I’m coming up on 10 years since I started my own coaching business. (That’s a celebration there, I think.) Recently, I was interviewed by a local magazine about “being an entrepreneur” and I found myself remembering that time. In retrospect, I can say that this wasn’t something that I just fell into, yet it wasn’t particularly well thought out, either. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to be self employed rather than continue to be an employee as I had for over 24 years. And, I believed, at the time, that this desire was driven by living with several very debilitating chronic illnesses.
When I made that leap, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into nor did I have a clear idea of what I was running from. My one thought was that I couldn’t go back to doing what I’d been doing (a college professor) because I couldn’t physically manage the schedule with such lousy health.
Only years later, when I was much healthier, did I realize that at that point, I actually could have re-entered the working world I’d left. I was pretty sick but I’d been sick for a long time and had somehow managed to keep going. But my desire to keep pushing against something had changed. I just didn’t have the bones for it anymore.
Trial and error helped me figure out what direction to take and pure determination helped me pick my way through the world of self employment. On the days that it feels lonely to be solo or frustrated that my income isn’t what it would have been had I stayed at my last job, it only takes about 30 seconds to remember how difficult it was to get out of the house early every morning and show up somewhere.
But I also know that the truth is that I was never really happy in any of the jobs that I had. I was highly successful (on most external scales) at a young age at doing things I’d had little training to do. But, I was a lot less successful in being happy at my work.
So, what do I take from this? The obvious is that it’s a lot easier to work when you’re happy doing what you do. If you don’t like your job, it’s only going to be that much worse if you’re also struggling with bad health. But waiting for your health to get better so you’ll be happy at your job is a little like trying to catch a paper moon. I think self employment is a fantastic option if you can make it happen, particularly if you have chronic illness. But, it’s not the only option. Most important is to figure out what you like to do and go for it. That’s something that’s real – a paper moon you can hold onto.