Health Psychology

How I Quit my Job and Found Freedom

Last year I decided to apply for a job abroad in the tourism industry after finally giving up on my PhD project. 2018 had been a turbulent year working on a project that did not work out. I became sick mentally and physically. In December 2018 I quit my job in Belgium (and project work in Cuba) after a long and painful period of trying to make it work. I felt completely blocked. Instead, I took the time to find my inner peace again.

I gave myself some time and wanted to do something fun without so much work pressure. And so, I signed up for a job at Thomas Cook (a tour operator in Europe) only to start in March. Why I did not start directly and waited until then? March is the beginning of the Summer Season and it allowed me to take some time off for myself. I am not a big fan of jumping fast from one project to another (although it might look sometimes like that with my busy lifestyle).

Sometimes it is important to take time to do nothing and reflect.

From Julie with Love

In the meantime, I enjoyed doing nothing, healed my health, cured from the pain, and I traveled back to Cuba to say goodbye to my old life and friends whom I was going to leave behind for a long time now. It was not easy to leave behind everything I had built up… all the work and relationships of almost 3 years of research in Cuba, but it was time to face reality: I would not be coming back soon. (Note: I had spent almost 9 months in total over the past 2 years in Cuba to conduct anthropological research).

Me during my last trip to Cuba in 2018 reflecting upon my ethnographic fieldwork

In January 2019, I came back and worked in the Brussels Motor Show in Belgium for a while. It was a temporary job in the sales and event industry. I worked as a sales informant and hostess at the national car fair for the car brand Opel. Not really my dream job, but it allowed me to earn money fast and then leave the country again. I also worked for a fashion designer label for a few days, unpacking and ironing clothes because I was unemployed and needed some ‘quick fix’. Or at least that’s what I thought…

Being unemployed was one of the scariest things at the time. I felt ashamed because I was not being useful to society, I felt guilty of not contributing to taxes, and I felt afraid because I did not know how I was going to make it financially. I also felt insecure because I had been believing for a long time that our jobs are contributing for a large part to who we are. That is absolutely not true, I learnt. 

If we would take away our jobs from our lives and who we are, who would we really be?

From Julie with Love

Remember that your job is not everything in life. I always used to tell my mother: “You should not live to work, you should work to live”. I started learning that the pressure in society is really high to conform to certain norms and standards. A lot of people are so entangled in their lifestyles (read: bills and payment plans) that they become a slave of their own existence. I was looking for freedom, not just financially but also existential freedom.

Me looking for freedom in the beginning of 2019…

I then went to India for about a month. There I really opened my heart again for who I truly was. Maybe it was because India is kind of a spiritual place (think about ‘Eat, Pray, Love’) but living outside my comfort zone and back to basics materialistically also made me connect with myself again. I went back to my inner core, learnt to love myself slowly and I realized again what I really loved doing.

Ask yourself: if you would be free at all levels, what would you be doing… If you had nothing else to worry about?

That is who you truly are and meant to be doing.

When I came back, I had a little time in Belgium to see my friends and family, and arrange some practical stuff (like dentist and bank visits). Then it was time for me to go on a new adventure working abroad. This time, I went for a temporary job so that I could still feel free to stay or go, depending on where life would take me. In the next blog post you will be able to read my story about the next step: going to live and work 6 months in Mallorca.

The decision to move abroad to Mallorca in 2019 was the spot-on liberating!

How did I find the courage? How did I find freedom?

I feel like I have crossed to the other side since I made the decision to make it my ultimate goal NOT to sell my soul for money anymore (how hippie that may sound, that is the truth). After I finished my PhD I got various interesting job offers but none of them felt right. Signing a fixed contract with no expiry date felt like life was all too planned. 

Instead, I choose for adventure. I crossed the bridge from security to (what I used to experience as) instability, but I have never felt so grounded and balanced in my life as now that I am living on the edge of temporary things: temporary houses and destinations and jobs and friends. 

I realized that life is a journey and nothing lasts forever.

From Julie with Love

Those things that promised me security betrayed me and I felt so left alone in the cold: I studied to get a degree (in anthropology) for which no vacancy existed, I was engaged to a man of my dreams who wanted me to be the mother of his *ojala* twins but who broke his promise, I had a job that burned me out even before I handed in my first results, and from a child onwards I had to learn that even families don’t stay together.

I lost exactly those things that were promised to last forever, that promised me to give security: a degree, a job, a relationship, a marriage, trust in friends, parents, a home, my health. 

My trip to India in 2019 was life-changing and brought new insights.

Losing my security, feeling empty and left behind with nothing (besides money and talent) made me realized I was living in a fantasy and believing in an illusion: we will never be truly fulfilled unless we follow our heart and create our own reality in which we stop allowing other people, institutions and organs to take control over us, until we stop the manipulation of our thoughts and lives. I have learnt that it only takes a decision and to keep your own promises to yourself.

Be consistent, act upon your beliefs, respect yourself and take the leap.

From Julie with Love

Security has never brought me anywhere, so maybe a risk will do?! That’s what I thought when I quit my job for which I had studied more than 5 years, when I decided to leave everything behind that no longer served me and follow my highest purpose, when I embraced my inner child and started following my heart and my soul instead of my society and old patterns.

Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets about the things you haven’t done. It does not matter how many mistakes you make as long as you learn. Life will never be perfect, so if you seek perfection, you will be forever unhappy. But if you manage to wake up every morning grateful with the life you live, because you are doing what feels right and what you love to do, you will be a better person and add value to this world

The time has come to be the best and happiest version of myself, free from restrictions!

Being unhappy only made people around me unhappy or pushed them away from me, so now that I have decided to be happy, I am a better person. I attract more happiness, like-minded people and more freedom. Every journey begins with a single step and each change in our mentality begins with a single thought. Think positive! Take risks!

x From Julie with Love x

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