career change success and stagnation
And Fear Is a Helpful Compass

For more than seven years I’ve been a full-time freelance fitness writer. I’ve earned bylines and long-standing contracts with online heavy-hitters like Thrillist, Bodybuilding.com, Verywell, Men’s Journal, Onnit, and SheKnows. I’ve had a book published. I’ve traveled from Santa Monica, California to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Steamboat, Colorado to Dallas, Texas to cover fitness trends, volleyball tournaments, ski destinations, and trail running events. I’ve hosted podcasts and online blogging summits. I’ve made next to nothing, and I’ve made a whole lot more than ever expected.

Swinging is my all-time favorite, and the giant #swing at #travaasaaustin just rocked my world. #ahmazing #adventure

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It’s been a wild ride. Sometimes thrilling, sometimes boring. Sometimes so hard it sank me into depression, sometimes so easy I’d spend much of my day watching reality TV (I know more about Dance Moms and Vanderpump Rules than I care to admit). But even now, as my “perfect” freelance career continues to burgeon in ways I never imagined, it’s time for a change.

Next Monday, August 7th, I put my office-less, completely flexible life behind me, and I head back to “real work,” at a real office, with real co-workers, and real students. With real expectations of performance (other than my own) and a whole lot of people to answer to.

Next week I start teaching exercise science classes full-time at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. I’m excited and nervous; ready and completely unprepared. It’s a change that needs to happen, but as I look around my cozy home office surrounded by my dogs and husband as I wear pajamas and drink coffee, I can’t help but question my sanity. Who would leave such a comfortable lifestyle?

The answer is simple: Someone who needs to grow.

Success Can Lead to Stagnation

For the first few years of my freelance career, I had something to prove. And with so much day-to-day uncertainty, I woke up every morning with a fire in my belly. But as I achieved a level of success that brought with it a level of financial stability, I started experiencing a decline in motivation. While article titles changed, and new clients wanted slightly different things, the essence of my work remained the same. There are only so many ways you can tell someone how to do a squat before it becomes rote, you know?

About two years ago, I started looking for other opportunities, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I thought maybe a full-time gig with a magazine, or perhaps an editorial position with a wellness company. The main concern I had was finding a position with co-workers I actually wanted to work with.

You see, before I started freelance writing, I worked in fitness management. The last job I had, while an incredible opportunity at a beautiful facility, turned into a special kind of hell.

Anyone who’s ever dealt with a workplace bully knows what I’m talking about.

It was an absolute nightmare. While I wasn’t the direct target of the abusive behavior (because make no bones about it, that’s what it was), my employees were. Unfortunately, because the bully was my peer, and my boss refused to handle the situation, I could do nothing about it aside from trying to protect my employees to the best of my ability.

After a year of doing everything I could to fix the situation to no avail, I realized I was becoming a bitter, angry person — the exact opposite of who I wanted to be — so, I quit.

Dissatisfaction Shouldn’t Lead to Poor Decisions

Of course, I learned a lot about myself through this hardship, and I’m better for the experience today. But I also developed a no tolerance policy for that level of negativity. This made it hard for me to commit to another job where I’d be stepping into an unknown workplace environment. Rather than accept a position I wasn’t sure about, I tried to develop patience and trust that the right thing would come along at the right time. I continued to look for jobs, and continued to write, and continued to feel dissatisfied.

Until last year.

In October I was contacted by one of my former professors, asking if I’d be interested in applying for a full-time teaching position at the university where I received my master’s degree. It was an easy “yes.” In addition to the position offering a complete change of pace from freelance writing, I already knew the people I’d be working with.

So, I applied. I interviewed (check me out wearing my “big girl interview pants” above). I thought hard about the implications of such a major lifestyle change. I waffled and hemmed and hawed in long discussions with my husband. And when the position was offered, I accepted with excitement and a little bit of fearful anticipation.

Fear Led Me to the Right Change

And it’s that last piece that ultimately made the decision easy for me — fearful anticipation.

When I was about 23, I had my first opportunity to move cross country for a job, I was terrified. While talking to my dad about the position, he asked, “If you weren’t scared, would you take it?” When I said yes, he responded, “Well then, don’t let your fear stop you.”

Ever since then, I’ve made a point of embracing fear when it’s rooted in self-doubt. And truthfully, when I think about standing in front of a class full of college students who expect me to, you know, know stuff about things, I get a twinge of fear in my belly. It’s that fear — that self-doubt that whispers, “You? You don’t know anything about anything!” — that requires me to prove it wrong. To work hard. To challenge myself. To fail. To try again. And to convince myself — and those rooms full of students — that I have something that’s worth listening to.

Comments

  1. viralmediamag@gmail.com'

    Laura, I found your blog by chance when doing analysis on some online research site, so I decided to read your article, is very interesting because you somehow motivated me for today 🙂
    Success at the University and will definitely check out your blog for more useful info.

    Reply

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