A Life Update: A New Season + Change of Gears

A Girl, A Style _ A New SeasonA Girl, A Style _ Gap Olive Chinos, Mulberry Shoes

Blazer // Chinos // Top // Bag // Sunglasses // Watch // Lipstick

I have a confession to make: my day job and I are on a break.

As most of you know, by day I work in government – well, I did… until now. I’d been happily hurtling myself full-steam along a career path for my entire working life – first in Washington (I got my start in the US Senate), and then Canberra (working for the Australian Parliament), then Westminster (working first in government policy and then five years as parliamentary advisor to a Cabinet Minister), and finally Brussels (I spent the last two years working mostly with the European Commission). But all of a sudden, I realised that path was bringing me more stress than joy, and it was time to take a break and start seeing other careers.

I’ve been struggling with this decision for a while, partly because I’m deeply passionate about politics and fighting for the causes I believe in, but also because I worked so hard at university and over the last 15 years to get to where I was (see the embarrassing proof in this post that it really has been that long…) and didn’t want to throw that away. I’d be lying if I didn’t also mention that being a political advisor and a blogger had sort of become my identity and USP (barely a day goes by when I don’t get affirming messages from my loveliest of readers who say they love that I work in both politics and fashion), and I was incredibly nervous about giving half of that up and who I’d be if I did.

But the truth is: when I arrived in Washington as a bright-eyed 18 year old, I decided to go into this career to help make the world a better place. Then between the global political climate, Trump, Brexit and the state of the political spectrum here in the UK (I think everyone can agree it’s a sorry state of affairs, regardless of which ‘side’ you’re on), politics was really starting to wear me down. It had become more of a source of stress and frustration than hope, and it had just got a bit too much to never be able to detach from all of that. I absolutely loved working in Parliament – even the gruelling hours and the need to be switched on to current affairs 24/7 that came with it were a thrill because I had the most incredible boss (a Cabinet Minister who was one of the few good guys in Parliament) and we spent each trying to make a positive difference. But since then, although I loved and respected the people I worked with, I’d started to feel like I couldn’t make a meaningful contribution and as though everything around me was completely unravelling politically, which rather filled me with despair. That’s not the attitude I want to have for the rest of my working days, so I knew it was time for a change.

So terrifying though it was, when one of the projects I had been working on at work came to an end, it was the opportunity I needed in order to be able to to muster all my courage and give myself permission to walk away before I became cynical or lost my passion for the things that still mattered. Hopefully not forever, but at least for now and until a more hopeful prospect comes along. I’ll still be working on some projects and causes that are meaningful for me, but doing so on a part-time basis gives me the freedom and breathing space to feel excited again. Maybe one day I’ll even decide I hate myself enough to consider running for office myself…

A Girl, A Style _ Autumn PreppyA Girl, A Style _ Gap ChinosA Girl, A Style _ Cambridge Satchel Co Tassel Bag CrimsonA Girl, A Style _ Cambridge Style

I wish someone could tell me where I should be career-wise in five years, but I suppose the journey to figuring that out is most of the fun. So I’ve given myself the ultimate gift of luxury: a chance to change gears work-wise and go freelance full-time to pursue whatever feels fun and exciting again. I figured if I can’t do it now while I’m still (relatively) young and unburdened by the responsibilities of adulthood, then when can I?

In the immediate term, I really want to give this blog the time I’ve never been able to properly devote to it when I was working in government. As the first step, I’ve been busy beavering away at a new and improved site design and direction which will keep me busy until its launch at the end of this year (I can hardly wait!). I hope you’ll all love it as much as me!

But equally, while I want to finally have the time to spend blogging, creating content, and writing about things I love, I don’t want to just be a blogger and it’s still important to me to work on other things (i.e. that aren’t all about ‘me’). I’ve always done at least two things with my time, and I think I’d get bored if I weren’t busy all the time (even at university, I worked in politics alongside a full-time class schedule, and then on this blog since graduating and moving to the UK). So the plan is a few days for the blog and a few days for freelance life and to just see where things lead me in a year or two. I’ve never before given myself such freedom to step off the work treadmill and figure out what I want from the next phase of my career, and I confess it feels like the ultimate luxury to be guided by passion rather than practical considerations.

Amongst other exciting things, I’m thrilled to have joined the team of one of my favourite British brands, The Cambridge Satchel Company, as their ‘Blogger in Residence’. I first met the brilliant Founder, Julie Deane, one day when I was working in Parliament and we were both just starting out – she with the brand and me with this blog. She quickly became one of my favourite women in business and I’ve remained friends with the brand ever since, and it’s been a pleasure to see them grow. In a twist of serendipity, they told me they were looking for someone exactly like me the very day after I finally decided it was time for a change of gears career-wise, and everything fell into place perfectly. After spending the past 15 years working in such ‘serious’ roles, I still can’t quite believe I can actually get paid to work on exciting creative things for brands I love. Surely work is meant to feel more like… work?

Whatever it means, I’m embracing that back-to-school feeling the autumn brings and stepping into the new season with renewed vigour. I haven’t felt like the ‘new girl’ in a while, and I confess the prospect is thrilling!

A Girl, A Style _ Cambridge Satchel Company Tassel BagA Girl, A Style _ Back to School PrepWearing: J.Crew blazer (old, but similar style here) // Gap chinos c/- // Saint James breton top // Louis Vuitton scarf // Mulberry heels (old, but similar style here) // Karen Walker sunglasses // Michael Kors watch // The Cambridge Satchel Company bag (borrowed).
Beauty: Charlotte Tilbury lipstick in ‘Carina’s Love’ // Clarins blush in ‘Golden Pink’ c/-.

Whatever the new season holds for you, I hope it’s fulfilling and affirming. I’m looking forward to stepping into a new chapter and setting some fresh goals for the remainder of 2017!

Love, Briony xx

P.S. I’m always asked for advice about how to get into politics or government. Now that I can finally talk about my job (which wasn’t possible when I worked full-time in politics), let me know if you’d like a proper post on my career journey and advice. Just as importantly, I would love to start using this platform to share more posts like this and talk more about careers and issues that matter (and how we can all make a difference), so please let me know what you’d like to see!

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Photos by Joe Galvin

23 thoughts on “A Life Update: A New Season + Change of Gears

  1. Ooh Briony, I am so sorry to hear this! You were always one of the bloggers I admired for being so intellectual, career focused and fabulous at blogging, but I am very happy to see you embracing this change and wish you all the best for the future!

    I am in a sort of similar situation- after 13 years of studying/working in the academia and 5 degrees including a PhD, I am fed up with the system and the low payments and, and,….and! I can totally relate to your frustration and disappointment, it’s so unfair when things change so much and they look like nothing what they used to be when we started our jobs. The more I work in the Universities, the more I realise I used to live in a dream because reality is so far away from what I thought being an academic would be!
    So I am embracing the complete change of directions and I fully accept the ‘whatever is meant to happen it will happen’ as you do.

    I truly wish you all the best and looking forward to your new blog posts x

  2. Congratulations on taking the leap! I’ve always admired your dedication to both politics and style, and think it takes a lot for one to realize when to call it quits before that burnout really strikes. I live in Washington, don’t even work in politics, and still feel like I need a break from it all. Can’t wait to see what your future holds (and I LOVE Cambridge Satchel, so will definitely be following your work there!)–best of luck!
    xox

  3. So excited for this new chapter and for you to find your new path; you deserve some time out to rediscover your passions, even if you end up back in politics in a few years time. Whoop! And huge congrats on the CSC role too – what a fab brand. x

  4. Congratulations on your big change. If you scroll back through your posts, there’s a whole lot of stress and exhaustion. Glad you have the opportunity to slow down and enjoy what you’ve worked so hard for. I worked in politics almost 30 years ago and found it rewarding but draining. The environment is so different today, and one can’t help but feel dispirited and dejected.

    You look wonderful, btw. Wonder if you might consider doing a blog post on your fitness routine and how you prepped your physical self for your wedding?

  5. You have always been an inspiration to me throughout my time at school while I tried to balance acquiring my masters degree and blogging and since graduating with working, blogging, and pursuing other personal goals. I think in the end, it is always about what makes you happy, is meaningful to you, and fulfills you. Good luck with your decisions and career!

  6. Girl, I can hardly get on Twitter in this day and age, so I doubt anyone could blame you for finding a path that is healthier for you for the time being. That being said, I have always loved the juxtaposition of your feminine aesthetic with your power career, so I am looking forward to seeing how you apply that to your future endeavors. Best of luck and keep writing! Your posts are always a bright spot in my now dreary feed. 🙂

  7. Long time follower but first time commentator!
    Congratulations on your decision Briony- having just made the decision to step away from full-time academia I know just how scary and uncertain the future can seem.
    Looking forward to watching what (stylish) adventures you get up to xxxx

  8. Aaahh Briony how exciting for you, congratulations on making such a decision!! It’s so daunting but I’m so excited for you.
    I did the exact same thing earlier this year I was a Buyer for 8 years & had climbed as high as I could but really didn’t enjoy the job, it was getting me down but I had no clue what to do. 5 months later I’m now working as cabin crew for British Airways travelling the world & it was the best decision.
    Sometimes you need a change to push yourself again & get out of life what you truly want. I can’t wait to keep up with your new blog content, your blog was one of the very first I came across & influenced me to start my own! Good luck & congratulations! Abigail xxx

  9. Congratulations! I applaud your decision to take a break from work stress and overload. That takes courage and I hope you rediscover your joy. I know your next phase will be a beautiful adventure (and as I work in government I will take special vicarious pleasure following along)! I wish you all the best and look forward to all your posts!

  10. Yay for You! I’m at the point where I want to just quit and start a totally new career, but like you, feel like I’ve invested alot of time into it. Enjoy your time off.

  11. Such an exciting time, lady! I am still scared to give up my styling work altogether, as it’s part of who I am, but I love my blog so much and it does require more time…such a brave step and sure it will be a huge adventure xxx

  12. As someone who gave up blogging in order to focus more on her career (in politics too!) thinking the burnout would go away if I put down one of the balls that didn’t pay as well (the day job just consumed more of my time but no extra fulfilment funnily enough!!) I can only applaud you for this decision. It must have been a long time coming. Congratulations and best of luck on your new endeavours which you will no doubt continue to be brilliant at. 🎀

  13. Wow best of luck with this new career path. It takes so much courage to not only admit to yourself that you’re not happy in your job but even more to actively make a change and choose a new lane. I look forward to more posts from you 🙂 Whether you’re working in politics or not, you’re viewpoint will always be interesting to your readers. Full-time job or not!

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  16. Love your blog and all the best for the future. Yes please write more about your political career and careers in general. Love the juxtaposition of fashion with intellectual stuff.

  17. Yay, congratulations on following your instinct and doing what’s right for you. Though it is a privillige, and can be difficult/impossible, it is also something everyone deserves. Best of luck to you, will look forward to following your next chapter:-)

  18. Wow, I feel quite inspired with your bold decision! I’m on a career treadmill right now, around that 13-14 year mark and I’ve been in a self-doubt spiral with it. When I’ve considered just maybe quitting to explore other options, I break out in sweats! It isn’t an easy decision, but perhaps the most empowering decision, because you put yourself ahead of what everyone else will think (because oh for so many of us driven by an intellectual career, it quickly becomes quite a bit about what others think of us/ how we’re defined). So congratulations!! I hope that I can make a similar, well thought through bold move soon!! 🙂

  19. Hi Briony,

    As many others I have been following your stories for many years now, without really engaging and commenting. Your life is an inspiration and it’s commendable how you have been following two careers that are completely unrelated.
    It’s a brave decision for you to abandon part of your life/lifestyle, but I am a strong believer that people change over time, and so do our passions, and over time we become more aware of the impact we want to make in the world and commit our time to it.
    There are so many opportunities nowadays; the freelance/entrepreneur world is wide open for each and every one of us to create the life we want and make an impact. It takes courage but I think the benefits outweigh the pain and occasional tears.
    It is very cliché but life is too short to do something that you are not passionate about (or in your case something you are sadly disillusioned with).
    Having been made redundant about 6 weeks ago, I am taking this new opportunity to start my new business – something that I have wanted to do for years and years. I spend my days designing the company I want, with a vision to inspire others, and 12-hour days don’t feel like working at all. It’s incredibly fulfilling simply to know that I am on the right path.

    I wish you the very best in your endeavours; I am sure you will find your way. My advice would be not to rush it – patience is a virtue and with time come opportunities that will truly fulfil you.

    In the meantime, I am so excited to see your new blog soon! x

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