As I continue to interview brave individuals who defy the status quo, in their decision to find fabulous, I am constantly amazed at how much insight they offer. Regardless of how long they’ve been transitioning, or whether or not they’ve figured out all the answers, their experiences convey so much. Relatively speaking, Jacqueline is fairly new at this. This is just the beginning of her story, and this is what she’s already taught me.

Words of Wisdom:
Finding what makes you happy is not always that simple. It can take many different jobs and forms over the years to figure it out. And, your definition of ‘happy’ can change, as you get older. But just do it! Know that you don’t have to be stuck. You don’t have to just settle because you are paying the bills.

Key Learning:
Best experience is to just jump; otherwise you never know. You can always go back if you have to. But I am absolutely positive it was the right choice for me, and I’m absolutely sure there will be positive things to fulfill me in the future.

Definition of Success:
I used to see the expensive purses and shoes as a sort of prestige, and it was kind of cool that I had those things. I cherish what I have, but I’ve learned I don’t really want or need those things anymore.  Now, success is being able to sleep at night, and being happy.

Jacqueline had never really been satisfied as a lawyer. The profession came with some prestige and afforded her a lavish lifestyle, including a large home, expensive vacations and lots of material things. Unfortunately, it also came with a lot of time away from her family, travel, stress, anxiety, and sleepless nights. Despite her realization that she was buying all sorts of ‘stuff’ because she was unhappy, she didn’t know what else she could do. She was a lawyer. What else could she do?

It wasn’t until a skiing accident badly broke her leg, and left her unable to walk for 3 months, that she had a drastic change of perspective. She finally had the time to really think about her life. Coming to terms with the fact that she would never run, ski or do the active things that brought her a lot of pleasure, she started to wonder what would replace it. Working a job she didn’t like was a lot more palpable when she could spend her leisure time the way she wanted. Now that those options were changing, it brought the rest of it to light. A less than ideal partnership deal ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back. Her firm finally offered her what she had been working toward all of these years, and yet she didn’t want it. And so started a full year of self-reflection and planning.

When I asked her if anyone or thing motivated her, she says, “I can’t really tell you why or how I knew it. I just knew I needed a total and complete change.” Not knowing what that was, she sought career counseling. The emotional choke of her voice said more than her words, as she recounted a conversation with the career counselor. “She asked me why I became a lawyer in the first place. And I didn’t know! I had no idea.” Although she was making some major progress toward figuring it out, she admits it isn’t an easy process. “Friends tell me how brave I am, but it doesn’t feel brave sometimes. But ultimately, I know it is a great lesson for my daughter to see her mom happy,” she says.

A year and 38 interviews later, Jacqueline has found a job she really loves. She spent most of those interviews convincing people she was serious about leaving law, and overcoming their perceptions of what a lawyer might need to stay challenged. Not to mention what salary. Although she was serious about leaving, she does admit this position may do more to help her uncover her passion, rather than be her ideal job (or position in the company). And yet, she also declares, “I love my job. And I’ve never been able to say that before.” The new position allows her to leverage some contacts and skills she gained as a lawyer, while teaching her new marketing and business skills. I love that she is comfortable with the fact that she doesn’t have all the answers. She doesn’t know what she will do down the road, but she is out there finding her version of a fabulous life.

“The best thing of all, is that I sleep like a baby!” she exclaims. Jacqueline had no idea how much the stress had been affecting her body and causing her insomnia. “I was under this big, heavy rock of stress.” Now, her health has become part of her definition of success. Notwithstanding the benefits, the transition has been difficult as her family adjusts to a new lifestyle, triggered by a significant decrease in income. They have had to sell and downsize their home, move their daughter to a new school and learn what it means to budget. However, Jacqueline describes how it has also made her more appreciative of her things. She has come to realize she doesn’t really want the things she used to want. She sums it up nicely by saying, “ I am learning to change my thoughts about stuff; material stuff. The best way to spend your money is on experiences.”

Considering her comment, I start to understand the value of the experience she is living through right now. I can hear the fabulous transformation in her voice. I can feel the fabulous energy she radiates. I can see fabulous in the process. It may be true that she has a long way to go before she hits the sweet spot of her fabulous life, but she is so much happier now; she sleeps like a baby! And really, what could be sweeter than that?!