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Work Happier Live Happier Spotlight: Jen Curran

Welcome to the Work Happier Live Happier Spotlight.  Today I am thrilled to be interviewing Jen Curran.  I have referred to Jen and her wisdom a few times on this blog.

I wanted to interview Jen not just because she is a wonderful writer, but because she is currently on the journey that I encourage everyone

One of the many, many things Jen does is write:  Follow My Bliss which is an exploration of her life before and after quitting her ‘just good enough’ desk job and go on the quest to follow her bliss.  Jen eloquently expresses that working happier is a process, not an end destination.

Her brief bio written in her own words:  I’m Jen Curran.  I’m 29. I’m a writer, a comedian and an actor.  I live in Brooklyn with my sweet boyfriend and our two cats.  Last year I quit my job to follow my bliss.  

I write a lot about working happier, many of us are on a quest to work happier. What has your work happier journey been so far?

My work happier journey has been a winding one. In college, I went to acting school, dropped out, eventually went back, and finally graduated without a clear understanding of what I really wanted to do for a living. I knew I loved performing, but I didn’t think I could actually make money as an actor. In the meantime, I held office jobs, temp jobs, babysitting jobs and more office jobs, all while performing comedy shows with my friends on the nights and weekends. I didn’t exactly have a “direction,” so to speak, but I was in my mid-twenties and I wasn’t worried. I had all the time in the world!

But sometime during the year that I was 28-years-old, I started to become aware that turning 30 was just around the corner and I felt a little panicked. Suddenly, I became terrified by the threat of working directionless office jobs while kinda sorta maybe trying to be a comedian and an actor for the rest of my life. I knew I needed to make some commitments and decisions about my future. So I devised a plan, saved some money and eventually quit my office job to pursue acting, writing and to open a small business with a friend.

Quitting that job was a very freeing and educational experience for me. I ended up spending a full year not really working for anyone but myself. I concentrated mostly on my baking business and my creative pursuits. It was exciting. It was also exhausting. And I was shocked to discover that sometimes I even felt bored. The “freedom” I’d dreamed about having before I quit my job wasn’t as relaxing and inspiring as I thought it would be – in fact it wasn’t freedom at all. I’d imagined I’d take yoga classes five times a week, go for jogs in the park near my apartment, cook impressive meals and keep the house clean. Instead I sometimes felt stifled, unmotivated, overworked and unsure of how to move forward. I didn’t have a clear direction or tangible goals set for myself, so I floundered.

Despite those struggles, I did make some incredible professional strides during that time. I learned to take risks, I made some great connections and I landed some fun freelance opportunities as a writer. My performance skills improved a lot and I even started teaching acting to other comedians. And my comedy group had some exciting success that validated our years of hard work together. I also discovered – before it was too late, thank God – that I didn’t want to own and operate my own bakery.

At the end of that year, I was felt a little dazed and confused about what I’d just been through. I knew I still wanted to pursue my acting and writing career, but I didn’t have specific goals in mind yet. It was then that I realized I needed another paycheck job to fill in the gaps. So I went back to an office job.

A year older, many, many experiences wiser, and with a much more solid understanding of what I want to be when I grow up, I’m now working happier by learning not to define myself and my success by my paycheck job and not to put so much pressure on my dream job to materialize into the perfect career right away. It will all come in good time.

I absolutely love this quote from Howard Thurman: Don’t ask what the world needs, Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it! Because what the worlds needs is people who come alive. What are the activities you engage in when feel most alive?

Writing. Specifically when I get to do so without parameters. Acting. Working and traveling with my sketch comedy group. Performing improv comedy. Yoga and running (though I haven’t done either in a while!). Playing with animals. Eating something that makes my taste buds freak out. Decorating for the holidays. Swimming. Driving….I could go on, but I won’t.

Another thing I’ve learned in the last few years of trying to work happier is how essential it is to find joy in the mundane moments of life: when your train comes on time, when there’s a perfect breeze, when you finally get that piece of mail you’ve been waiting for, when the dog jumps in your lap or the cat comes by for a snuggle. These are silly moments, but life happens in silly, wonderful, fleeting, odd moments. Your job won’t make you happy. Choosing to create happiness no matter what your circumstance will.

You took the ultimate risk and quit you safe day job because as you say it wasn’t quite good enough”. I know there are many people who can relate to that feeling but don’t quite have the hutzpah

What gave me the final push was looking around me and seeing so many people who were following their own bliss and chasing their own dreams without a net to catch them. I felt like I was always reading articles and blog posts about people who didn’t like where they were so they made the brave choice to change it. I knew if they could do it, I could do it too. It’s about trusting your abilities and your instincts.

Having a safe job can be a wonderful thing because it can afford you the financial means to pursue other passions. But if your safe job keeps you from setting and realizing your own personal and professional goals, it’s not a safe job – it’s a dangerous job. Don’t get stuck in a rut. The routine of waking up, going to work at a job that doesn’t excite or inspire you, coming home, watching TV and going to bed might be enough for some people, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting more out of life. So go find more! Sometimes it takes just shaking things up for a little while to realize exactly what you’re looking for. If you feel stuck, seek out change – big or small. For instance, even if you can’t quit your safe job because you need the paycheck, maybe look for another safe job that has some of the qualities your current job lacks. Any change is positive. And you’re the only person controlling your destiny.

Many people believe once they find the work that makes their heart sing the journey is over. What I love about your blog is that it realistically details the joys and challenges of that process. What have you found to be your biggest joys and challenges?

Since I’m now back at a paycheck job, it goes without saying that one of my biggest challenges in finding and exploring work I’m passionate about was earning enough money to live without worry.

When I left my job, the things I planned to pursue during my time off were all over the map. I lived off savings and the occasional earnings from my various enterprises, but I realized in time that my goals still needed some additional funding. Hence the choice to go back to a desk job after a year doing my own thing. Making that decision was a challenge, but being broke was a bigger challenge. I plan to use the structure and routine of my new job to help me to set some new goals career goals and work toward them every day, while enjoying some financial security in the meantime.

All that said, the biggest joy of following my bliss has been learning to listen to my instincts and to trust myself unconditionally. I left my last job because I just wasn’t happy there. There was no need to beat myself up about that fact, or to wish I could be someone I’m not. And when I discovered that owning and operating my own bakery wasn’t exactly up my alley either, I didn’t continue on with it just because I’d started it. I chose to listen to my instincts and focus on other aspects of my career. Living my life that way – by trusting that I will make the choice that is best for me – is incredibly freeing. I don’t feel guilty about my decisions and I don’t worry about other people’s judgment of my choices anymore. And I didn’t feel that way before embarking on this journey.

You can continue to here about Jen’s journey on her blog:  Follow my Bliss

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