time, and I’ve got to remember to take time out to enjoy the good things when I can. Perhaps this is what they mean when they say you’d better make sure you’re passionate and committed when you embark on building a new business, because there will be times when you wonder why on earth you’re doing the long hours for minimal return. The way I see it, I get to do something I absolutely love doing (and hopefully share some of that joy and skill in the process!)
Maybe one day I’ll have a healthy, thriving little business. At the moment it’s very much like a floundering little sygnet where all of the clichés are coming to life: It takes a long time to get yourself up and running, and a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (or three). In the meantime you’re welcome to the blue pill – I’m far more of a red pill kinda gal!