I've been blogging for about 2 years now. Before this blog, I had a health and fitness blog but that website is long gone now. It was one way I dealt with having a high stress career.
Over the last couple of years, I've shared bits and pieces of my story here on my blog. I’ve written about why I didn’t write for twenty years and how I define my success as a writer, but I haven't really shared why I went from being a successful accountant to an unknown author. It's about time don't you think?
The public accounting industry is a fast-paced and often high-stress environment. The busy season isn't just March and April, rather it typically extends from January to June to encompass the paperwork that goes along with filing personal taxes as well as a major corporate tax deadline.
During March and April accountants typically work as much as they can physically handle. This means long days during the week and time at the office on the weekends. This is often compensated for when the slow season hits in July and lasts until September or October. I often found myself questioning if this slow period made up for the craziness of tax season. It was a busy up and down cycle, but I found preparing tax returns exciting and challenging.
About ten years into my accounting career, I took a year-long maternity leave when my first son was born. After returning from my leave, I realized motherhood brought with it a whole new group of stressors: Who was going to watch my son while I worked? Was he going to be okay without me all day? I thought a part-time, three-day-a-week schedule would remedy this, but I was terrible at setting boundaries and always ended up working four or five days a week instead. I felt guilty leaving when my co-workers were still hard at work and I felt guilty arriving home after dinner.
After my second son was born and I had taken a second year-long maternity leave, I thought I had discovered the secret to work-life balance: I’d start my own accounting practice and be my own boss. If you’re an entrepreneur you’re probably wondering what I was thinking. Looking back, I wonder about this myself. If I had taken my time and really thought about how I was going to get clients and how I would set boundaries so I didn’t end up working more than I wanted to, I might have been alright. But I jumped in with both feet, the way I often do, and it wasn’t long before those old feelings of guilt were slapping me in the face again.
I felt guilty I couldn’t take on all the work my clients asked me to do and I felt guilty every time I called my husband to tell him I’d be late again. The summer before my oldest started kindergarten, it hit me - I wasn’t going to be able to pick him up from school. This was so important to me that I decided to make a change. Four years after I opened my accounting practice, I sold it for about 60% what it was worth, because I was so desperate to regain some work life balance and stop feeling guilty about not being there for my family.
Little did I realize then that the guilt had nothing to do with my job or my business. I only found new things to feel guilty about: not waiting to get more money for my business, losing my steady income, and having a lot of time on my hands to figure out what I was going to do next. So, now that I had all this time on my hands, I started on a journey of self-discovery.
Shortly after I sold my business, I wrote and self-published a book to help business owners find an accountant. Like many people, I had always wanted to write a book, and I was surprised at how anticlimactic the whole process was. I realized that was because I wanted to write fiction. I wanted to tell stories. So, I started investigating whether or not I could do this.
I would be lying if I said I don’t worry about money. I have no idea if people will like my novels, but that’s not the point for me. The point is to tell a story I enjoy and get it out there so other people at least have the opportunity to enjoy it too. While working on my novels, I discovered I can get paid to write and edit for other people. This has the added bonus of improving my own work, so it’s a win-win.
I used to measure success by the type of job or amount of money I had. While I still need to pay my bills, I’m a lot more selective about the type of work I take on. Success has become more about how I feel when I wake up and go to sleep, and whether or not the work I do every day lights me up.
To me, success is the little things that happen every day. Things like...
Dropping off and picking up my kids from school.
Reading, writing, and painting all in the same day. (And sometimes every day.)
Eating dinner as a family.
Working out every day.
Having the privilege of helping others succeed.
Creating art with my kids.
Feeling good about myself.
I’ve learned that life is a work in progress and it’s okay to take detours. Sure, I still feel guilty from time-to-time, but I’ve learned to recognize it as a sign to remind myself that I’m doing the best I can with what I have. I know I still have a lot of learning to do and probably a few more detours to take along the way, but I’m prepared to enjoy the journey and create my little successes every day.
How will you create success today?