Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! If you're new to grace + hudson, I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I am answering a question I often get in my shop in Charleston. It goes something like this, "Ok, so you practiced law for a long time and someone doesn't just quit law and start a jewelry business. What happened? Something big must have happened to you. You know, to have the courage to take such a big leap." And they're right. One doesn't just quit an 11-year career as a lawyer and start a jewelry business without making some major shifts in life. Something big did happen. There was a major catalyst. It all started 8 years ago tomorrow, on May 3, 2014. That was the catalyst. That was the turning moment for me...although I didn't know it at the time.
Eight years ago on May 3rd I lost my father to cancer. It was a short battle - lasting only about 10 months - and he had just turned 65 years old. His side of the family lived quite long - into their 90's - and I thought my dad would be around forever. In fact, my grandfather (my dad's dad) was still living when my dad passed. But we never know what's in store for us, do we? It's a question I think about often. If my dad had known he would only make it to 65, would he have spent so much time and money and energy on saving in his 401(k), hoping for a retirement by the beach, etc? Would he have lived more during his life, and not saved up all his living for some distant future when he can finally relax? I hear a lot of lawyers say, "Well, no I don't like my job. But I'm just going to work hard and retire early." And maybe for a time I thought that way myself. But what a cruel, cruel joke - to live your whole life with your eye on the prize of retirement, only to die one month later. Believe me, this happens more than you care to think. When I share my dad's story with others, so many people respond with a similar story that happened to their family member.
So, as you can already tell, watching my father pass in hospice care really changed my perspective on life and the things we're taught to believe and do. I questioned the things that are deemed "normal" such as saving in a 401(k) and planning to live by the beach when you're in your 60's. None of it really made sense to me through this new lens. What if I never made it to retirement? On the flip side, what if I do make it to retirement? Most older folks don't even like to be out in the sun for very long, so how does living by the beach in old age make sense? I mean, you don't want to move to an island in the Caribbean when you're in your 70's - the medical care on an island is horrendous! On and on my thoughts and observations went... I just didn't understand why so many people had bought this storyline of "work hard, retire, then live" without questioning how some of it just doesn't make sense.
I didn't make any major leaps in 2014. I sorted through these thoughts and feelings, and grieved properly with the help of a therapist. It wasn't until February 2017 - so not quite 3 years later - that I made the big leap to quit my lawyer job. In addition to changing my outlook on the world, I had changed views about my finances. I was 37 at the time and could've purchased my first condo in Chicago, where I was living prior to Charleston, with a nice downpayment. Instead, I felt pulled in a new direction. I could always buy a condo, but I wouldn't always have the opportunity to start my own business. I was single, no kids, no mortgage at the time and I was going to take FULL advantage of that. If it didn't work out, I could just go back to being a lawyer. But here I am, 5 years later, and it absolutely has worked out. And much better than I ever could have imagined...
If there's anything I wish for you, it's the ability to truly understand that we are not here forever. Life can be taken away from us in a heartbeat. Be smart about it, but do what you want to do. Experience what you want to experience. Life is really, really short. And it shouldn't be spent planning for some distant day in your 60's when you can finally start to live.
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P.S. Are you on Pinterest? I created a Weekly Journal board so you can easily navigate all of my journal entries. You can view and follow the board by clicking here. I've written so much about quitting my lawyer job to start g+h and I want to make it easier for you to access and read the entries that resonate most!