Getting stuck is one of my specialties. Over the years, I’ve been mired in circumstances, relationships and places, afraid to pick up my feet and move on. Change terrifies me because I know it will put my talents, skills, and toughness to the test—and I have long questioned whether I’m truly as smart and tenacious as I’d like to believe.

Countless times my friends listened to me complain about how stressed I was at work, how I just couldn’t take it anymore. And yet I stayed with that employer for nearly two decades. It wasn’t until I found myself sobbing in the shower one morning that I finally committed to finding a new job.

But my longest lasting rut was that of enthusiastic drinker. Talk about holding onto something that was getting me nowhere! I had to reach middle age before I could admit to myself that rather than enhancing my life, alcohol was holding me back. It was like continually putting the wrong address in my GPS and hoping it might lead me to the correct destination anyway.

In the year and a half since I quit drinking, I have experienced many of the predictable benefits of being alcohol-free—more energy, more time and less drama. One unexpected byproduct is a radically decreased tolerance for anything in my life that doesn’t serve me.

After that 18-year-long pressure-packed job, I stayed with my next employer for a comparatively brief five years. I believe sobriety helped me recognize earlier that it was time to go. Of course, it helped that my employer was planning a major reorganization and offered voluntary severance packages to those who were quick enough to say yes. Would I have jumped on that offer if I was still drinking? Possibly not.

Decision Time

My severance package allowed me to spend much of the summer contemplating what I wanted to do next. I am grateful for that opportunity, because I believe that many of us fall into careers early in adulthood and find it hard to change paths. Our jobs may take advantage of our skills and build upon our experience, but do they really suit us? If they don’t, we may stay regardless because we’re not sure if we can cut it financially.

I struggled with guilt over not wanting to go back to the marketing communications work for which I was highly qualified. Starting over would likely mean a significant decrease in salary, and I would be competing against people who had more relevant experience.

Was it fair to ask my husband to work with me to tighten our belts while I explored other options? At the same time, was it fair to keep pushing myself to apply for positions that made me anxious just reading the job descriptions?

Much like quitting drinking, it didn’t make sense to wait any longer. If I was going to try something different, the sooner the better.

Outside My Comfort Zone

As I suspected, my confidence is being put to the test. After working in offices at the national level my entire adult life, I am now working part-time at a local business while trying to build up a freelance writing portfolio. In both realms, I am well outside my comfort zone.

As I perform community outreach for my part-time job, I’ve discovered that I really like meeting and talking to new people. My heat still thumps as if I’m literally putting my life on the line by asking a stranger to partner with our business. But it’s a different kind of anxiety from the frustration I felt when I considered returning to my previous field. It’s a feeling of nervous, raw energy that signals discovery and creation.

Before I stepped out of my car the other day, it occurred to me that life is a lot like a workout routine. You can keep repeating the same exercises at the same speed and level of difficulty, but if you’re not being challenged, you’re probably not going to make much progress.

In every facet of my life, I’m only going to see results if I push myself harder.

Fuel for the Journey

As I try to live in the moment and enjoy the growth that I am experiencing, I will remind myself that nothing is permanent. If I find that my current job is not a good fit—after giving it a respectable trial period, of course—then I must not let embarrassment, stubbornness or fear keep me from expanding my search.

Trying to get my writing published and noticed is a whole other story—that process is always going to be scary and agonizing. Yet I refuse to turn my back on my potential any longer, no matter how stripped bare it makes me feel.

So, I’ve collected a few quotes that I plan to read as many times as I need to, and I’d like to share them with you:

“No one is coming to rescue you from yourself: your inner demons, your lack of confidence, your dissatisfaction with yourself and your life. Only self-love and good decisions will rescue you.”

― Jenni Young

“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.”

― Rumi

“A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living.”

― Virginia Woolf

“No amount of security is worth the suffering of a mediocre life chained to a routine that has killed your dreams.”

― Maya Mendoza

“Fear is boring, because fear only ever has one thing to say to us, and that thing is: ‘STOP!'”

― Elizabeth Gilbert

Now here’s to embracing those quotes the way I’ve embraced my decision to quit drinking. Who’s with me?