Person Success: Letting Go

person succes, Shaun and Erica, Couchsurfing, Austin
Shaun and I at a local Couchsurfing potluck

We are now officially 6 months away from our tentative departure date of December 26, 2010. Its been a whirlwind past few months really committing ourselves to making the jump to this extended travel experience. I would consider it a type of person success. We’ve been working on ourselves and forging a path into our very near future.

Its amazing how much can change in a matter of a few months, both in personal development and the development of travel plans.

After many years of hard work at our current job, Shaun finally got promoted to a management position. This was Shaun’s fifth attempt at this position in particular, and even though the timing of this promotion is quite ironic, we are grateful nonetheless.

Life changing, person success, jump, career, travel
This is me, making “the” jump.

We had been looking forward to this day for quite a while and when it had finally arrived, I started freaking out a little bit. Our most recent plan was to have me quit my current job to focus on my two passions: Photography and Over Yonderlust. Shaun would essentially be getting as much overtime as he wants along with juicy bonuses/profit sharing checks that come with being in a management position. I would be picking up small photography projects here and there, possibly pedicabbing to both get fit and supplement our income, and ultimately, focus on Over Yonderlust and our travel blog goals. While this is quite a jump, I thought I was ready to take it.

Why does it feel like I am taking a giant step back?

It was when I had a small panic attack that I had to take a step back to reevaluate a few things. My entire life I had been told that success should be my existence. I should succeed in school (I would get grounded if I didn’t get As), I should succeed in college (worked 40 hours and still had a 3.4 GPA), and I should succeed in my career. The latter one is where I had a few problems. I had, essentially, gotten every job, every school, every class… well, everything, I had ever wanted in my entire life by working my ass off. Naturally, I thought this is how the world works. In America, if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything you want, right? WRONG.

What I didn’t take into consideration was office politics. Sure, while you can be the overachiever (like I am), have perfect attendance, always do more than metrics designate, take on projects, train people, coach people, write curriculum, etc., in the end, it ultimately does not matter unless you have a person in upper management ready to pull strings for you.

This drove me insane.

As I saw terribly underqualified people being promoted, I was devastated that I was left in my position. So when Shaun made his promotion, I felt guilty. I am so proud of him. But why do I feel like a failure?

This is when I realized that work had become my life. This is not a philoshophy I had wanted to carry around with me. I know that I have bigger and better things that I should and need to do. Photography, the blog, referreeing Texas Rollerderby – these are all things that truly make me happy.

A while ago, I had written a post about A Case of the Doubts” in which I went over a few things that I needed to work on and learn before and during our travels.

I’ve decided to add one more.

5.) Letting Go

I need to work on myself and adapt to change. I need to remember that I am not my job, that I want to be an artist and a travel photographer. Most of all, I need to remember my goals and go for them. I never intended on staying at my job forever – how did I become so attached?

While “Letting Go” is technically number 5 on my list, I’m putting it at the forefront of things I need to do and work on. It is also here where I define what success is. There shouldn’t be preconceived notions on what a successful life is. Looking at my life currently, I have an amazing marriage, a “successful” blog, and a hopeful photography career. I really have nothing to complain about, and in my own terms, I would consider myself successful in life. I may not own a house, a new car, or fancy things, but I have freedom to travel and get the best education there is – experience.

While we are working on changing our lives and allow the world in and its experiences, I need to let go of my old life. This includes old habits, old thoughts, my old cynical, pessimistic self. While I am looking forward to our upcoming trip, I will be more excited about embracing a new lease on life. This is the backbone of our trip. We are putting ourselves in unfamiliar territory to grow. I feel like a sapling. When I come back, I want to be a full, wise, strong tree. 🙂

32 thoughts on “Person Success: Letting Go”

  1. Sounds like you are really coming full circle Erica. I think there is nothing better in life than realizing that certain positions or titles at work do not define us as people.I’m really happy for you and I think this is such a great opportunity for you to take full advantage of.

  2. I feel ya! This article hit home for me, having come from the “success driven” mindset, I can tell you that traveling is gonna turn your world upside down. Can’t wait to see how your definition of success evolves with the trip! xoxo

  3. The mantra of “success” places undue importance on the end result of things. But life is the process, the experience, everything from start through finish and again and again. In the United States we’ve taken success to mean financial wealth. One definition in a very long list of definitions. You and Shaun are in an exciting place. I think most of us are afraid to redefine anything. Go say hello to that fear.

    1. @Kris: Yeah – it was a really weird feeling when I took a different look at my situation.
      @Brandy: I am super excited about how the long term trip will change us. I know it will take me a while to get out of the success race, at least I’ve started. 😛
      @Keith: It is always nice to see your head poke in here every now and then. 🙂 I plan on giving my fear a hearty HELLO! It is SO hard to find yourself in a culture of wealth and success… and at the same time its really weird when you do.

  4. Yes, yes, and yes. So many things you wrote ring true for me as well. It’s a difficult thing to let go of the stability of a good job or the possibility of a promotion, especially when you have worked your ass off to get there. And even though you’re doing what makes you happy now, there’s still that feeling of guilt, like maybe you shouldn’t be doing this. Maybe you should just take another job that has a steady income and do what 99% of other Americans do. That’s what we all grew up seeing from our parents and family, so sometimes it just feels like we’re doing something wrong when we go against those societal norms.

    Just keep doing what you love, and everything will fall into place. I truly do believe that, even though we all have those days where we are convinced we have made the wrong decision. We ALL have those days, and we just have to get through them. Good luck and contine doing what you love!!

  5. Love this post! And also, I so regret we live so far away – I’d love to meet you as sometimes when I read your blog it’s a bit like reading my own thoughts…

  6. I can totally relate to this as I was in the same position. All I can say is that instead of looking back at what we let happen, we should be happy we’re putting an end to it as most people don’t.

  7. Here here! That was beautiful Erica. I think you and I are on the opposite ends of the spectrums, which helps me to see that there is a whole that needs to be attained, and I’ve only been focusing on one part, but its only when you’re balanced than you feel filled in. (I was always that underachieving loser that everyone wanted to promote because they saw potential, but was too noncommittal myself to make a dedication. Not that I’m going to be a cubicle junkie now, I just recognize the need for some loyalty and commitment to a cause. Call it “purposeful globe wandering” rather than aimlessly wandering the globe.)

    And as you reach out for freedom to express the artist, writer, photographer inside of you, do not forget the lessons that you learned when you believed that success would bring meaning to your existence. You know the meaning of hard work, dedication and commitment. Hold on to those life lessons, harness the rest, balance out the whole and enjoy the ride. Its pretty fun, isn’t it, this bouncing around the universe we call home, trying to find our sense of self…Keep us posted Erica!

  8. Great Post! I feel ya… I’ve kinda been in the same situation of feeling like I am stepping back by leaving the “normal” life behind to explore what this world has to offer. The fear and the anxiety comes from the unknown, but you’ll see it will all go away as soon as you step out and start enjoying your new experiences. Go on, fulfill your passions the way you feel that will make you happy… 😀

  9. I find it very interesting to read about others about to “take the leap” and embark on an extended journey. I have come full circle, having completed a similar adventure in January of this year. The trip changed me forever; I am now trying to work myself back into “the norm” but find it quite challenging at times, my mind always takes me back to the freedom and excitment. I look forward to watching you and your trip evolve through the journey. Embrace it, cuz it moves fast!!

    1. @Elena: If I ever make it out that way I will DEFINITELY drop by!

      @Ayngelina: I am so excited about looking to the future.

      @JR: Thank you! I can’t believe how this awesome feedback makes me weepy. I appreciate your support. ♥ It is interesting to hear about the opposite spectrum and I am proud that you are taking initiative to show dedication to something meaningful. I’m sure we’ll see each other around quite a bit. 🙂

      @Norbert: Thanks! One of the things that makes me most nervous is that I’m the “planning” type. The fact that I’m doing something like this is so incredibly out of character. I do want to make sure that I live with no regrets though. Thank you for stopping by!

      @Cam: I don’t want to even think about trying to get back into the mode lol. I was talking with Shaun about what we were going to do when we come back and he looked at me and just said, “We haven’t even left yet!”

  10. What a great post! I know what you mean about office politics–they can be so unfair. I also am guilty of making way too much of my life revolve around work–especially my definition of failure or success. Kudos to you for redefining your vision and making steps to pursue your passion!

    1. @Emily: Thank you! When I realized how I had become – I think it was the first moment of clarity I’ve had in a VERY long time.
      @Caz: Thank you for your kind words! I have never been one to just let life flow. Considering nothing else has been working, what do I have to lose right? I want to make sure I live with no regrets.

  11. Letting go is the secret to moving forward. When you let go you say you trust that everything will work out perfectly just as intended. There is so much freedom in that. Let go and just flow down the river of life, enjoy the ride and know that you can deal with anything that pops up as long as you live in the present moment.
    Success has so many definitions but the only right one is how you define it. Usually fulfilling success is not defined by material stuff but the memories you create from a life lived on your terms. If you are following your dreams and are happy then you are successful. Great Post!

  12. Great reflection of where you want your lives to go. I think the most successful people are those that recognize their current situation isn’t the best for them. I’m so excited for you guys to take off on your adventure and let go of old ways.

  13. You’ll be a fuller, wiser & stronger tree when you come back… if you come back & don’t stay elsewhere. 😉

    Nice article & so true. Many people forget about their aims they were having. Just go for it! It’s also true that you can work your *rse off & others with connection gets the promotion.

    See you hopefully in Germany (Cologne) some day & we’ll enjoy a nice cold beer together!

    Would like to meet both of you!



  14. In the first few sentences of your post I knew I could relate. I plan to leave my job as a writer and editor in May 2011, and it’s slightly frightening. I feel somewhat torn between the idea of what my life is *supposed* to be and the idea of how I *want* my life to be. And I realize that, while I really enjoy my job, it has become somewhat of my identity. I think that’s the attachment.
    Anyway, you have an enticing blog. I’m looking forward to reading more.

    1. Suzy: It has taken me a while to figure it out but I’m glad to be here now!
      Melvin: One day I will make it to Germany. I have a friend who is to inherit a place there and I’m sure it will be a good excuse to visit. I will definitely take you up on the beer offer too! YUM! 😉
      Monica: Being in limbo of *supposed* and *want* is so unfair (not that life is fair). I currently work at a well known video game company. I got a degree in film. I never intended on staying here after college – so it is time to bloom!

  15. Really enjoyed this post! Nodding my head and relating to the school v work way to success. Office politics — bah!

    Excited for you both (6 months!) and look forward this week to having a few minutes to catch up on your posts since I’ve ben without internet for a bit now.

    1. Thank you for stopping by Heather! Its always nice to see familiar faces. ♥

      Hope everything is going well in Aussieland. I’ll peek my head in during my lunch time tomorrow.

  16. I can really relate, both Shauns recent promotion and your “letting Go”.

    Since I’ve started planning my trip, my career as started being more enjoyable. I think for me it has to do with a shift in mindset. I was more focused on rising to the top and acquiring more stuff. Now I’m focusing on experiences rather than possessions.

    I didn’t think that letting go would be a challenge, the things are easy to let go. Whats really the challenge is the job and company that I put a lot of heart and soul into building. I don’t like to admit it, but I think my ego has a something to do with that.

    Glad to know that I’m not the only one…

    1. @Nick: I am in the same boat. I work for a well known video game company (can’t really say here until I leave on the 15th) and I have built up so many aspects of the Customer Service department. The fact that I was let down really tore me up. However, I can only go up from here!

  17. Yes, I definitely think “letting go” should be #1, because with long term travel you have to master this in order to be able to survive the road. It sounds like you have a great head start. I wish you nothing but happiness and a sense of fulfillment.

    1. @Andi: Thank you for your kind words! I am definitely making it my #1 since it seems to be the most difficult for me. I really am starting to get a sense of who I am and where I want to be through this experience.

  18. First off, you are freakin’ adorable. Glad to see a heavily tattooed travel blogger. Maybe you could do some pieces on tattoos in other countries. Anyways, great post. I too have been guilty of falling into the “success is everything” trap, as do many people, I imagine. It seems almost ingrained in our culture to think this way. Not to say that working hard isn’t a great quality to have, but, like you point out, what are the costs and does it really make you happy.

    It’s very brave of you to take on this topic.

    1. You know, I was noticing that I was the only one with massive tattoos lol. If I didn’t save for travel I would have more – but I have nothing but time and there is no rush. I am actually trying to get an interview with a Japanese tattoo artist I know, just because the concept is really awesome.

      Again, thank you for your kind words – you make me feel fuzzy inside. 😀

  19. This article really struck a chord with me. I was in a similar position to this. I had a job that I didn’t care about, but was attached to for some reason. Things changed for me though. I went back to school to pursue a life goal of mine and now I do more things that I want to do in life. You’re right about letting go and adapting to change. If you make your life the way you want to, than things will only get better.

    1. I really have no clue how I got so attached. I have a degree in Radio, TV, and Film, but finding a job in that industry with the current economic situation paired with no contacts is darn near impossible… so I find myself lost in photography and I hope so capture our trip. ♥

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