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Anxiety & Knocking It Out Of The Park


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Anxiety & Knocking It Out Of The Park | A Practical Wedding

I developed an anxiety condition when I moved to San Francisco (almost) five years ago. And I don’t mean, “I’d had an anxiety condition for years, and I was finally properly diagnosed.” I mean I developed it, in one fell swoop. A few short months after moving to San Francisco, I found myself hyperventilating with my head between my knees as the floor slipped out from under me, and I thought, “Ah, I’m having a panic attack. Shit.” Now, five years later, I’m figuring out what it was all about, which is a short way of saying that it was so goddamn obvious that it took me a little bit of emotional distance to get it.

By moving to San Francisco, I was making a conscious choice to give up two things that I deeply loved because neither of them were serving me anymore. And while I was smart enough to know that you need to quit while you’re ahead, I didn’t get that quitting The Path You Are On can take you a few years (and many panic attacks) to recover from.

First, I’d quit professional theatre. I remember this moment during my final months where I was delivering something to a successful Broadway producer’s office. When I got there, it was a dingy tenement office decorated with a single ratty couch. I remember thinking, first, “Holy shit, I can’t believe that a kid from my impoverished California hometown worked her way up to this point by 26,” and then, “I have seen behind the curtain, and get me the hell out of here.” So I left. It turned out that I loved independently producing theatre, but I felt like my talents were totally wasted when only twenty people (all of whom were friends who wanted you to come to their shows) came. And the level of emotional abuse and/or total boredom required to withstand working on big-deal theatre projects was something I wasn’t willing to put up with. Besides, I was tired of being profoundly broke.

Second, I quit New York City. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’ve recovered from that one, or even that I think it was the best long term choice. But on some level I knew that if I was going to throw in the towel on everything I’d been working on for the last ten years, I wasn’t up to starting over, again, in the hugest and hardest city in the world. I needed a break.

So, fast forward six months, and I am having my first panic attack while I try to study for a finance exam, for which I am wildly unqualified, because I promised myself that if I was leaving theatre, I was going to try something totally new. And finance, alas, is about as new as you can get.

You would expect (or I would have expected) that once we’d settled into our new city and our new life, the anxiety would have gone away. I mean, we made friends quickly, I started a blog which became a satisfying creative outlet. Yes, I was getting up at five a.m. to go to a corporate office job, but still. And when I finally stopped waking up at five a.m. to become a high powered secretary and department manager, it still didn’t ease up. And when I quit my corporate gig to finally go back into creative work, it still didn’t let up. At which point, I decided anxiety was just my new state of being. (And I belatedly got a little help with it. Hot tip: get help first, don’t be a total moron like me.)

But what I didn’t realize was that I’d always been relatively good at what I did. Yes, I gave up my star turn as a debater by not going to law school and going to conservatory theatre school instead. But I went to one of the top theatre programs in the country. I didn’t f*ck around. Yes, I took some horribly low paying jobs out of college, but I co-founded a theatre company that did it’s first gala at Peter Yarrow‘s house, and I got an theatre administration internship with one of the biggest theatre companies in New York. I did obscure artistic things, but I did them with style.

And then I quit my corporate job to write a blog. And, whatever, let’s be frank. Most of the world has marginal to zero understanding of what a blog actually is. Telling people you quit your job to write a blog is a little like telling them you decided to give up your benefits to become a professional postcard writer. Everyone slowly backs away. It is not prestigious, to say the least. (At least not yet.)

But I trusted it was the right decision. In fact, I knew it was the right decision, rest of the world be damned. And some of it was an airy-fairy “it-feels-right-in-my-soul” “I’m-creating-things-I-love-this-is-the-right-direction” kind of thing, but I’m also a phenomenally practical person, and when I looked at the balance sheet I knew it made sense.

So I set out to prove myself, and it was exhausting on a soul-deep level. If you’d asked me a few months ago, I would have told you that it was exhausting proving myself to everyone in the world. Over and over and over. That it was exhausting explaining to people over and over what I did (again), and that yes I made money. And that I was writing a book, and that no I wasn’t self-publishing it in my garage using a photocopier. I would have told you that it was rather exhausting doing something no one understood, after a lifetime of doing things that were obscure, but still prestigious.

But then, on book tour, I figured out I was wrong.

I had, of course, hoped that writing a book would somehow give me legitimacy. I mean, for God’s sake, I published a book with a major publisher, and we all pushed it to #29 on the Amazon bestseller list (time-out for high fives!). Surely now everyone would take me, APW, my work, and my book seriously?

No.

From the minute we started planning the tour with my amazing and phenomenally patient book publicist Lara, I realized that no one had a reason to take me seriously, unless I proved myself to them. Book stores were telling us no because they didn’t believe a first-time author could get a crowd or sell any books. The bookstores that said yes still didn’t believe we were going to get a crowd, didn’t order enough books and didn’t put out enough seats. Very early in the process, I realized that I had to act as if I had proven nothing, and then prove everything. Every. Single. Time. My ex-professional-arts-administrator self was suddenly hit over the head with the obvious: I was now talent. And talent has to prove themselves with every show.

Anxiety & Knocking It Out Of The Park | A Practical Wedding

So I did it.

And it was the most liberating experience of my life. For a month, I had to show up to new cities, new events, major interviews, and knock it out of the park. I would show up tired, or really needing to work out, or wishing I’d washed my hair. I’d show up in one imperfect state after another, nervous, grumpy, unfocused, and know I had to deliver the goods. And after a month of delivering, I got home and realized I’d proved myself to myself.

I no longer really cared if people believed in me because I believed in me. I no longer really cared if I made the bed every day or kept the house clean because f*ck it, I’d written a book (weird how those things are related in the brain, but they are). I no longer felt the same intense pressure to prove myself every second of every day because I could look over on the bookshelf and see my book sitting right next to Caitlin Moran’s (because obviously they hang out) and have faith that if I could do that, I could handle whatever I needed to do next.

And the strangest part? From the second I got on the train to start promoting the book, I stopped having panic attacks. Yes, I’m sure they’ll be back in some form or another, sooner or later. But for the first time in almost five years, I haven’t had major anxiety in two months.

It took five years, but I dug my way back. And while I’m still dubious about giving up Brooklyn, I fought my way back from leaving my passion, and I found something better. And I’m so grateful to 26-year-old Meg for walking away from her job cold turkey with only a couple thousand dollars in the bank, simply because she knew it was the right move. Good job 26-year-old Meg. You were on to something.

And now, forward. (With my book firmly on the shelf.) Let’s see what the future brings.

Photos: Hart & Sol West (Brooklyn Book Talk), calin + bisous photo (Boston Book Talk)

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://www.seriffim.net Stacey

    Beautiful Meg. Thanks for being your badass self and showing us that we can do anything!

  • Cassandra

    This is the boost I needed this morning to get started on everything I need to do in the next 24 hours. Congratulations on rocking it!

  • http://www.amberwilkie.com Amber Wilkie

    Yay Meg! Major life win.

  • http://www.weddingfortwo.blogspot.com Ellie

    I just wanted to say, I finally got offered a full time, salaried, with benefits, lawyer gig, and ever since I got the offer I’ve been excited but also terrified, and I keep going back to everything you have said about success – about how scary it is, about how hard it is to embrace, about how we all have access to it, about pulling up your star with your own two hands through your hard work (because for a minute there, I thought I didn’t deserve this job and then I remembered that I spent the last 18 months hoisting my own star.) I have found endless inspiration in what you have had to say about success and gut feeling and making your life happen in a way we all deserve and I just wanted to come by and say thanks :).

    • Amy March

      I got my very own full time with benefits gig 6 months ago, Congrats! And it’s taken me all of that time to stop worrying constantly about getting fired. If I may offer a piece of advice, take a minute or two every Friday to write down what you learned from the week, and to remember how thrilled you were to get the offer. “making it” as a lawyer has been so terrifying at times, but also feels really good

  • http://meditatingontherain.wordpress.com Aine

    I hope you know how much it means to all of us struggling ‘where am I going?” people that you write this stuff, that you tell us about the journey you’ve been on and how hard it is to do. Because reading about that side of things makes me think “This is possible”. I believe in it because you said its hard, because you talk about what you’ve had to give up to move forward.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.asafemooring.blogspot.com Kirsty {a safe mooring}

    HIGH F*ING FIVE!

    So proud of you Meg. So proud. And super inspired.

  • Maggie P.

    Oh man, I completely understand. I, too, am a theatre dropout. I, too, did this after living in New York and seeing “behind the curtain” a little too much. I, too, freaked the EFF out. I was only 20 at the time and I don’t know that I have ever had a panic attack over it (I don’t think I’m a ‘panic attack’ person) but anxiety? OUT THE WAZOO! I remember one of my closest friends in New York looking at me with shock and saying “Maggie, you are freaking out…. you’re never like this and you’ve been like this for a month! What the hell?” I cut my hair drastically, I soulsearched constantly, I thought about COMPLETELY DROPPING OUT halfway through my fairly fancy private school to which I had a FULL TUITION SCHOLARSHIP and running away back to my hometown.
    I was just trying to explain this to my sister the other day who’s been going through something similar (though, like Meg, her’s started at around 26… what can I say I’m precocious!). It’s okay that you feel bad… It’s normal that you feel like you’re betraying that other (previous) version of you [especially if it’s a childhood dream that you had until now “never given up on”… you can almost see six year old you saying “I want to be an actress/have a doctorate degree/etc”… and then you want to cry!!] But growing isn’t betraying yourself. YOU ARE NOT THEATRE OR A DOCTORATE DEGREE OR WHATEVER THAT GOAL WAS. When you get to that point, you just have to look at your life very closely and think “What would make me TRULY happy?” and as soon as you get even a HAZY picture of what that is, start going for it. Because the only thing that saved me from being a big ball of anxiety was starting to work on Plan B.
    I’m a few years into Plan B now and there are days when I’m like “Why did I choose this plan again?” but honestly, it definitely right for me right now… and I think if I didn’t have my monthlong anxiety fest at 20, I would have ended up in Meg’s position…. (wait a second.. let me go back!!! I WANT TO BE MEG!!! I’ll do the anxiety attacks, really I will!!!) ;)

    • Lesley

      I ‘Exactly’ Maggie P’s comment, ‘Growing is not betraying yourself.’ As a biotechnologist (PhD bound, at that) turned culinary student, I have to put this mantra repeat most days. It’s helpful to hear that I’m not the only one whose right choice hurts more than continuing down the wrong path. To growth!

      • Ceebee

        I’m clinically depressed for my 6th year, only that the first 4 NOBODY knew what it was, everybody just thought I was embittered by work and growing up.
        One “good” thing about this is, it gives you tremendous unhealthy ability to
        Withstand hardship and numb fatigue. So I became a star in my job and Pulled in the numbers because I don’t turn down nothing and have failure anxiety.
        Recovering, I saw how miserable I am in the job, misery I previously was numbed to. You’re already feeling shitty, what’s a little more, my fried brain says.

        Today I go from 6 figure to 0, to make Children’s toys, just because I want to. The blood,sweat,tears money from those few pushing years is an extra bonus, no less, to allow me the option of trying this out.

    • Chris Bergstrom

      Thank you, Meg and Maggie P. I’m in the middle of leaving my path right now, and I’m terrified that if I get off this path (which is so obviously wrong for me), there will be no other path / right place, and I’ll be just wandering the woods alone, wishing I were still on the wrong path. But your stories give me hope.

      • Maggie P.

        I’m so glad to hear that it helped. And really, I think this whole thing happens really often – I think it’s kind of a rite of passage for a lot of people. Props to Meg for bringing it up… this is just the kind of thing that makes me realize that even though I’m pre-engaged and even if something goes terribly awry and I don’t become engaged – I’ll still read this blog – it’s so much more than weddings.
        One little thing I wanted to note – I hope I didn’t underplay the massive undesirability of anxiety attacks at the end of my comment. I DO NOT envy anyone who has them, and I really respect the strength to keep on going when that’s happening in your life. I was just admiring the awesomeness of Meg. :)

      • DKR

        “…I’m terrified that if I get off this path (which is so obviously wrong for me), there will be no other path / right place…”
        THIS. I’m working on my own Plan B, and “What if the military is all I’m good at?” has haunted me since leaving active duty and going back to school.

        “But your stories give me hope.” Indeed. :-)

        • Audrey

          “What if the military is all I’m good at?” is eerily close to the fear “What if academia is all I’m good at?” I had when I dropped out of grad school 6 (yikes!) years ago. I won’t lie – the path to my “true” Plan B was hard and winding. The happy ending: I’m finally doing a job I find fascinating, interesting, can imagine doing for a long time and usually look forward to in the morning (nothing’s perfect of course!).

          Two things kept me going in the meantime:
          – Focusing on how my life felt better and improved, even in the year after grad school when I was working odd temp jobs. It was bizarre, but I really was happier stuffing envelopes than I had been in school.
          – Finding hobbies I enjoyed and working on developing a more well-rounded sense of self that wasn’t based on “I am a grad student who is trying to do X”. (I don’t want to make this sound easy, to be frank 6 years later I still feel a small twinge as my grad school friends are now becoming “Dr.” when I never will.)

          As The Modern Gal says below, “you are not your goal” is really, really important.

    • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

      I think the point that ‘you are not your goal’ is an important one.

  • http://routinebrilliance.com Brytani

    Oh, Meg. I hope your anxiety attacks are beginning to clear up. I get them occasionally, and I don’t know about you, but mine are physically excruciating. Those suckers present like actual heart attacks for me and a lot of other people. They are no small ordeal.

    I’m so inspired by you but your story also throws me off a little. Not necessarily in a bad way, though. I’m 24 now and simultaneously working my way through grad school and moving up in the library I work for. I love the library. I think it’s important work and I kind of kick ass at my job. I know I could do a lot more for the community I serve if I keep growing in my profession but then I also have this giant, looming fear that if let myself get so passionate about it, my creativity will suffer. I’ll always consider myself a writer but even now, I just don’t have a lot of time for it. I forcefully make time for it at least a few days a week now but I’m sad. I’m mourning that something might have to give in my future and I really don’t want it to be either.
    Then I read about you and how you quit your job to claim a creative career and I have to ask myself if I’m pursuing the right things. They’re questions I need to ask anyway but I’m just in the thick of finding myself right now and everything is confusing and exciting at the same time. Sometimes coming into your own is pure torture.

    • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

      I think with any goal or dream, you owe it to yourself to figure out for sure that it’s what you do or don’t want to do — especially if you’re passionate about it. Passion is a good thing to have, so don’t ignore it. If your path ultimately proves to be wrong, you’ll get to a point where you KNOW it’s wrong. If it’s right, then it’s a damn good thing you didn’t quit it. :) Besides, just because writing doesn’t seem to fit into your life at the moment doesn’t mean it won’t ever.

      • meg

        THIS. There are always a million points along the path where you question yourself. I wanted to drop out halfway to my theatre degree, because frankly I didn’t *like* it very much. But I f*cking finished it, and I’m so glad I did. Liking doing a thing and liking having done a thing are very different, and sometimes you have to just ask questions and then PUSH THROUGH.

      • Katy

        Modern Gal: Just had to let you know that I saved this and pinned it to my desktop. I needed to hear it that much! Thank you.

    • Kelsey W

      Whoa, it’s like we have the same brain! I’m also working on my MLIS while climbing the library career ladder, and I am also 24 and kind of floundering. I also planned on being a librarian so I could work at a rewarding job while being able to pay the bills with the ultimate goal of quitting to be a writer. I guess I used to think that librarianship was a much more simple job than it actually is, and I also was not counting on getting so interested in the technical side of things. I haven’t written in awhile because I’ve been busy learning how to program, or learning about data harvesting, and that makes me a little sad… but I’ve also opened this new, analytical side of my brain that I never thought I was capable of using well.

      • http://routinebrilliance.com Brytani

        Soul sister! I know that I’m worrying about this a little more than I should and that it really will work itself out. Writing is a big part of me and it’ll never completely go away. I’ve also been reassured by a few of my mentors that the library field really is creative, too, and that I’ll be able to use my imagination and talents in my work without feeling drained at home. There’s just so much anxiety in waiting to find that comfortable place in a career where you feel you’re at your full potential.

    • http://hobbitsvselves.wordpress.com Zen

      You can definitely have the writing as well as the actually-paying career. I tortured myself with worry before going into my corporate lawyer gig — why was I hurtling into a career infamous for its work/work balance when all I really wanted to do was write little stories about dragons? I told myself I had all kinds of good reasons for doing it. I told myself to be practical, that the writing could wait while I was busy growing up and gaining new skills.

      Two years of lawyering and nine published stories later, I’m just like — OK, so clearly I have no idea what I should be doing. But having a day job was the best possible thing I could’ve done for my writing. I’m not saying that’ll be true for everyone — there as many different kinds of writers as there are, y’know, people — but the words will still be there for you when you come back to them. Really truly.

  • Erica

    So proud, Meg. You go girl.

  • http://victorialmurphy.blogspot.com/ Victoria

    Practical Wedding was the ONLY place on the internet where I found stories, advice and a place to relate to other women who also struggle with severe anxiety. I had gotten off my medication just six months before my wedding and it was had to convince myself that I was NOT going to have an attack while walking down the aisle. Thankfully, I didn’t! I just want to say ‘thank you’ to Meg and every one else who contributes to the discussion of anxiety – it’s just another amazing part of this community.

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.com/ Sheryl

      The willingness that so many people here have to share their experiences – particularly the hard ones – is hands down my favourite part of this site.

      Even on the times that I can’t find something to relate to, I always leave inspired. You don’t find that many places.

  • Kelly D.

    This is one of the reasons I love this blog so much. Because of the bravery you exude while making yourself vulnerable by sharing your stories.

    While I don’t have anxiety attacks, I do struggle with excessive amounts of worry/fear. And it seems that the wedding planning that my boyfriend and I are undertaking have brought some of my scariest demons to the surface. Perhaps it’s the idea of taking the next big step in life that makes you look at all your past, present and future choices? As a 34-year-old woman a few months into a new career of massage therapy, I’m still consumed with guilt & thoughts of failure for realizing that the life of an actor – in NYC – is not the right life for me. (Whaaaat? I spent HOW much on theatre school? I have to spend HOW much more on an education for a new skill?? What will all my actor friends think? I must not have tried hard enough. I must not have been good enough. I must not be good at anything! So then I am a terrible friend, a terrible sister and a mediocre girlfriend, blah blah blah…Yup. My brain is on overload. Hopefully someday soon these thoughts will diminish!!)

    Thank you for saying some very important things. For reminding us that there are a million ways to express our creativity, and for pointing out that when you are true to thine own self, the universe opens doors for you in ways you would have never imagined possible.

    Marianne Williamson’s quote also comes to mind here: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

  • http://www.breakingdownthebank.blogspot.com EmilyEF

    Thanks for creating a space where we can talk about how confusing it can be to even figure out what your dreams are, not to mention how scary it can be to commit and follow them once you make a decision. Your work posts remind me of why I took my 9-5 job in the first place and reminds me not to give up on my creative dreams just because people might not think they are “legitimate”. Cheers to you!

  • http://warrenpimp.blogspot.com/ Contessa

    I find Liz Gilbert’s description of the Augusteum in Rome endlessly comforting. The building was a mausoleum, a fireworks depository and garden and a concert hall before it’s present incarnation and when Liz compares it to the life of a woman who maybe became a flemenco dancer, a widow and the first female dentist in space it reminds me that my path has been winding but not useless and it’s not close to over yet.

    I wonder what I might be tomorrow?

    • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

      I love this: “Winding but not useless.” Key distinction!! :)

    • http://www.lucyguest.com youlovelucy

      That’s one of my favorite parts in that book.

  • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

    Congratulations Miss Baby! (That’s what I call young people I love.) You’ve been given a great gift in this life, one that hung just out of reach and now you’ve grabbed it. Enjoy. Enjoy and then give to others. Ain’t nothin’ else.

    • meg

      Well, that made me cry.

  • http://www.essential-images.com essentialimages

    Way to go, Meg, for working toward such amazing self knowledge and for doing it all without a net — hearing you tell it is a tremendous help. Yes, you absolutely did belt that baby right out of the park, so congrats on the incredible book tour.

    Been there/done that with panic attacks and all I can say is, It gets Better. Yup.

    So, What’s Next?!

  • Cass

    Oh wow. Reading this I felt like the air got sucked out of the room (in a good way). I feel like I could have written half of this – the theater, the fancy degree, the leaving NYC, and even the attempt at working in finance part. I gave up my theater career mostly because of my health, but when I discovered what it was like to have a life and other interests after 10 years of doing nothing but work, rehearsals, auditions, meetings, etc for very little money, I knew it was the right choice. Even if it was hard and somewhat forced upon me

    The “success” thing I’ m still working on. The confidence and anxiety this too. But it means so much to hear about the process. So many times we just hear about the resolution, but not the journey so I appreciate your candid discussion of how you got here. I know success isn’t a straight line but it’s easier to understand that when it’s illustrated for you.

    Thank you. I’m still sitting here feeling shell shocked by this post, but it’s a very good thing. Reading this makes me thing, “Omg, me too?”

    • Tamara Van Horn

      “Reading this I felt like the air got sucked out of the room (in a good way).” Yes. YES.

      Meg, I often find myself on this comment page saying “thank you.” But this morning, a tough-but-not-impossible morning where I am pushing hard to get dressed and not schlar all morning, your post just clicked onto something in my soul…thank you is inadequate. And now I am going to replace all of my lost IDs with a small smile, because I get to change my name, and I just filed joint taxes for the first time, and this is part of my Way Forward.

      This is my jumbled way of saying that you created a space that is powerful beyond words. And that is a very, very good thing.

  • Brefiks (formerly Kate)

    I love the idea of giving your younger self props. Too often we distance ourselves from who that person was and the decisions she made. My middle school self banked some savings that helped me travel around the world 10 years later. She was a pretty awesome kid!

    • Kess

      I really have to remember to do that too! I should really thank middle/high-school me. Because of her, I could get through college supporting myself with minimal loans. She’s pretty damn awesome.

    • meg

      Four year old me is my spirit animal. Sixteen year old me is my conscience. They are good ladies. I give them high fives all the time.

    • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

      On a related note, I sometimes ask my future 80-year-old self for advice. She’s always so calm about whatever I’m freaking out about!

  • Kess

    I am so in this anxiety place right now. I have known since 5th grade that I wanted to be an engineer. I’m 1.5 semesters away from graduating with a mechanical engineering degree. Honestly, I’ve loved all my classes, and I really enjoy school, but I’m terrified of the workforce. Of the 4 different internships I’ve had, I have not had a good time at any of them and I’m worried that I’m just not cut out for the world of engineering.

    I had always assumed that I’d be working in a big company, trying to save the world, etc and I just can’t see myself doing that anymore.

    However, I have learned that I really enjoy teaching (I’ve been tutoring beginning ME classes) so I’m trying to convince myself that it’s going to be ok if I do decide that engineering in a company isn’t right for me. I’ll be getting a masters and may end up in academia, and that scares me shitless. There’s so much that could go wrong, and if I end up not being able to hack it, what do I do then? If I can’t become a prof, do I have to go into that soul-sucking cubicle job?

    Blech. Anxiety is right.

    • Christa

      I’m an engineering dropout, and it was the best choice for me. Finished a BS in civil, hated my internships, passed the FE exam, worked for a year and am now in grad school for something completely different (trying to save the world). I’m not an engineer at all anymore, but the degree has served me very well even in completely different fields. Good luck!

      • Ceebee

        I’m in engineering 10 years now. How I end up there in engineering school I dunno, maybe just to avoid law school. The the past summer I went for a fellowship and every law class that I took, professor thinks I should enroll, but in each of those classes I just saw why I shouldn’t and didn’t. Wish I figured out engineering mismatch that easily

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      Have you looked in to Oil and Gas? I work for a big company as an engg tech, and most of the people in my groups are mecs. And there are no cubes to be found. (My office with door looks out over the mountains.) It’s not quite saving the world, but we spend more time on environmental stuff than you can imagine.

      My husband is structural, and works for a big multinational in a cubefarm. Our companies could not be any more different. Working on the client side (ie, the people with the money) takes a good bit of the soul suckiness away, at least for me.

      Not to try to talk you out of teaching! It’s just, I always thought you had to be an O&G engg to get an O&G job, and that turned out to be totally untrue. (Hell, I have a BA in international relations and now do engg tech work. Degrees can lead you all kinds of interesting places.)

      Also, the number of engineers who I know who went on to get a law degree on an MBA and totally wrote their own tickets? Super high.

      Good luck!

      • http://magpietrousseau.wordpress.com Magpie

        I always thought you had to be an O&G engg to get an O&G job, and that turned out to be totally untrue.

        HOW DO YOU DO THIS???

        I am serious, I really want to know. We’re on the broke as a joke biomed postdoc track right now (well, I am, otherhalf is not working because no one is hiring)…and the O&G companies are hiring like mad around here. They just don’t seem to be interested in biomed postdocs, but maybe that’s because we don’t know how to spin it. Any advice?

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          Email me mpk042 at gmail and I can share some thoughts..

    • Lizzie

      Not to further confuse you, but for another perspective: I have a degree in architecture, and a good 75% of people you say that to will say “Oh, I really wanted to be an architect!” I, on the other hand, really wish I had a mechanical engineering degree, and if I had it, or just the knowledge that goes along with it, I would be figuring out how to start a company that makes energy efficient windows (this is a huge hole in the American market; anyone who wants really good windows pays a bazillion dollars to import them from Germany).

      Now I’m certainly not saying that you should redirect all of your dreams towards energy-efficient window design (although if you do, please tell me so that I can buy your windows), but rest assured that your skills and knowledge will be very much in demand and that creative, well-intentioned people will want to work with you, because you have honed your own creativity in a way that other people haven’t. Once you are out there, I think you’ll find that you have a lot more choices than just academia or a big company.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        “Once you are out there, I think you’ll find that you have a lot more choices than just academia or a big company.” YES YES YES.

        That’s one thing I wish had been made more clear to me growing up. I kind of felt that my options were teacher / accountant / engineer, and I didn’t want to be a teacher, I’m dyslexic enough that accountant’s not a great fit and I didn’t believe I had the aptitude for engineering. But as soon as I started working as an admin in my current division of a large company, I watched about 500 different jobs types open up in front of me, and it was amazing. Things that I never knew even existed need to get done, and some of them are actually pretty neat. And that’s just within my current company. Times that by all the other industries out there and there are SO MANY THINGS that you can do to make a living that I never even dreamed about. (And I’m only talking about corporate stuff, because that’s what I know and like. Expand this times other fields and the options expand exponentially.)

        • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

          This is such a f*ing good point. There needs to be a post on this. Or a blog on this. Or a book.

      • http://www.fuzzynk.com Sarah

        Lizzie – it’s funny what you say about 75% of people saying that they wanted to be an architect. It’s SO incredibly true. I think a lot of it’s because in movies and tv the architect is always the “cool job”. I have a degree in architecture and have been working in it for 9 years and I’m planning on getting out! I’d say 75% of the people I know from architecture school aren’t in the field or wish they weren’t. Something tells me that a lot of professional degrees aren’t all they seem to be when you’re in college dreaming of your big career!

        In general I think a lot of us are raised with the idea that we need to choose a career for life. When in reality it’s “ok” to change career paths once, twice, or maybe even more often. At least that’s what I’m telling myself as I continue to work in both architecture and the wedding industry. It’s hard to let go of that professional degree/title that everyone associates with you. I worry it seems that I’ve given up just because it isn’t what I’d thought it would be.

        • Ceebee

          Haha I suddenly hear 75% of people say “Ted Mosby, architect”

          • http://www.fuzzynk.com Sarah

            HIMYM is the one show that I’ve seen which pretty closely represents some of what a typical life of an “architect” is like. Or at least it’s got some great jokes and comments that only someone in architecture would find funny. Which I love.

        • Lizzie

          Ha – yes, there is a certain mystique to it. It always cracks me up when I see “architect” topping the lists of both the sexiest professions and the profession with the highest unemployment rates. You take the good with the bad, I suppose.

          On a more serious note, Sarah, good luck with your career shift. I finished my degree almost five years ago (holy crap…), but I’m just now getting around to the whole professional licensing bit, and this post has made me think about whether doing that is doubling-down on a track that I’d actually rather be getting off. But the truth is that I really love the work, I just think the standard systems for getting things designed and built are totally backwards. So I’m going to stick around for a while longer and see if I can fix up some corner of the profession in a way that suits me. It’s definitely all still a work in progress.

          • http://www.fuzzynk.com Sarah

            Lizzie, Good luck with your tests! I finally finished the ARE’s last year. Before they dropped from 9 down to 7. However, I still haven’t taken my CSE (california supplemental exam) and so the title of architect is yet to be mine. It’s on my to-do list for this year (again). Getting my license is completely related to everything Meg said in this post. It’s about proving myself to everyone else. But, I suppose at the same time it’s about closure & letting myself move on knowing that I “did it”. Or at least that 5 years of school & 10 tests was “worth it”. I’d never trade in my degree… architecture school feels like a secret & exclusive club that I was very very lucky to experience and survive! The industry just doesn’t quite fit me :)

    • Susie

      Hello from a process engineer 5 years after graduation. Having loved classes all through uni I did an internship with one of the biggest and most prestigious oil companies in the UK and hated it. I also worked at a big operator and hated that too and had the same “am I cut out for this?” panic you’re having. I ended up working in a small-ish consultancy full of pretty cool people and I LOVE my job now. Try thinking of it not that you’re not cut out for engineering but instead that those companies weren’t right for you. Good luck anyway, I’m sure your future self is happy in her career!

      • christa

        I think this thread has more female engineers than I’ve met in my entire career.

        • Ceebee

          Quite funnily I took on the fellowship last year on the WiE ticket, and 6 months later after coming back from grad school, I am quitting engineering haha.
          It’s a good profession but as I grow in it,i see how important WiE movement is, for support and advancement. Something like this site for relationships and marriage.

  • http://theatreprojects.blogspot.com Jessamarie

    Every few months I have a mini freak out about my work in the theatre and about how no matter how much I seem to be “moving up” I also continually discover that there is no light at the end of the tunnel and how that more prestigious theatre doesn’t pay enough either.
    Last week, after spending a day taking care of wedding planning things with my fiance, we pulled into my parents driveway and he looked at me and said, “I hope you take this as the compliment it is meant to be, but THIS is what you should be doing.” And now I’m thinking about it, and wondering about putting my thrifting and crafting and planning and propping skills to use as a real event planner instead of just my own wedding planner. I have my September 1st wedding to get through first, but after reading this today and reading all of the comments I felt the need to put it down in writing here, as a sort of commitment to myself to look into it, and maybe to start talking to people about it and laying the groundwork for a very interesting and exciting plan B.

    • Anne

      What a wonderful fiance! Keep dreaming and listening to your instincts. I found that marrying my husband really helped me to follow my own dreams.

  • http://elissarphotography.com Elissa

    I just totally, completely, honestly, want to take you in my arms and hug you so tight. Thank you for being so honest and open about everything. It makes all of our (my) internal struggles about forging a creative path seem possible, viable, and even (financially) successful. Also, I am so happy for you :)

  • francine

    so very awesome, meg!! thank you for sharing your lives with us!

  • L

    Boom, I’m forwarding this directly to my friend, I see her in your writing. I want her to know it is possible to dig yourself out what you think has become a part of you

    Thank you

  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    Having discovered my own anxiety disorder six months ago, I can really appreciate everything you’ve written. Mine has sort of been the result of finding myself in a prestigious job and knowing deep down in my soul that it was so totally wrong for me. I got help and am on a better path for me. Reading this is a good reminder that it will be worth it — it will be hard, and the anxiety won’t just go away — but it will be worth it in the end. Thanks, Meg.

  • http://chilingwang.com Chi-Ling

    I’m too tired to come up with the words that articulate the layers of appreciation I have for you Ms. Meg. So happy for you. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

    “I no longer really cared if people believed in me because I believed in me.”

    This is what we all have to come to, right? It’s exhausting trying to get everyone else to believe in you. And much simpler really if the time is spent on believing in yourself.

    I often find myself somewhat bitter about having to prove myself to everyone all the damn time, but I think your description helps me let go of that bitterness a little bit. As talent, we must perform. And we CAN, if we choose the right paths. Letting my heart dream a little bigger after reading your words, as usual.

    Hugs. Thank you again. Keep up the great work. We’re all rooting for you, holding your hands, and ready to cheer on your next move. The fact that you keep putting yourself out there and sharing your gifts is a gift to us. (I think!) There’s a huge chunk of the world to whom you are not proving anything, but we benefit greatly from you continuing to do the good work.

    • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

      to whom you NEED NOT prove anything. You’re proving it. We just dont’ need you to prove it.

  • Steph

    Thank you for this post Meg!!! I’m still trying to figure out how to give up the work I’ve been passionate about for the last 8 years but no longer serves me and is threatening my health (I’ve been working in the mental health field and am beyond burnt out). Your posts about career always give me hope that there is something more on the other side, and that even though getting there is not easy it’s worth fighting for. Also, have you read the happiness project by Gretchen Rubin? This post reminded me of her chapter on feeling legitimate.

    • HH

      Yes! I completely agree, and I highly recommend that book. In the few short weeks (like 3) since reading The Happiness Project, my general outlook has transformed from a mostly negative one into one of positive and hopeful thoughts. Not solely the book, though- posts like this remind me of what’s important, and what’s worth slugging through the hard bits for.

      As always: Thanks, Meg.

  • Christa

    And onward full tilt we go….

    thank you.

  • melissa

    “And while I’m still dubious about giving up Brooklyn, I fought my way back from leaving my passion, and I found something better.”

    I’m so happy that you feel that what you are doing now is BETTER than the theater work. I hadn’t realized before reading that sentence that you really believed it.

    • meg

      Oh, fuck yeah. Lord. No question. (I left for a reason.)

  • http://www.lucyguest.com youlovelucy

    Thank you for sharing, Meg. You are an inspiration to us all!

    I feel like out in the world there’s a perpetuated belief that self-confidence and anxiety/fear are mutually exclusive feelings, and that success only comes to those who moved forward without any fear/anxiety. When I’ve expressed my anxiety over a situation, the most common response seems to be, “oh, you have nothing to be afraid of, just be confident!”

    I am confident, but that doesn’t mean I’m not simultaneously terrified! I have tremendous anxiety when it comes to speaking to groups, but I’m confident in my role as an articulate, well educated person who understands the general concept of public speaking. Does it stop me from having crazy shaky hands and sweating, no, but I know that this is the only way to keep growing this skill that I feel I need to have.

    I don’t really have a closing thought, but yea. I believe that a healthy amount of fear is necessary for growth. I also believe that therapy works wonders for the more unhealthy amounts. That and talking to people honestly.

  • Pingback: Elsie sent a grammar edit. | Editz()

  • Anne

    I’m not sure I have too much more to add, other than that you rock. I’m dealing with my own anxiety at the moment about potentially being pushed off the path I’ve been on (and wanted to be on) for so long, so I wanted to thank you for writing this. I don’t have a Plan B yet (although I’ve done the soul-sucking office work thing, so I really hope it isn’t that), but thanks for reminding us that it’s possible.

  • http://forcause.wordpress.com Sandy

    This is so timely for me. I just quit my big time corporate lawyer gig to go to a smaller shop. I’m trading prestige for time to do the things that matter to me, like write, and spend time with my family. And I know almost without a doubt that it’s the right decision, right now, for me, but it’s a decision that’s coupled with anxiety and mourning because, well, I’m not just quitting a job, but quitting the path I’ve been on for as long as I can remember. Thank you for the encouragement to fight through the anxiety and all the people questioning my choice and finally trust myself. Also, I’m so happy that you’ve found yourself in a place where you don’t need to prove yourself anymore, at least not to yourself.

    • mimi

      I work for a small firm and the flexibility is so worth it. Having a life is nice :) Good luck!

  • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com Meghan

    I knew from the moment I met you last year that you were something very special. I am so damn happy that that you have proved it to yourself.

  • http://medeamaterial.com Jules

    Congratulations! may better and better things come your way

  • Granola

    Thankyou. Just, thankyou. I finally got a job as a journalist in New York and just like you had the moment of “This is what’s behind the curtain? No thanks.” But man has that sense of betrayal and anxiety hit me hard since I left. I know that I just have to trust myself and my decisions and the rest will catch up, but it might take a lot longer than I thought. Or than anyone else thought, really.

    So thankyou for sharing your experience. That it does get better. That the right decision can still be a sucker punch. That I can claw my way back and that it will feel great when I do.

  • http://www.exactlyhandmade.com Katie

    I was active in and passionate about theater for years (though I was definitely more on the technical side than the stage side). I made the same choices to leave one passion and try to find another, and I think I’m getting there.

    I also started a blog, and I’m thinking about writing a book someday. But I haven’t at the confidence or the savings to completely let go of having a “day job” just yet. I am looking forward to when the time comes for me to leave traditional employment and follow you into self-employment.

    Despite my own anxieties vs. self-confidence struggles (but I do agree that these are not mutually exclusive), I certainly hope to be able to portray the meaning to what it is I have to say and what it is I choose to share with the world.

    Thank you for showing me that a theater drop-out can truly make it with a little extra spirit.

  • MissT

    Thank you for sharing what goes on behind your own “curtain” of success (because I think you are wonderfully successful/inspiring/accomplished) and sharing how your anxiety factors into your work. It’s great to be reminded that my anxiety is part of what helps me go out into the world and prove myself but that it is more powerful when it drives me to prove my dreams and not someone else’s and even better, when I let the anxiety go.

  • sarahj

    You hit a grand slam with the count at 3-2 to win the Series, Meg!!! Enjoy the run around the bases! :)
    As Maxwell, the GeicoPig would say, “WHEEE WHEEE WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

  • mimi

    Yay Meg! Thanks for this post, and for your bravery in sharing. I spent a couple years having anxiety attacks and being depressed (although I was in denial about this for a while, until my mom finally confronted me and made me do something about it). Without realizing it, I changed and stopped doing things that I used to love. Seeing a therapist really helped me figure things out and I highly recommend it. I’m still working on figuring out who I am now and what parts of my old self I want to bring back, and where I want my path to lead and what new stuff I want to try. I got lost in my late 20’s and stopped challenging myself. I’m starting to do that again. Your honesty and guidance is so helpful in making me think about this stuff and come up with plans. Thanks Meg!

  • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

    Thank you for the reminder that the anxiety that’s been a part of my mental landscape for 10 years need not be the whole (or even the most significant part) of my reality.

  • Class of 1980

    The quickest route to anxiety, doubt, depression, frustration, dissatisfaction, and general unhappiness is to chase “Prestige”.

    The antidote to all that unpleasantness is to chase “Fulfillment” instead.

    • DKR

      You are very wise, Lady. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  • http://theblogwhisperer.tumblr.com HeatherG

    “…I got home and realized I’d proved myself to myself” Well put.

    I like to think that true balance comes from the place where compliments feel nice, but they aren’t necessary to feeling fulfilled. At same time, criticism may feel icky, but it’s potentially useful information and doesn’t have to mean anything about me. Because what really matters is how I feel about me.

    You seemed to have captured that balance. Well done.

  • http://www.little-white-dress.com Alexandra

    Thank you for this. I know you have some idea of how your work affects other people, but I want to really say how inspirational your story is. I can’t thank you enough for your honesty and bravery! You are an inspiration!

  • http://iputonmywolfsuit.blogspot.com/ Hanna

    Oh Meg, you have done it again. I read this blog for two years for sane wedding advice, only to continue reading it every day for sane life advice. I am 26 and writing this from my theatre admin office. I have clawed myself up tooth and nail to one of the most powerful theatre’s I could possibly be in. I am broke, I am full of anxiety (crazy middle of the night insomnia anxiety) and badly wish I had the guts to just throw it all in.

    Thank you for writing this. Each time you write a post like it I make a little mental note and go home a bit more hopeful. One day I hope to have balls like yours.

    • meg

      You already have them.

  • Carrie

    I heart APW so much. It is such an inspiring place and your posts on this stuff cut this path to making sure we empower ourselves, partners, and new families to live our best lives. I think every post underlines this and for me, makes me a little better. I am so grateful for that.

    Also related…you are proven and you fucking rock.

  • suzanna

    Woooo! Good news, and well put, as usual!

    I know it’s not as simple as this, but I was thinking while I read this piece that “not caring what other people think” (or feeling like you have to prove yourself to anyone but yourself) is part of the magic that happens after 30. Thank goodness!

  • panina

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Meg! I am one more person to add how much I relate and how much it helps to hear your story. Knowing that it is possible to fight through the anxiety, and uncertainty, and come out on the other side is almost exactly what I needed to hear- and I can tell I am not the only one.

    After I decided to leave my PhD program 6 months ago to hopefully do what I call ‘do-gooder’ work (I desperately want to work in the non-profit sector), and after realizing how unhealthy it was for me to stay in the toxic environment I was working in, my underlying anxiety issues came back full force. And sometimes I think it hinders my ability to properly interview for jobs.

    I can’t directly relate to your experience, but I do constantly feel I have to validate my decision to totally derail what was an amazing career track in the eyes of friends and family. And it is so bolstering to hear you put words to what that feels like.

    I know I am lucky to have a partner who constantly supports my decision, and reinforces it with conversations about how I will come out of this grateful for my decision, and we will someday have stable lives together.

    But really, I just wanted to thank you. For building this amazing community of readers who get to share the hard stuff with the beautiful stuff- not mention openly discuss how inseparable those things are. And for creating a safe place to talk about what this whole life planning things means. Because it is damn hard to navigate. So really, just thank you, you’re pretty amazing. And congratulations on conquering everything!

    (as a side, I wanted to say my feelings about my PhD and the track I was on come from unique and personal experiences, and I know many people who find academia fulfilling and worthwhile so I do not intend any judgement in saying I wanted to leave.)

  • http://mightygirl.com Maggie Mason

    Good post. So happy for you, brain friend. -M

  • KB

    I quit theatre and NYC, too! I was in development at that other big nonprofit on Broadway that sounds like “Foundabout” for 5 years. At the time, it was SO HARD to walk away from the thing that had always been my dream. Ugh. But, I knew that I had to do it. I was crying on the train on my way into work every morning. I think there are a lot of us former NYC theatre folk out there :-)

  • Autumn A.

    Wow. Thanks for sharing this, as always. You are an inspiration, no cheesiness intended. Not like Chicken Soup for the Soul inspiring, like real person kicking ass inspiring.

    • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

      “Chicken Soup for the Ass-Kicking Soul”? YES.

  • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

    Dear Lord, I can relate to this. Anxiety, quitting dreams, trying to find a new path, etc. Some of this is just growing up and becoming adults. Ouch!

    I highly recommend the book “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy,” by David Burns to anyone dealing with anxiety or depression. It’s a really practical way of using cognitive behavioral therapy to manage negative thinking.

    And on another note, Meg: I’m from Brooklyn. I live here now. And I desperately want to move to San Francisco. The grass is always greener.

    • meg

      Don’t recommend, as far as moves go. It’s very pretty, but at this point very yuppie. And the total lack of summers is frankly, more painful than February. That’s not a grass is always greener thing, I’ve just done my time both places. We loved it at first, but the lack of a really deep seated arts culture gets me down.

      • Class of 1980

        If you want to move to Brooklyn, then I hope you find a way.

        • meg

          We’re testing out plans, though we might not go all the way to Brooklyn just yet. David passed the New York bar a year ago, so obviously we have choices should we want them ;)

          • Class of 1980

            !!!

      • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

        Thanks for your input. I just feel at home there whenever I’ve visited. Maybe the way you feel about BK.

        Please note that Brooklyn certainly has its share of yuppies. I want to die/strangle someone/many people every time I go to Williamsburg!

        • meg

          Of course. But New York has a SERIOUS art scene. The most serious art scene in the US. And it’s easy to take that for granted. Yuppies are fine (I’m kind of a yupster) all yuppies is not.

          • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

            NYC definitely has its amazing qualities, and I hope you can make it back here (in whatever way works for you) to enjoy them.

            But California has massive gigantic TREES. And you can see the SKY. Sometimes we New Yorkers miss those things.

          • meg

            That is true. We have way better nature.

  • http://magpietrousseau.wordpress.com Magpie

    Fistpumps!!!

    Thanks, Meg, for writing this. Oh man, can I relate. The instant onset panic attacks back in grad school, the grinding anxiety of those weird transitional periods, and so much definitely to the constantly having to prove onself. Mmmm. I yearn for this tangible symbol of having “made it” like a book on a shelf. Obviously, you “made it” by just writing the thing, but for me, too, the symbol is so important in showing myself that it’s true. I don’t know what my symbol will be. But damn, woman, you are inspiring.

  • Susie

    This may be the most sane and most relate-able-to site on the web, somehow always with timely posts. Are you guys hacking my emails?! My husband and I are applying to move from Scotland to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with work and if I hear one more person say something like “wow, that’s, ummmm, brave… of you” or “so… you’re not having babies yet then if you’re moving?” I may throw something at them.

    Thanks for the reassurance that doing something out of our comfort zone is a GOOD thing. And that doing something we’re passionate about (travel) will hopefully benefit us in the long run!

    Much love!

  • http://www.soulwanderings.com/ one soul

    Oh lord. I’m resonating so hard to this one I can hear the hum in the air around me. Proving yourself to *yourself*? YES. That is precisely the hardest part – generating that *self* belief. Well done you for having finally gotten there. I am so incredibly proud of you.

    Also, on legitimacy… try walking into a room and telling everyone you’re a *therapist*. They don’t slowly back away, they RUN. Better yet, try telling them you’re a doctor, but you’re about to go become a therapist instead (it’s actually *as well*, but nobody gets that). Biggest conversation killer ever.

    Ohhhhhhh, the RESONANCE. And oh the INSPIRATION. As ever, thank you, thank you, thank you so very much.

  • Emily

    Meg, you are amazing, and my hero. Seriously! I am going to remember this post, and your bravery, and come back to it when I need it. I have a feeling it will be soon. Thank you for sharing your wise words, and for helping me remember that our paths aren’t set in stone.

  • Anna

    This post really hit home for me as well, and I have to say that it is so reassuring to know that I am not alone in grappling with these issues. I appreciate Meg’s bravery in sharing so openly about her experiences, and the honesty of all the commentators who are sharing their own experiences.

    After spending six years in the teaching profession, I finally reached a point where I realized I was going to have a nervous breakdown if I didn’t take a step back. And yet, this was work that I felt called to do–it felt like a piece of my heart broke off and stayed behind when I walked away. Even more scary right now is that I haven’t figured out what’s next. I’m working a perfectly fine 9 to 5 desk job right now, but it doesn’t make my heart sing. I want more from my work!! Reading discussions like this makes me believe that if I keep moving along, listening to my inner voice, and believing in myself despite moments of doubt and anxiety, it will be possible to reach that point one day.

    The quote from the article that really stuck out to me was where Meg said, “And while I was smart enough to know that you need to quit while you’re ahead, I didn’t get that quitting The Path You Are On can take you a few years (and many panic attacks) to recover from.”

    Thankfully I haven’t been experiencing panic attacks, but I’ve had lots of general anxiety and feelings of mild depression, emotional instability, etc. Even though I KNOW that quitting my job was the right choice for me, it’s been hard to reconcile the fact that I wasn’t magically transported into a land of happiness and joy once I did so. It was the first step down a long path of finding a sense of purpose and joy in my work. It’s a journey, but reading posts like this makes me believe that the destination at the end is both attainable and worthwhile.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Meg, and keep sharing please!!

  • http://thenextdot.org/ Dot Maker

    “”By moving to San Francisco, I was making a conscious choice to give up two things that I deeply loved because neither of them were serving me anymore. And while I was smart enough to know that you need to quit while you’re ahead, I didn’t get that quitting The Path You Are On can take you a few years (and many panic attacks) to recover from.”

    Yes. You’ve captured a lot of life lessons in those two sentences. It’s tempting to see things in black and white terms, and to seek instant gratification, and giving into those temptations can lead to paralysis. It’s impossible to let go of something that is, on the whole, not working anymore without also giving up some of the collateral good. I just started a blog chronicling my own journey around my slow burning recognition that my career (and possibly geography) isn’t working for me and my ambition to make my own conscious choice toward something better (www.thenextdot.org).

    • Class of 1980

      I love hearing about people’s geographic choices and the reasons why.

  • suz

    For years I had a voice in my head (you know, that one that you only really listen to at 2am when you can’t sleep) that said “What if they all find out you’re a fraud?”. I couldn’t pinpoint what I was being fraudulent about, but that 2am voice insisted that one day everyone would find out that I was not who I said I was. At some point I voiced this to my partner and she looked aghast. “What, in this wonderful life that you have, have you not been true about? Did someone else take a year off to go traveling that wasn’t you? Did someone else move to 4 different cities to do work that you love? Did someone else move to a city she’d never been to and make new friends and build a life for herself?” and it was only then that I finally realized that it was only me that called myself names and I needed to let that go and congratulate myself on the life that I’ve built and the family that I’ve created.

    Congrats on building a life that you can be proud of and that brings you more joy than it does anxiety! and THANKS for sharing that with us!

  • Rachel T.

    Thank you SO MUCH for this!! I’ve been struggling with leaving my teaching job, trying to decide whether or not I’m happy, whether or not I should move onto something else, and I just keep going back and forth. Yesterday some awful things happened at school that sent me over the edge – I thought “I’m done – f this”. I felt like I had made a choice… which means within a few hours, I was immediately second guessing myself. Today, reading this post, it feels like a sign again of things to come, a reminder that nothing is set in stone, and that whatever I give this up for is not forever and my world could change again and that’s okay. It feels like an affirmation of my own questions and anxieties, panic attacks and all, of things to come. Thank you, as always, for sharing. I needed to hear that. <3

  • http://strawberriesinparis.com Elizabeth

    I love this post. I am so proud of you. And whenever I actually fall in love and have a wedding to plan, I will be buying your book!! Keep on rocking it Meg.

  • DKR

    Oh, Meg, I could hug you for being so brave and sharing this. It was what I needed to hear today.

    “And while I was smart enough to know that you need to quit while you’re ahead, I didn’t get that quitting The Path You Are On can take you a few years (and many panic attacks) to recover from.”
    THIS. I left active duty at 26, and 29-year-old me is almost done with a second bachelor’s degree and en route to a new career. It’s so easy to get mired in the day-to-day and forget that I’m making the changes I need. And I think I needed to hear that it’s OK to need “a few years…to recover from” having quit The Path I Was On.

    Thanks to all of you for the “it gets better” stories! They give me hope.

  • secret reader

    Gonna sound obnoxious, but I’ve struggled with the fact that I’m capable of doing a variety of things well. It makes it strange to tease out which things I’m doing because I happen to be competent and which things I’m doing because I *want* to be doing them. Even more complicated when you add in various pressures from family, friends, coworkers, and The Social Order. I’ve only discovered in the past year — and with the help of my partner — that my internal emotional state is one of the best judges about whether I’m on a path for the right reasons or the wrong ones.

    I ended up switching to a career that took our relationship from living together to “nearby” long distance to just straight up long distance in the near future. but as my partner put it, he’d rather talk to me on the phone and have me excited about my day than have to comfort me as I cry myself to sleep in a shared bed. and as my (awesome) boss put it, “if you guys are in this forever, then that’s the wisest choice you can make.”

    Meg, you point out so well that sometimes our biggest obstacle in this whole Life thing is ourselves.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      That’s not obnoxious at all . . . I think many of us have probably been decent in pretty much whatever we’ve tried, just because we’re smart and competent and able to pick up things quickly. I’d agree that that makes it harder to do what we want (and maybe do the work to figure out what we want?) as opposed to just doing what falls into our laps and getting by.

  • http://domestocrat.wordpress.com Kim

    Thank you for sharing this journey, Meg. It hit extremely close to home for me today. I’m about to walk away from a career path I’ve worked hard for because everyday I deal with a culture of old white guys in charge and every young woman is a secretary without a brain. I can’t do it anymore. Enough is enough when you realize you are worth more than what you are letting yourself experience in life. Even when it’s so hard to do. Congrats to you, this gives me so much hope.

  • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

    Meg, thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post, especially how you decided theatre was not the path you wanted to continue on and how you made that choice and the effects of that. I too am another theatre person, though my route was the Chicago version. After working in a couple of the places I had dreamed of working in, I considered the (hard) realities of a life in theatre and still wanted to stay in. But then I met my husband and moved internationally, and I am still trying to recover from the impact of walking away from the career path I had been working so hard to build. (And, of course, recovering from leaving my community there too.) While trying to figure out how to integrate into the theatre world here, I have been working in a new-to-me field as my “day job” and have discovered it is actually something I quite enjoy and qualifies as a career (unlike any other day job I have ever had). Though I am not currently planning on leaving the theatre completely, I am still having to re-think a lot since I am basically starting over since all the theatre references are completely different here and nobody is familiar with anywhere I’ve worked. All I can say is, I hope to make myself a niche quickly because I am a decade older than the last time I started. Anyhow, I am sure this year will reveal a lot and I so appreciate your openness and what you shared about your journey. So…from a sort of crossroads…..I thank you.

  • Melissa

    Just, like, thanks. For everything. For life advice, and for reinforcing that I am not crazy, but there is just a lot of crazy to deal with in planning weddings sometimes. But that doesn’t make ME crazy! It’s complicated. Y’know. But thank you so, so much.

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  • erika

    love this, thank you

  • Lturtle

    Thank you Meg! Your writing is heartfelt and inspiring. Seriously inspiring. After reading/lurking here for quite a while I was inspired to write my half grad post. It was the first thing I had written in years. The process of doing that and the feedback from it inspired me further to write a book. It’s a kids book, so it’s short, but I wrote it and I am getting ready to shop it around to publishers. And even if it doesn’t get published it is still something that I made that didn’t exist before, that I can share with my daughter. The pride of that motivates me to keep writing, to create more things. And it is in no small part due to you and the amazing group of women here on APW.

    So while you were out proving yourself to yourself, you were showing us how to prove ourselves to ourselves too. I am happy for you, and thankful.

  • http://dylanandsarah.com Sarah T

    So proud of you! As someone who is thinking about going on my own someday, it’s so inspiring.

  • http://www.lobola-and-lace.com Sam (aka: Bridasaurus)

    Just. Awesome.
    Sadly, i only discovered APW *after* mine… But, it still fills my day with fabulousness now. Nice to know I’m not insane and that there people out there who kinda think the same way. Thanks Meg.

  • Amy

    You are worthy and valuable and we love you.

  • April

    Read this post yesteday… cried. Read it again today… cried, but cried happy tears with a heart full of pride and joy for you Meg – you have created SO much – it’s amazing. And ya’ just keep throwin’ down. It’s exhilarating to watch and learn from your experience.

    Thank you, as always, for being the proverbial kick-in-the-ass I needed this week!

  • http://www.marriedwithkittens.blogspot.com MWK

    Some random and belated thoughts:
    1) Funny, because as a long-time ready I have always thought that what you were doing WAS prestigious. Your path has always seemed like the New American Dream (and I was proud of you for it).
    2) I hear you on the anxiety, and I’m working very hard to avoid having to take drugs about it.
    3) Funny your comment to your 26 year-old self. I’ve been waiting to conjur up my 15 year-old self, lately. The one who ran for class office and joined a boys sports team (despite never having played sports) and generally did not give a f*uck what others thought. I know she’s in there somewhere, with her fearlessness, I just have to find her. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Katy

    Meg, thank you so much for writing this. Rooting and cheering for you along the way has helped me do the same for myself.

  • Angela

    It’s been very inspirational to watch your success grow over the last few years. Thank you for writing this post and congratulations. onward and upward!