Today Mallie Rydzik is joining us to share her journey from a PhD program and a corporate job to a freelance life…
Tell us about yourself, what you did pre-escape, and what you do now
I was in a PhD program in atmospheric science when I had a mental health breakdown and was diagnosed with OCD, chronic depression, and binge eating disorder. I was forced to reevaluate my life and discovered that I needed more purpose-driven work to fulfill me. I dropped out of the program, took a consolation M.S., and bounced around quite a few jobs (nannying, dogwalking, freelancing) before settling at a corporate job that was also outside my field. I was miserable from day one, despite fairly friendly coworkers and supervisors.
Now, my “day job” or “bridge job” is tutoring two days a week and my business is teaching fellow 20 and 30-something women how to balance their lives, start a business, and make a difference in the world. I believe that the Millennial generation (those born between 1980 and 2000) is entering a new world of work, and the Baby Boomer career path will not sustain us the same way it did our parents. I’m working to fill the gap left by career counselors who refuse to acknowledge this career paradigm shift.
How long ago did you make the escape?
I quit my corporate job in July 2013 (a little over a year ago).
What roadblocks did you face when preparing to leave your job?
I knew that I was going to quit from day one. The problem was that my now-husband and I were preparing for our wedding and we needed my steady income to cover expenses. My supervisors were good about giving me vacation time for wedding-related activities, so I also didn’t feel like being a jerk and quitting the day after my wedding.
How did you know you were ready?
I was ready from day one! I had been playing with the idea of a freedom-based business for awhile, having dabbled in freelance writing and editing as side hustles while working at my corporate job. When I picked up my tutoring position at a non-trivial hourly rate with complete control over my schedule and vacation, I knew it was time to transition with the help of the tutoring “bridge job.”
What is the best part of being your own boss?
I’m going to take a slightly different approach to this question than many people will. I still struggle with my mental illnesses, and I have come to accept that they will always be part of my life. The best part of being my own boss is the ability to tailor my work days to how my mental health is that week, or day, or hour. I make sure I never schedule too many clients or podcast interviews on a single day, because I know that will overwhelm me. If I have a speaking gig in the middle of the day, I will block off my schedule for any human interaction for the rest of the day, because I know it will drain me. Running my own business gives me that freedom to put my health first at all times.
What challenges have come up?
I initially was very money-focused and tried out business ventures just because I thought they were lucrative. For example, I started an online ecommerce store with drop shipping fulfillment and two virtual assistants—four-hour work week, here I come! Well, not only did the job suck, it totally failed, and I realized I needed to shift my attention to work that made me come alive, not work that promised overnight success.
Of course, with heart-centered/passion-based work, the growth period of the business can be slow and trying, both emotionally and financially. My husband and I have had to make sacrifices to allow me to grow, but he constantly reminds me that he is thrilled to see me happy and passionate about something again.
What are your work days like now?
I wake up and spend up to 15 minutes cuddling with my cats. Cuddling releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps with stress and happiness! Then I make a latte and check out my “today” list, because a full “to-do” list is too overwhelming. Depending on the day and how I’m feeling, I’ll split my time among marketing, interviewing, creating content, brainstorming new ideas, working with clients, speaking, training, and other odds and ends. I also try to fit in time for self-care by means of more cat cuddling, naps, and exercise.
Any advice for those working to make the escape as well?
Listen to advice from others, but do what works best for you. You are working to create a world that you are happy to live in, so make sure the steps you take feel true to you. Also, a lot of people will make you feel like a failure if you don’t quit everything all at once to start your business. Dude, you need to eat. How can you be focused on your business when you’re obsessing over where your rent check will come from? Don’t be ashamed to take a bridge job between your 9-to-5 and your dream business.