Make time for the things that make you happy, and let those things fuel your life.

About a year ago, I packed my things from Houston and settled down in Austin to start a new chapter of life. I'd been living in Houston for about 4 years prior, and while the change of pace in a new city was nice for a while, I was wanting something more. I moved out to Texas shortly after graduating and can remember feeling like that was it. I got the degree, got to move cross country, got to start life from square one, and well, that was it. Looking back, I wouldn't trade the growth I experienced in those four years for anything. In fact, there's something about moving far away from what you know that forces you to rediscover who you really are, and I think everyone deserves to feel that at some point. But what I will say, is that it wasn't until I "woke up" that I realized I was living blindly.. I remember feeling like "crushing the job" was priority and that time for myself and others was secondary. I realized that I was so used to working towards something, that I almost didn't know what to do when I didn't actually have something on paper to work towards. There was no more degree at the end, no more grade, no more feedback, and when you're your own worst critic, sometimes it feels like the only option is to work hard without questioning what you're doing it for. It's unfortunate, but sometimes it takes a shake up in life to make us snap out of living this way. I woke up and realized that it was time to start spending my days prioritizing happiness (as cliche as that sounds), and that the paycheck, the resume, and the next job weren't necessarily an ingredient for that feeling. 

Leaving a comfortable job with a high salary and nice lifestyle isn't a popular choice. To be honest, I didn't leave it because I didn't want that lifestyle, I left because I knew I needed to take a few steps in a different direction to be truly happy, even if it meant leaving comfort for a while. For once in my life I was questioning things. After a ton of soul searching and conversations, I came to the decision to pursue my MBA. Not to check a box, but instead to surround myself with inspiring people, to push myself to learn new things outside the engineering bubble I was living in, and to open my eyes to opportunity and new ways of thinking about how I can make an impact. Did I know exactly what I wanted at the end of this experience? Nope - but I knew I'd get closer than I would staying in the same environment.

Before school started last year, I decided to publish this blog. It was my way of making a pact with myself that no matter what new "career" opportunities I was pursuing, that I'd make time for the things that make me happy. It's been a year now and as I look back, I think creating a personal brand has been one of the most important pieces of my growth. It's a constant reminder of what I stand for and where my passions lie, and it drives the decisions that I make - even the ones related to my career. People tend to think of their professional life and their personal life as two separate entities, but when you have a personal mission, it helps fuel your life in all areas. When you stop thinking of work and personal life as black and white and instead as a journey that's entirely up to you -- and that you can mold a career around what you actually like -- you'll start to see that all those pieces fall into place. At least I have. 

As I reflect a year later, I ask myself, do I know exactly what I want in ten years? No, but I have an idea. And I got the ideas by leaving comfort, taking risks, exploring new places, jobs, and opportunities. So I'll recap my learnings from the year with these thoughts:

1. Make it a priority to find what fuels you and you'll start to see that it all comes full circle when you live each day with your why. 

2. Don't be afraid to take a few steps backwards to get a few steps ahead. It's always about perspective. Nothing is backwards if you're headed in a direction that's better for you.

3. Get advice from others, but don't feel like there's one set path to get anywhere in life. And if you live life to check boxes, you'll never truly be happy. Know what you're working towards and WHY.

4. Don't feel like you have to have everything figured out. Focus on growth and remember that every action, no matter how small, matters. Do everything to the best of your ability and you'll find pieces along the way that guide you a little bit closer to where you're meant to be each day.

If you're ever feeling lost, too comfortable, unsure of what to do next or how to find your purpose, reach out. I'm on this journey too and certainly no expert life coach, but have found that some of the most impactful lessons are from those not afraid to open up and be transparent. 

xo Erin