How I Quit My Job, Moved to Another Country, Ignored the Fear of Regret, and Became Completely Happy 1 Year Later

quit-your-job

On Aug. 12, 2016, I said goodbye to my peers at the ole newspaper after four years.

One time, a co-worker said goodbye to our team, and two senior leaders admonished her decision to leave the company after almost two years. They told her something like “you must spend your life at one job,” or “you’re completely crazy and it’s a big mistake,” or “you’ll be sorry,” or “you won’t last long away from us…”
(On the other hand, all the talk of “your job is for life” completely disappears during massive layoffs. But I digress.)
Similarly, one year ago, I said goodbye to two institutions that marked my life: the state of Arkansas and the newspaper industry.
After 20+ years in the Natural State and four years managing its premiere Spanish paper, I knew it was time to move on.
But people around me reacted as though both Arkansas and newspapers were supposed to be life sentences.

quit-your-job

After I quit my job, I took a little road trip on Aug. 16, 2016. So I passed by the University of Kansas and just kept going…to Seattle…and eventually Mexico…

Will you let the fear of regret stop you?

Like my former co-worker, I had many Arkansans practically ordering me to remain stagnant.
As though newspaper-ing was my only ability.
As though it’s a mistake to at least try and seek better opportunities.
As though there’s no other place to live except Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Basically, as though I owed it to everyone to bow down in solidarity to an imaginary fear of regret — even worse, to the fear of possible regret — and not even bother to seek a risk/reward symbiosis.
So I ignored them all.
And I quit my job. And moved away. To another country (Mexico).
And I saved my own life in the process by finding happiness.

quit-my-job

Aug. 17, 2016. I met Clarissa and Mark in Omaha, and they inspired me to continue pursuing my passion for film-making.

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth…

Let me say it again: today, I’m actually happy.
It’s something I haven’t fully felt since age 12, if not earlier.
Had I listened to my detractors a year ago, I would’ve missed out on fulfillment — particularly the spiritual kind.
I wake up every morning with a smile.
I look up to the sky and simply say “Thank you” throughout the day.
I smile to myself for absolutely no reason.
I look in the mirror and appreciate the person looking at me.
I see happiness in those around me, and that makes me happy, too.

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Packing up everything into the Mexico-bound bus Aug. 31, 2016.

Getting out of a comfort zone shapes a person

OK, enough mushyness.
It wasn’t easy.
There was a lot of soul-searching within the last year.
Plenty of hunger and uncertainty.
Unemployment, closed doors, too much rejection.
Even a bit of homelessness.
And the bitterness of knowing that after 23 years and nine different American visas, I couldn’t get that green card — even after paying a lawyer $5,000 to get it (I should’ve been at the front of the line for residency as a master’s degree earner, but somehow that green card didn’t come through).
However, I ended up in Cancun. Like most people starting out in this tourist city, I found out it’s the opposite of a permanent vacation.
It’ll take another post to go into detail, but it suffices to say that new beginnings are not supposed to be easy. And being in a comfort zone for too long makes your soul elastic.
That’s because difficulties shape our character and mold us into better people if we’re prepared, patient and humble.

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This was the view at my first job in Cancun, fall/winter 2016.

I quit my job to find a good direction in my life

Consequently, doors began opening up in digital marketing, where I’m growing and learning everyday because the business demands it from you. Also, I’m returning to my passion for film-making.
And my content creation skills are in high demand from several clients and potential clients (mostly good ones, some bad ones). Plus, living in Cancun keeps everyone on their toes because we must improve ourselves and compete for the better paying opportunities, especially at a high-cost-of-living city like this one.
If I’d stayed behind in Arkansas, I’d be in my fifth year of cranking out the same newspaper week after week, not learning much new, making it paycheck to paycheck — it would’ve been a cop-out on my potential.
It would’ve been the easy route where the fear of regret takes over, robbing me of the chance to finally live life.
But I chose a harder route, which reminds me of something JFK said almost 55 years ago:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept…”

Cancun isn’t the moon. But when you’ve lived in Arkansas for too long, and people called you a lunatic for moving on, it certainly feels that way. Oh, and the view is just as wonderful from here, too.

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The difference a year makes: Aug. 4, 2017 in Cancun.

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11 Comments

  1. Rachel W. says:

    I’m so happy to hear things are working out for you. Glad you didn’t let others convince you to stay a big fish in a small (if endearing) pond.

    It’s enraging that our f*cked up immigration system wouldn’t give you a green card. Truly our loss. But I hope you’ll keep finding even more reason to smile.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Keep going, JL. It’s your life; you choose how you want to spend it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think most immigrants (I hate the term expat) to Mexico can relate to your feelings. I smile every day in Baja Sur.
    Tracey @ http://www.MyBajaKitchen.com

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alex says:

    We are neighbors, sort of. We did the same thing four years ago. Look us up if you are ever in the hood.

    Like

  5. @begutierrez says:

    I am so excited to read this. Te quiero mucho, hermano. Y que me alegra esa felicidad que hasta aqui siento las olitas!

    Julio Cortazar bien dijo en Rayuela, “A veces habrá que abrir la ventana y tirar todo a la calle, pero sobre todo hay que tirar también la ventana, y nosotros con ella… es la muerte o salir volando… por amor a la felicidad.”

    Liked by 1 person

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