Two years ago, I quit my full-time, salaried with benefits job to pursue self-employment as an independent freelance graphic designer. (This is maybe the most cliche statement to read online these days.)
I am no more brave than the migrant worker picking your strawberries to send remittances to family in their home country. I am no more courageous than the recently-graduated millennial who works in a cubicle 9 hours a day to pay off massive student loans. I am no more of a boss than the working class mother with three jobs who feeds her children.
Quitting your job to pursue your passion is bullshit. This messaging is only beneficial for privileged people and very dangerous for working class people.
Since then, the reactions I’ve received have all been pretty similar. People marveled at the fact that I took this big, life-changing leap. I’ve gotten messages like “Wow you’re so brave and courageous” and “That’s so great you’re pursuing your passion” and “I wish I could be my own boss”.
At first I didn’t know what to think of it. There were other personal things going on at the time that impacted me enough to quit my full-time job. But after getting the same reaction plenty of times, and reading the same “I-quit-my-job-and-started-my-own-business!” overnight success stories online everywhere — I started to accept it. Believe it for myself. It became a part of my story.
It became easy to identify with a lot of things young entrepreneurial people were saying. I hustle my ass off to work enough contracts in a month to make ends meet. I deal with fear and anxiety of the instability every day. I battle constant future-tripping, wondering how long I can realistically sustain myself on this route. But I also get paid to do something I love (which is supposed to outshine anything else apparently). Not gonna front, it's been fun and fulfilling. I was proud to be pursuing my passion and I pat myself on the back for making it work. But then another part of me couldn’t disagree more with the sentiment. Being your own boss is tough as shit. You have no one to blame but yourself if things go awry. It's not always what it's cracked up to be. But what bothers me most is how we prop up the entrepreneurial class to be inherently brave and courageous. Let's set the record straight.
Nowadays we are bombarded with messages that life could only be meaningful if we do what we love (which is subjective anyway). Quitting full-time jobs to travel the world. Giving up everything to be your own boss. Leaving routine to build something from scratch. We are offered online classes, webinars, books and podcasts of advice from professionals. We are marketed to with apps that promise the ease of starting your own business. We are told that the sacrifice will be hard but it will all be worth it. You just have to quit your job, give it your all, buy my e-book of advice for $20, and have the passion to persevere.
We praise people that are “courageous” enough to quit their 9-to-5 and dive into the deep end of the exciting unknown. We idealize and romanticize the idea of being our own boss and being in charge of our own schedule. To take a risk and reap the bountiful benefits. Yet no one talks about the real sustainability or self-sufficiency of this formula when the playing field is never even.
The statement alone reeks of privilege. It confirms you had a full-time job to begin with. It confirms you had time to develop a passion (that you can capitalize off of, enough to meet your cost of living). It confirms you had the option to pursue something different because you feel like it. There are more challenges to being self-employed than just mental perseverance and grit. We are predatorily luring working class people into an entrepreneur lifestyle as the answer to living a meaningful life and loads of money. It’s the new American Dream...
Read this essay in its entirety at Janelle Quibuyen's blog HERE.