'How are you going to help me, you who never thinks of leaping off buildings?' - Kay Eiffel, Stranger than Fiction
It was October 2013. I sat down and calculated the worst possible outcome of walking out of my job. I considered everything, from car maintenance to the lease on my apartment. I reflected on what would happen if I had to stop paying my bills (worst case scenario had to include not being able to find a replacement job immediately). I was 28, single, renting my apartment, and had just paid off my car. Even with a normal amount of debt, the worst possible outcome was palatable.
I didn't walk out. I stayed for another year because it was a choice that I could make and not something that I had to do. In September 2014, an opportunity came up to go do something cool instead of rotting in a DC telecom company. I quit my job, sold all my things, and I went to go do it. On October 9, 2014, I left DC with what fit into my car, on a one-way trip to New Orleans.
That thing was a renovation project. A friend of a friend had bought a Katrina house in the 8th Ward of New Orleans, a few blocks from the French Quarter. The deal was that I could stay in the house for free (and they'd feed me) if I did some manual labor helping with the renovations. I was thrilled to take a sabbatical and work with my hands for a while. That wasn't my only motivation.
The friend of a friend, Tim, is a freelance software developer. He builds apps. I knew I would learn more from him than replacing floor boards and scraping plaster. We'd have gas station fried chicken (the best) and watch downdloaded episodes of The Daily Show and he taught me a lot about a lot of things. A few weeks later, Tim told me another owner was coming down for a week. Tim said this guy owns a school in San Francisco and you should totally go there and learn how to be a software engineer.
Shawn Drost showed up around Halloween. We cleaned out under the house and shopped for vintage wood at the local coop. I learned that if I wanted to be a software engineer, Hack Reactor was a very awesome and effective way to do it. I also learned that what Paulo Coelho said is true. 'When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.' I set out to attend the February 2 class, the fourth remote class.
While I prepared, I slept on beaches on both sides of the gulf coast. I talked to strangers in coffee shops. I did lots of manual labor. I adopted a dog. I ate allegator, oysters, frog legs, and duck for the first time. I hungout with street kids and learned about what it really means to be homeless. I learned how to dumpster dive. I lived in a construction site without insulation or hot water. I lost my fear of the dark, cock roaches, and heights. I learned how to hop a fence. I learned how to read Tarot. I discovered my spirituality. I made amazing friends. It was one of the best experiences of my entire life.
I was accepted at Hack Reactor and I started class on February 2, from my parents' basement in Wisconsin. I'm here, doing the thing. I graduate in three weeks. I'll be relocating to San Francisco afterwards, working as a full stack developer somewhere doing cool stuff. Hack Reactor has thoroughly prepared me for this new career. I'm even more excited about it than when I started.
I have a lot of people to thank for their support in this journey, including Tim, Shawn, Kat, my parents, and so many of my friends. I had to take the first step and decide that I wanted something better for myself. Then I had to act on it. I was able to do this because I know what my happiness is worth.
I wouldn't be here if I hadn't gone through the exercise of figuring out what the worst possible outcome would be back in 2013. I learned that my happiness was worth some discomfort. It was worth being late on some bills, uprooting and physically relocating. What's it worth to you? You don't have to go through a transcendental sabbatical, restoring a Katrina house, to get to where you want. If you don't love your life, sit down and figure out what the worst possible outcome would be if you quit right now to go find yourself. The results may surprise you.
(Photo taken at Delacroix Island, Louisiana)