My very first boss, a small business owner, used to have all of these quotes, rules and sayings that have stuck with me for years. One was about not wasting time trying to learn every lesson yourself. Instead, watch others and make decisions based on lessons learned from observing their successes and failures.

Looking Back to Move Forward

I use this logic quite often. Recently, I used it to make a major career decision. Two weeks ago, I put in notice of my resignation at my current job. To make a long story, super short – my organization went through a significant change. As a result, I had less work to do and was offered another opportunity within the org or a buyout. I took the buyout. I reviewed my financials, weighed the options, and decided, this was the perfect door to walk through and leave a place I have not been happy with for some time.

Intrinsically, I knew there was no way I could keep tamping down this pull I had to do something greater, better and more creative. I had a calling, and I could no longer ignore it. This was my opportunity. The one I had been meditating and praying about for so long. Podcasts, social media posts and even the elevator media where I work had messages about going for it and stepping outside your comfort zone to make your dreams come true. Everywhere I looked, there was inspiration and encouragement.

Finding Inspiration

In making my final decision, I looked to older generations- those still here and others who have long gone. How many times did my mother come home annoyed, and sometimes downright angry, about her workday? Before retiring (she was a postal carrier), she dealt with a particularly oppressive supervisor, whose name I still remember because I heard it so often.

Everywhere I looked, there was inspiration and encouragement.

My mom is smart, super creative and has some great skills that, years ago, could have been tapped into to earn a different kind of living. She was born in the 50s. Hers is a generation that moved out of the house at 18, went to college if it made sense, and started families at ages most millennials could not even imagine. My mom has a knack for budgeting and making money stretch. What if she made this a career? I envy her eye for design and quality furniture, her talent for organizing and making use of any kind of space; could interior design have been a career choice? Who knows, she was responsible. She chose a path that would give her enough money to pay for the life she lived (budgeting came in handy) and helped support her household. She made sacrifices so that I could soar.

Becoming my Ancestor’s Wildest Dreams

My mom waffles between, “Most jobs suck, get one that allows you to do the things you enjoy, do your time, retire and live the life you want to live,” and “I think you have a book in you.” So when I talked to her about the decision I had to make, I was pleasantly surprised when she agreed that I needed to leave. “You’ll be fine,” she said. She’s right, I will be.

I think about all those who came before me, who did not have such a choice. They made sacrifices and laid the groundwork so that I could do just what I am doing — making a step toward where I want to be. Critically thinking about my future and being honest about what does not serve me well. I use older generations as a guide, a map even, to where I can go. As filmmaker, Ava DuVernay once tweeted, I want to “become my ancestor’s wildest dreams.”

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash
Career leaps are unsettling. Finding inspiration from the stories of those who came before can be a comfort. Sometimes looking back to move forward is key.