I was sitting by myself at an outdoor picnic table at our local ski hill. Next to me, was a table of very drunk, mostly older (70+) white men, getting sloshed.
I had just cracked Women Who Run With The Wolves (for the third time), and could feel the warm sun soaking into my skin. It was the first spring ski day we’d had and I was relishing the peach and quiet, while the kids were off snowboarding with friends.
By the way this table of men was eyeing me up, I knew it was only a matter of time before they called me out.
“You must be some sort of feminist, are you?” They said after seeing the title of the book I’m reading.
Then they started howling. Can you picture that? A bunch of drunk men howling?
I almost pissed myself laughing.
They called me over to their table and for a split second, I was reminded of how, in my twenties, sitting with strangers at a bar was my norm.
As a young female sailor, I’d find myself at some yacht club or locals-only bar, sitting solo, writing letters or reading a book, and it was NEVER long before someone invited me to sit with them. (This was before we had cellphones to stare at, so you’d be forced to make eye contact with people and have conversations).
Yes, I ended up in some precarious situations as a young woman alone, but more often than not, I’d end up making friends and get an invite for a home-cooked meal by a local fisherman’s wife (like that time in France), or to explore an active volcano (like that time in Vanuatu).
But I digress.
Back to that gaggle of drunk white men, here in Nova Scotia, some twenty years after sailing around the world.
One beer turned into another and before I knew it, they were hanging on my every word.
I told them all about working offshore in oil and gas, jumping into helicopters, sailing across the Atlantic ocean (four times), being stranded in Mauritania, and starting my own consulting business as a Marine Safety Advisor.
It was lucrative. It was adventurous. I was respected, sought out and known in the industry. (Years later, I still get calls every month to see if I’ll take on an oil and gas or marine project).
And then I left.
I walked away from everything I had spent a decade creating. I had officially made it, before realizing that it was NOT in fact what I wanted after all.
One of the men interrupted me, grabbed my book and said, “You left because you were tired of working with men.”
And he was partially right–I was tired of working with men.
But I was MORE tired of ignoring my soul.
Inside there was a part of me that literally felt like it was DYING.
I remember sitting at the kitchen table after getting home from a helicopter trip offshore Nova Scotia and I could barely breathe. The idea of having to go back to that for one more second hurt my insides. Like I was being crushed alive. It was the single largest pain in my body that I’d ever felt (other than the night my dad died).
My therapist told me I needed to make a *lateral career move.*
(She was wrong).
My life coach told me I needed to take a break from working to reconnect with me.
(She was right).
My mom told me I should stay at home to be with my kids.
(She was partially right).
My husband wasn’t sure what to say. We’d just built a house on his family land that was dependent on two incomes. And I wanted to quit? To stop working? I had to. It got to the point where internally, it felt like life or death.
And then it became life or death.
In 2016, I was involved in a car accident that left me physically okay, but mentally not okay. I had symptoms resembling PTSD, and I literally could not get out of bed for many dark, dark, months.
I remember lying in that bed, the blinds of the windows shut, my body still stuck in the trauma of the accident, listening to the voices of my small children downstairs, as my husband got them ready for school.
“Never again,” I thought to myself. “Never again will I do work that I don’t love. It’s not worth it. Life’s too precious.”
If anything is certain, it’s that life is NOT certain. Anything can happen at any time, and given the amount of time that we spend working, it makes sense that the more we enjoy our work, the more our quality of life improves.
And so—I left my Marine consulting behind.
I also walked away from a software business that I had just built with two others, having invested $25,000 in cash and years of my time, as I watched my (ex) business partners accepted our (their) regional award for Best New Business.
And then I got intimate with my soul. My inner voice. The part of me that is meant to guide and support me. I started to listen to HER.
You don’t need to take as long as I took to listen to your own soul. You also don’t need to wait until it’s life or death to make a big life change. But if you’re scared or you don’t know HOW, or you don’t know what your next steps are, I hear you and I see you.
Back then, I didn’t always have the words to explain what I no longer liked about my work.
And what I know now is that it’s okay to not know. You may not know why you feel a certain way about something and I think we spend far too much time rationalizing about why we feel a certain way.
Does it matter? Can’t we just want to stop what we’re doing to do something else? Can’t our soul know something greater than our brains and that is enough?
When you KNOW, you KNOW, and you don’t need anything else.
I want to quit, is enough.
I want to write music, is enough.
I don’t want to do this work anymore, is enough.
I want to write a book, is enough.
I want to start coaching, is enough.
You don’t need to explain yourself. No more justifying your fucking wants and desires?
Leaving something to pursue your soul’s calling is not for the faint of heart. But if you’re here, reading this, consider me one of the members of YOUR howling wolf 🐺 pack.
And if you haven’t read Women Who Run with The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, that’s a great place to start.