Finding heroes at a pop-up dinner

July 27, 2012


When I quit my corporate job, I felt like a lone, foolish sheep breaking away from the herd. I was surely the only person who’d ever done this. Of course, the people I was spending 8, 9, 10 hours a day with were all people who were making the choice to work in that world. I was doing something that no one else in that circle was doing. And that made it hard. It’s hard to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.

I got a lot of positive messages from nearly all my coworkers. Lots of: you rock and you’re so brave and you’re going to do great and you’re doing what we all wish we could do. But now that nine months have passed, I feel differently about some of those responses. Sometimes brave is a euphemism for crazy.

It’s taken me a while to adapt to not going to a job everyday and not feeling less-than or that it’s only temporary and not sustainable. After 18 years of working full-time and messages from my father that said, “in order to be valuable, a woman must work full-time in a job that is traditionally held by a man,” there’s a lot to shake off. Sometimes l literally shake my head from side-to-side to knock myself off that old ingrained train of thought.

I still struggle with: Can I really do this? Is it really possible to make a life and a living without having a j-o-b? And I still have days where I envision myself updating my resume but those have become less and less frequent.

Because the more I spend time out in the world, doing different things, interacting with people at all times of the day, outside the confines of the corporate office building (complete with a bank and restaurant and gym so I could literally go there and home and nowhere else day after day), the more I see a wide world of possibility.

I’m seeing that there are many, many people doing their own thing. Making a living in all sorts of ways that allow them to be the boss and choose what work they want to do.

Last night, we went to a “pop-up dinner.” Tired of working for someone else, the 27-year-old chef is making a name for himself by hosting these one-night dinners in rented locations. (He also does catering and private dinners.) At each of four fantastic courses, he came out and explained to the dozen guests the details of the locally-sourced ingredients. Great food, great value, great story. I’ll go again and when he does open a restaurant, I’ll be there.

I had already recognized the chef as someone who is striking out on his own. On top of that, during the dinner, I was seated across from a guy who started his own food blog and hosts food and wine tours on the weekends. He shot photos of all the courses because this is his work: eat good food and drink good wine and write about it tomorrow.

These are just two stories I encountered last night. They are everywhere. The woman I rented my office space from owns four small businesses. (Actually five because she built two buildings containing 32 rentable office spaces as another income source.) And my mother owns her own business and my sister is an independent professional and I’m doing design work for two women who are starting their own one-person businesses.

There are certainly days where it would be a lot easier to go to a job. Easier to coast for a day or hide behind a boss or within a team. Easier to not put yourself and your personal creations out on display. But just because something is easier in the moment doesn’t mean it isn’t slowly sucking out your soul.

Luckily, there are plenty of heroes and mentors out there to look to for guidance – regular people in the real world who are choosing to take charge and take control of their life and their living. I need to put myself in the company of these folks as much as possible. When I tell these entrepreneurs that I quit my job, there’s a different quality to their responses. They get it. Not one of them has ever told me I am brave.


Image: wader

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