Taking a break from it all

It takes a lot of courage to leave the security of a regular job that isn’t making you happy, but Julie did just that. Her decision to take a few months off from work was met with disbelief but that didn’t stop her from making this big move. Now, at the end of her “break,” Julie reflects on the past couple of months and what it was like to get away from it all.

Nyhavn, "New Harbor" in Copenhagen.
Nyhavn, “New Harbor” in Copenhagen.
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Julie learns about Viking history in Stockholm.

A few months ago, I made the bold (some might say crazy) decision to leave a comfortable and secure job on Wall Street in order to pursue a career change. I had spent seven years and many long hours working for this company, including relocations from Charlotte, NC to New York City to Chicago, while at the same time living through mergers, layoffs, and the worst financial crash since the Great Depression. But ultimately I was unsatisfied and couldn’t see myself building a future career in this industry. For two years I had been mulling over making a change, but couldn’t quite get myself to pull the trigger. Finally last summer I mustered up the courage to leave, and I’m so glad I did. I’d be lying if I said this decision wasn’t made without a fair amount of shed tears, some self-doubt, and lots of soul-searching. In retrospect, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Never knowing what the future would hold, I left with the intention of making the most of my time “off.”

Skansen, Sweeden
Skansen, Sweeden

My first few weeks off were filled with lots of sleeping in, leisurely mornings, weekday brunches with friends, and best of all, two amazing trips to Europe. My husband and I spent two weeks traveling across Scandinavia from the breathtaking fjords of western Norway, to the charming fishing town of Bergen, Norway, to the windswept islands of the Swedish archipelago, to the cosmopolitan capitals of Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen. We saw spectacular natural beauty, ate some amazing meals (especially in the foodie heaven of Copenhagen), took in lots of Viking culture, and soaked up the endless daylight that often stretched past 11:00 pm.

Cypress trees in Tuscany.
Cypress trees in Tuscany.

A few weeks later we traveled to Tuscany, where my husband stood up as the best man in the wedding of his childhood friend. We stayed in a historic villa called La Foce which incarnated everything I had imagined Tuscany would be. We immediately fell in love with the region and its cypress trees, vineyards, charming hill towns, ancient farmhouses and amazing food and wine. From Montepulciano to Siena to just driving through the beautiful countryside, we were captivated by the magic of Tuscany. Needless to say, we can’t wait to go back.

Back home in Chicago, I’ve been using my free time to pursue some interests that I never had time for in my previous job. I’ve improved my cooking skills, taken up yoga, took a photography class to finally learn how to use my SLR, attended French classes, and became involved in some volunteer opportunities. I’ve also taken the chance to visit my grandparents and also reconnect with old friends. During this time, I’ve also met some fascinating people working in a variety of fields, and through these meetings I’ve learned how to be a better networker.

Julie and her husband, Chris, aboard a boat on a Norwegian fjord.
Julie and her husband, Chris, aboard a boat on a Norwegian fjord.

It’s been a wild ride filled with ups and downs, but I’m so glad that I left a job that wasn’t fulfilling me or putting me on a path to where I wanted to go.  Through the process, I’ve learned to trust myself and not worry about what other people may think. I’ve also realized it’s never too late to make a change. While it’s definitely harder to make a change at age 30 than at 25, it’s not insurmountable, just requires a lot of hard work and dedication. I knew that if I didn’t leave, in ten years I might regret it and wonder what could have been.

Undredal, Norway
Undredal, Norway

I’m a planner by nature, so this decision took me way outside of my comfort zone. Through the process, I’ve realized that no matter what kind of vision or plan we have for our lives, so much is out of our control and that’s okay. These past few months have helped me develop a more “live in the moment” attitude, by learning to control what I can and let the rest of it go.

In my new job, I now know to look for better balance as well as new challenges and the opportunity to broaden my skillset. While my previous job was actually pretty flexible as far as travel and vacation were concerned, there are so many more places in the world I want to see, so in my new job I hope to use whatever vacation I may have to continue to pursue this interest. Apart from travel, I had trouble achieving an ideal work/life balance at my old job, with little control over my schedule. This often prevented me from committing to activities outside of work. I hope that my new position will allow for better balance so that I can continue to pursue some of the interests I’ve taken up during my time off. I’ve learned the importance of having balance in both my professional and personal life and I look forward to applying that in this next chapter.

Meet Julie:

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Julie explores Bergen, Norway.

Julie is a former investment banker, now pursuing opportunities in the startup world. She lives in Chicago with her husband, where she enjoys exploring new restaurants and neighborhoods, cooking, traveling, and decorating her 100-year old home. Julie will soon be reentering the workforce by joining an 8-week career accelerator for jobs in startup community, the Startup Institute. She is excited to see where this next step will take her. 

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