Work Like An Entrepreneur / Lavish Like A Woman
BY: NATALIE HODGKIN
I’ve begun writing this article about women in the workplace on an unusual day, having just this morning turned in my letter of resignation. I am 28 years old and have worked as an archivist and technical writer for the Department of Defense for the last four years. Don’t ask me how I got into this. Having accepted the position only months after finishing my Master of Fine Arts in Poetry my answer remains, I have no idea.
Of course I had dreams in school of moving to Paris, writing in cafes, teaching at the Sorbonne, and publishing lively, magical books of poetry. However, I was 23 when I finished my graduate degree and with no lucrative book deal imminent it was time to find a J-O-B. I was slightly jealous of the creative flexibility of the adjunct professor positions my former classmates were accepting left and right, but I was craving health insurance, steady hours, and an income that could support my living roommate-free for awhile.
I spread my application wings wide across the Internet, crossing my fingers I’d find something stable and creative. After many interviews I landed in my current position which included a large writing component, a steady (if modest) income, and decent healthcare. Check, check, check. It wasn’t my dream job, but it has been exactly what I needed over the last four years.
This position has been a cocoon for me -- a place of stability, warmth, and growth. My supervisors are truly some of the kindest people I know, my coworkers are friendly and wonderful to work with, I have every other Friday off, and I can work from home up to two days a week. There’s not a lot more I could ask for, but one of the best benefits is that when I go home at 5 PM every evening I have all the emotional energy I need to dream, plan, and pursue new ventures on my own time.
My first year, I was offered an interesting opportunity to teach ‘Art for Healing’ classes at a holistic recovery center. I spent three evenings a week teaching art classes to recovering addicts, making an extra income, and feeling wildly fulfilled. Had I been in a high-stress career or needed the class to make rent, it would have felt like a stressor. I couldn’t have added it to my schedule, or I would be desperate for more hours. As it was, I worked a few evenings a week after my 9 to 5, truly connected on a deep level with my clients, expressed a level of creativity I had been missing, and had the freedom to decide if this was a path I wanted to take. Having a steady income was the safety net I needed to experiment and risk some creative options in the evening.
At the beginning of this year I enrolled in an entrepreneurial coaching program, technically|social. My lunch breaks became coaching call sessions over popcorn, my weekends and evenings have been spent building a website, creating curriculum, planning social media, and learning about marketing.
I’ve been working to develop Lavish Community, my passion project. It’s the thing I dream about in the middle of the night, the dream that has been incubating in my mind for five years. This year I was finally brave enough to pursue it.
I have a passionate desire to see women live their richest lives possible. This comes from knowing their worth, truly learning to rest, and experiencing the profound beauty life has to offer. Lavish Community exists to walk beside women on their journey to their most abundant life through conversation over dinners, online courses, and retreats. It feels terrifying and exhilarating to pursue this new venture, but I’m so thrilled to be willing to take the risk.
Part of the reason this business building has been so inspiring is that, because of my current position, I haven’t had to make any compromises or dilute my vision in order to make money more quickly. I feel free to execute my vision exactly as it is in my head.
As I prepare to leave this post, I can see clearly it has been a bridge between two seasons. It has provided safe passage from the uncertainty and insecurity of being a fresh graduate to a woman who has the confidence and strength to pursue what she truly wants.
Over the last four years, I have created a Google Docs portfolio that resembles a goal graveyard--the first chapters to several books, research on starting a nonprofit, event planning brainstorms for charities, and spreadsheets for potential businesses. I pursued a goal, quit out of boredom, experimented with careers, gave up in fear, began writing, underestimated my potential, and put down the pen. The delightful part about this kind of giving up and failure is that it didn’t crush me, it just helped me grow, learn, and gain confidence because my rent still got paid each month. I needed time and space to really figure out what I wanted. Now, after walking along that safe and winding bridge I can finally say I know what I want and, feelings be damned, I’m going to pursue it wholeheartedly.
You may wonder, after all my cheerleader-like pep about my current job, why I am leaving this position when my business is just beginning and not raking in six figures yet. The bridge is coming to an end. My husband has been accepted for a residency program at the University of Utah and we are moving to Salt Lake City in 6 short weeks. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me that once I was ready to step into my dream, a new season began.
I’m leaving a season in which I wasn’t fulfilled by my work. I was grateful for the myriad of benefits it had in my life, but I wasn’t fulfilled. Now that I see what it is I want to stay up late at night working on and have the confidence to pursue it, it’s time for a shift. It’s as though life is telling me the season of safety and comfort is over, and it’s a time for passion and risk. I needed a bridge between seasons and this position has been an enormous blessing (heck, even my two supervisors are actively applauding me as I let go of the cubicle life and pursue Lavish). Now, it’s time to jump.
If you’re in a “bridge career” don’t underestimate what you can accomplish before 7 AM, after 5 PM, and on the weekends. I hope you stay as long as you need to pinpoint exactly what you were made to do, and then I hope you give everything you have in pursuing your dreams. These jobs we land in by happenstance provide a safe pathway from one season to the next, making our financial lives stable enough to allow us to think outside the box and dream. I’m leaving this sturdy, loving, well-built bridge in a few weeks for a new adventure, but I’ll always be aware that I couldn’t have gotten where I am without it.
Natalie Hodgkin is a poet and storyteller living in California with her husband and little orange cat, Whitman. She is the founder of Lavish, a community that exists to restore wonder, reinstate royalty, and redefine rest in the lives of women through online courses, dinners, and retreats. You can read her work or find out more about restoring wonder in your own life at LavishCommunity.com.