At age 21, I began supporting myself by juggling 4 jobs - working as an intern, designing instruction manuals for a manufacturing company, ringing in groceries as a cashier, and odd photography jobs on the side.
I was in love with photography, but I was still striving to land that 9-5 job. I wanted it so badly - and more than anything I wanted people to respect my job and quit asking me why I was using my University degree to bag groceries (& I actually loved this job, by the way!)
Still - I wanted to feel like I had "made it".
Fast forward a couple of years and i finally nabbed that 9-5 great-pay-great-benefits-wear-a-blazer-to-work type job. AND I was insanely miserable. I didn't recognize myself. I cried in my car on the way to work. I would go for my lunch and imagine what would happen if I drove off and didn't come back after my hour was up.
This was supposed to be what I wanted.
Do what makes you happy. You don't get to do this again.
While I was weighing my decision to quit my job and become a full time photographer, I had a man come into my office at work. He was a self-employed musician. Gathering my courage, I said to him "you've been self-employed for over 20 years... that must of been difficult" to which he replied "yes, it was".
I curiously asked if he regretted it and he told me he could never have imagined doing anything differently because he was doing something he loved.
A few weeks later I quit my job and I kid you not, I saw this man's obituary in the paper.
Ever since then I have kept this thought in my mind: life is too short to give a damn about what people think about your job, your life, and your choices. Be smart, but do what makes you happy. Don't be scared. You don't get to do this again.