They are the defeatists. Those people that make passive aggressive comments about my choices. They call me unrealistic, think I should get over this phase and get a job, tell me to grow up, to join the real world. They forget that I understand exactly what their “real world” is.
Anyone taking a path that doesn’t have the immediate social currency of a big profession, or a recognizable title within the standard job pool, battles the defeatists. There is loads of advice on how to deal with the defeatists. Most of it can be reduced down to: don’t take it personally, because, the defeatists are unhappy and frustrated with their own lives. Because, the defeatists don’t understand, can’t think outside their box, are too frightened to change their own lives, etc.
Sometimes though, I let the defeatists’ comments matter and I do take it personally. Why? Because the defeatists echo my own self doubt. I left a job that was the ultimate goal for most of us during law school (some of us even admitted it was the goal). I left the security of a predicable income. I want to live my life now, instead of waiting for a vague promise of retirement in 30 years. So, I traded safety and predicability for the opportunity to create something, to be my own boss, and, of course, to travel more.
There is a constant struggle with self doubt when you leave a comfortable life to pursue dreams and take risks. It can be easier to follow societal norms, than to create your own reality. It is easier to find a job than to create a job. To succeed in any alternative path, you need to maintain confidence, confidence that what you are doing is right for you, even if others disagree. But, not blind confidence.
I now keep my dreams and life goals in mind, but constantly question how I get there. It is good to question your ideas. What if they actually are total shit, as the defeatists are very quick to point out? If so, change course, but don't forget your dreams. There is a balance. A certain amount of self doubt is good. It keeps me from continuing to pursue things that I don’t enjoy, or are not good ideas for achieving my larger goals.
I have rarely taken the easy path in my life. The challenge this year has not been so much in dealing with the defeatists (the typical advice does work), but in managing my own self doubt. I have confidence in my dreams and goals. I am also very practical, sometimes to a fault. The trick has been in determining whether I am simply being one of the defeatists, or, if there is a good reason for my doubts. If an idea is shit, then I can work to resolve the issue. It’s been hard to allow myself to doubt my decisions, but not turn into one of the defeatists and just go find a job. I have to constantly remind myself of why I started down this path towards plan b and what makes me really happy with my life.