As you know, I’m a recovering 30-something lawyer searching for answers: Is a 100 hour working week in a great corporate role my calling? Is it worth my health and relationships?
As part of my personal odyssey, I am taking time out to travel the world interviewing women in similar situations who have taken the plunge and made positive changes in their careers & lives. These women are pursuing their passions & kicking some major corporate & entrepreneurial butt, including Interior Designer & pioneering legend, Laura Downie.
Take it away, Laura…
Living the dream, kind of
It’s mid-2014 and I’m an ambitious career-driven thirty-something finance marketing professional. The truth? I’m utterly miserable. Underneath the mask is the reality that I feel increasingly stuck in a career which neither lights me up nor inspires me to climb any kind of ladder. I feel like I’m going through the motions of life. I’m completely disillusioned by the corporate world and I’m wondering what the hell is wrong with me. The mask is starting to crack.
On the outside looking in, I’m living the dream. But, on the inside looking out – through a thick heavy confused fog – things aren’t pretty. I’m lost.
The well-trodden path is always the safest
Multiple industries and job titles in a ten year marketing career and it never felt enough. Constantly searching for the salary, the recognition, the appreciation, the job title that surely one day would make me feel fulfilled; ‘this one, I’m sure this one is it, it’ll be great, I’ll love it, just you wait and see’. Nope. That feeling I was searching for never came. Instead, a feeling I couldn’t shake;
“there must be more to life. Surely? Please!”
It’s too late to change careers…isn’t it?
But, who changes careers in their thirties? For as long as I could remember I’d wanted to run my own business, but what could I possibly do? Who was I to think I could run a business? So, I convinced myself that I was happy enough. I was good at my job, I was rewarded financially for it and I always loved the people I worked with. Surely that’s enough, right? And hey, I’m sure everyone hates their job, sometimes?
“I convinced myself that I was happy enough.”
But like it or not, I was a marketer. The path had been chosen. What else would I do? How could I possibly afford to restudy (even if I knew what it was I wanted to do?) How could I start back at the beginning and survive on a salary less than what I was on? At least I have a job…and it pays well…blah blah. Your mind might be creating different questions or ‘facts’, but it’s pretty good at arguing the case for safety, isn’t it? The fear is and was very real. But do you know what else was very real? The feeling of utter discontent, matched with a feeling that if I continued doing what I was doing it would not end well. Sunday night blues were at an all time high, as were my recurring migraines. Something had to give.
The “ah-ha” moment
Around the same time. I moved into a new apartment. My first place to call home in Sydney. I was a home bird. So create a home I did and friends were rather complimentary about the result. Enter a question, asked by several people:
“Hey, you’re pretty good at this, have you ever thought about Interior Design?”
Lightbulb moment. Yes!
If I could turn back time
If I had my time again I would have chosen to study either Graphic Design or Interior Design. Art was always my favourite subject at school and as a child I was forever giving my childhood bedroom a makeover.
“I sort of allowed myself to get side-tracked by what others expected of me and what my peers were doing.”
But, at that impressionable time when you’re deciding what you’ll ‘do’ in life, I sort of allowed myself to get side tracked by what others expected of me and what my peers were doing. Law, Medicine, Economics. And so, Business Studies (and later, Marketing) was as close to creative as I would allow myself to get without feeling like I was taking the easy option and doing something ‘arty’.
“F**k it. I’m doing this”
Back to 2014 and the seed had been planted. I looked into restudying. Geez, It was really expensive. Back under the carpet that idea went. But a month or two later (after a particularly trying day at work which involved tears) I found myself googling design schools again. There was an open day the next day at Sydney Design School. A sign! I took a taxi from work on my lunch break and for the first time in a long time, when the Director of the school spoke about the school and the course, I felt like a part of me was waking up. YES! Hell yes! Where do I sign?
Six months later I graduated. I had a qualification in Interior Decoration & Design and there was no way was I going back to my corporate job. With a shit load of debt and no savings to my name, there and then, I just made a choice. I resigned. And while some people cheered me on, others questioned my sanity and why I was throwing my career away
“Um, are you sure this isn’t just a hobby?”
Deep inside, without doubt though, I knew this was the start of something which would change my life.
My new life
And change my life it has. We’re nearing the end of 2016 and I’m officially a business owner. I’m an Interior Decorator and Stylist and that sparkle in the eyes I admired in others? It’s now my reality. I love what I do. I love talking about it. It doesn’t even feel like work. My life, and the way I live it, has changed immeasurably. For one, I’m writing this from Bali where I’m spending the month because well my boss is kinda cool and she said it was ok. Seriously though, this journey unleashed this creative side that I forgot existed. I started writing. I started to feel like I knew who I was. I remembered that life is for playing.
It’s not all rainbows & unicorns
And here I must acknowledge that the challenges along the way have been immense and plentiful. But to name three biggies:-
- Feeling like a fraud: Was I really an Interior Designer? Could I really charge people for this new found skill of mine? Of course the answer to both was yes but this was a big step to get over in those early days. When someone asked me what I did, they’d get my whole life story, as if trying to validate my choices. But with each new client it got easier. And like any job, it takes a little time to build confidence.
- Money, Money, Money: ‘If you’re doing a job just for money there’s a good chance you’re in the wrong job’. We’ve all heard it. But we’re conditioned to believe money comes from a job. It pays the bills. And while that’s good. It’s not good enough. Money was and continues to be a major fear for me throughout this process. But honestly, I have less money than I’ve ever had. More debt than I’ve ever had, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
- Asking for help: (and being able to accept it) people actually love to help and once I accepted that I started asking for help where help was needed. And it came in really cool forms that I couldn’t have imagined. Allow others to share with you and be open to possibilities.
I’ve been stretched more than ever before but every stretch has taught me something about myself. And I’ve always come out the other side, knowing more about Laura or business or both.
Just do it
I want this post to give you hope. If you feel the way I felt, I want you to know that what was possible for me is entirely possibly for you. Find the courage that I know you have. I know it’s scary, I was scared. But do you know what’s scarier? Another 30 years feeling suppressed and unheard and miserable.
Life on the other side
On the other side of that fear is something truly magical. The doors which opened for me this year, the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met, every single bit of it has been worth it. I’ve never once regretted my decision. Not once.
Maybe it’s not logical, maybe it doesn’t make financial sense, maybe people will tell you that you’re crazy but screw that. Get out of your head and into your heart and let it lead. It knows the way.
“Surrender to what you love & let it guide you”
Please do not do the world the disservice of not sharing your gift. And please don’t do yourself the disservice of not following your dreams.
And, I promise,
(*it always is)
Does Laura’s story resonate with you? Do you know a friend who has an unrealised talent? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Read more about Laura’s journey: www.twentyfifteenlikeaboss.com