‘Love it, change it or leave it’. It seems like an easy principle to follow, but often our dreams get thrown by the wayside in favour of living comfortably. Markus Hachmöller – a current HOOP volunteer and former engineer reflects on his decision to quit his job, leave his hometown and go volunteering on the other side of the world. Here’s his advice for anyone needing some encouragement to take the next step.
Why quit your job and go volunteering?
I’ve been asked this question many times – before leaving and during my trip; from my friends and my family, former colleagues and by people I’ve met during my time here in South America.
Why? Why should someone like me, an engineer with a good education from a renowned university, with an interesting and well paid job, living in Stuttgart in Germany, with really good friends around and family close by – suddenly want to do something totally different?!
First thought: “This guy has a completely burnt himself out! It’s obvious – he worked too much or is not capable of managing his actual situation in business and/or private life. He needs a sabbatical!” I heard this explanation several times when people wanted to know why I made my decision. But does it match with the truth? No. Honestly speaking, it was rather more the opposite – What I felt was something more like a “bore out”.
It took a while to realise that I was in a situation at work, in a specific company environment that rather blocked young and enthusiastic people than to support and to develop them. It’s frustrating when you are hungry or have the willingness to go for something, but you constantly feel pulled back or ignored.
Second thought: “This guy must be a hedonistic fun seeker in the middle of his quarter life crisis, trying to redefine himself anew and to step out of society. Someone who can’t accept or adapt to certain difficult situations in life, someone who is lacking patience.”
But this is a slightly unfair and narrow-minded view, isn’t it?
But I must admit, I was at a point where I was asking myself questions about where to head and what to do with my life, my career, my ideas – and of course my dreams.
So I made a decision to try out something completely different, and left my old life in one of the world’s best developed countries – where everything is organised, secure, insured and safe. Although I was enjoying a privileged life with plenty of opportunities, for me, this life felt too pre-determined.
Typically you grow up not lacking anything, go to school, maybe study, find a proper job and of course your girl/guy, then marry, get kids and get settled.You focus on your career and work hard. Then you get old, your kids are educated, you retire and finally you might have plenty of time to travel and enjoy all the money you have saved.
But where have all the dreams and ideas gone, you had or have for life?
And why was I (as well as a lot of others) hesitating to just go out and make something different, something you are interested in, you are passionate about?
From my personal view: You should not be afraid to change path – because there is no clearly marked path! Because this path changes with the experiences we gain and decisions we make. And we have fear. The fear of leaving your comfort zone, which tries to talk you out of your dreams and ideas.
So long story short…
A couple of years ago my former boss at work gave me the following advice:
Love it, change it or leave it!
This sentence got stuck in my head. I personally think you can use it for a lot of situations in life. Either you love something, or if not – try to change it. And if you can’t change it anymore, then you should leave it.
And what did this mean to me?
I was unhappy with my previous job, so I adjusted and tried to change the situation within the company. Finally I realised after questioning myself about my ideas and dreams, that it still was not quite what I was looking for.
And then there it is – the moment, where it just feels right to jump. To leave it, to move out of your comfort zone and try the things you were so long desperate about.
So I booked my flight to South America with some ideas and one specific goal in mind, not knowing where and when, but to go volunteering and teaching kids! A long cherished dream which finally came true with HOOP here in Arequipa.
And what comes next? What do I know more than before?
I love kids and I love teaching, but I also know now – after doing something completely different for a while, why I love to be an engineer! And I’m confident that there might be a way to combine both worlds for me in the future.
My advice? Just ask yourself the right questions now, and have no fear to get out of your comfort zone…and maybe you’ll do something completely different – like volunteering!
Words by Markus Hachmöller