When I was little– probably around four or five– and learning how to swim, I would wear my trusty “bubble” floaty religiously. I didn’t want to be anywhere near the water without it. I loved to swim– and still do, actually, but being the more timid kindergartner that I was, I was not interested in trying to swim without it. I think deep down I knew giving it a try wouldn’t actually lead to certain death. But with that, and most other things throughout my life, the wimpier, shy side of me sort of took over, and I would play it safe, not really willing to risk very much.
Flash forward to me at 26. I realized that five-year-old Sam taught adult me a valuable lesson, and I didn’t listen to it until just over a week ago.
One day we were swimming at my grandma’s house. At some point I had taken off my bubble to take a break, or eat a snack or something, and I must have forgotten that I did that. Because I jumped up, and threw off my towel. I don’t remember why, but I do recall a feeling of showing off or trying to be cocky or funny in some way. But I ran to the edge of the deck & launched myself off into the deeper middle section of the pool.
A week ago yesterday I was taking a walk down by Lake Michigan kind of mulling things over in my head. I’ve been on the cusp of quitting my job for the better part of 2016. There are a lot of reasons behind my decision, but the biggest of the bunch is an overwhelming need to stand on my own two feet. To trust that I know what I’m doing, and to allow myself the opportunity to take what I want out of life.
After landing in the water, I headed back to the ladder, and when I was almost there, I could feel that I didn’t have my bubble on. There was a little moment of five-year-old “oh shit!” but I reached the ladder anyway, and proceeded to be a giant drama queen about my near death experience. But the point is, I did it. I swam without my bubble, and even though it was startling and uncomfortable at first, I survival-mode swam to the edge. And in doing that, I learned that I could. And from then on, the bubble was just collecting dust on a shelf, and eventually gone for good because back then I wasn’t quite the hoarder I am nowadays.
Last Wednesday, June 22, 2016, I went to Starbucks after my walk, and I gave my boss my notice. My hands were shaking and I felt like I was going to throw up. It wasn’t just because I had to tell her I was leaving. I mean, that was scary, and I didn’t want her to get upset or even more stressed out than she already is on a regular basis. But it was more about how I wasn’t only telling my boss that I was tossing my bubble aside, but I was telling myself as well. Putting it out there to my boss, and actually opting into self-employment that will look a lot like unemployment in the beginning, was me putting it out there to the world. No takesies-backsies, no control+z, no do-over. It was happening for real now, and not just in my head where it had stayed for the last six months to a year.
For the last four years, Starbucks has been a lot of things for me. But the biggest thing it has been is a hurdle disguised as a safety net. The most notable feeling I have from my stint with this incredible company is security. As long as I was working for Starbucks, I would have a constant stream of income. It’s not like a company like that one was going anywhere, or in any danger of not being around. As it turns out, that was the problem.
I’ve always wanted to be a business owner. To have something that was mine, and work for myself, on my own schedule, and live my own life, not to be dictated by the ever-changing schedule of the food service industry. It was all well and good that I wanted these things for myself. But as long as I was with Starbucks, that’s all I did — want them. As long as I had that constant stream of income, I didn’t have to try that hard. I would pick up a photography job here and there, I would message someone about a business plan every so often. I didn’t have to put my heart into my businesses because there was literally zero risk to me. Even the very worst case scenario, if I made $0 dollars from both of them, it was okay, because I still had Starbucks to fall back on. As long as I punched a clock, I didn’t have to do a damn thing.
I had wondered at times if letting go of Starbucks would change things. If it would kick my butt into gear, and force me to take my businesses to the next levels. To make that shift from barista to business woman, and never look back.
I now know that it 100% would. The moment I walked out of Starbucks after telling my boss I wouldn’t be coming back after a vacation I had scheduled for the end of July, I felt different. I felt like I had grabbed a hold of my life. I felt confident that when someone asked me what I did for a living, I would never again say, “I work for Starbucks.” I would officially own the fact that I am the owner of two businesses. I felt inspired and motivated to take every photography job that came my way, and motivated to tell anyone who would listen about my other business to help them reach the same point that I finally have. I’m no longer going to spend my time making someone else rich.
I realized, finally, that the measly income I had been clinging to wasn’t actually keeping me afloat– much like my bubble at age five. I just thought it was all this time. When in reality, I was swimming on my own all along, and I could have let go of that life raft at any point, and still been ok. Thanks, Little Sam, for that lesson. I’m sorry I waited so long to listen.
When your head and your heart are in the same place, follow them. Into the pool, out of your job. They won’t steer you wrong. The view is much better on the other side of “what if.” 💚