8 THINGS I LEARNT WHEN I LEFT WORK WITHOUT ANOTHER JOB TO GO TO
Updated: Jan 16, 2019
Three weeks ago, I left my job without another job to go to. The plan being to sell-up, rent my flat, buy a sailing boat and to build a life working and travelling around the world. So now that my final payday has been and gone, and with the arrival of my P45 this morning, what better way to commemorate the occasion than with a few early musings.
Couple of caveats upfront. Firstly, I’m only three weeks in, and still have absolutely no idea how this is going to turn out(!). Secondly, I am entirely sure that any of the following are undoubtedly subject to change - so all terms and conditions apply here folks! Either way, I am hoping this will be insightful for you, and possibly to the future me too. So here goes:
1. Leaving might feel like the hardest thing, but once you’ve done it, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about
These were wise words once spoken to me, by a couple of my Mum’s friends who had done something similar in the past, and my goodness were they right. The build-up to not only making the decision to leave, planning what would need to happen to make that possible, handing in my notice and actually leaving, all felt like ginormous hurdles and seemingly impossible to overcome. However, once the toothpaste was out of the tube, and I had committed all-in, it actually became scarier not to leave. This was what I wanted to do. I had finally reached a point in my life where I could do it, and with someone I wanted to do it with... So why the hell would I leave it any longer? Why try and stuff that toothpaste back in the tube! With freshly stoked motivation and all of the logistics broken down, it was just a case of chipping away each day. I also noticed that the slight ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ I had developed for my current lifestyle was beginning to dissolve and it soon became very clear now, how I wanted things to be different. Next thing I knew, it was my last day of work and there was toothpaste.... everywhere!
2. Your colleagues are extended family
Much like the love-hate dysfunctional blood relations we arrive in the world to, you similarly can’t handpick your colleagues. However, much like family, you don’t half realise how close or invested you are in your colleagues, until you leave a place. I suppose this stands to reason when you share the same carpet eight hours a day. Arguably more time than you spend with your actual friends or family. I was extremely lucky, I worked with some amazing people. Some beautifully bonkers people too(!), but extremely talented and intelligent nonetheless. People who I shared incredible sentiment and respect for, not to mention the ups-and-downs of daily life, weddings, babies, illness and bereavement. This did get me thinking though, about how we coexist with people at work, how we choose where we want to work and what our working-day is or could be like. I don’t know the answers, but on reflection I do wish I had spent even more time getting to know my colleagues. I also know that if I ever return to a salaried job, it is the people rather than the money, job title or responsibilities that will end up meaning the most.
3. Your job is probably a larger part of your identity than you think
For the last six years, ‘working in marketing for a university’ is how I described my job. Until now, I didn’t realise how much of my identity was bound in this statement. Not only when people ask you what you do, but also in your own sense of purpose, achievement and confidence. In my case, I made the decision to leave and in doing so, I suppose, adopt a different identity as a... marketing-freelance-sailing-nomad-toothpaste-loving kind of person(?!). However, there are noticeably times when your human contribution or employment might change outside of your control, losing a job, unemployment, maternity/paternity leave, job-change or even promotion for example. I guess the lesson for me here, has been not to underestimate the impact this has on a person’s identity, but also to embrace the aspects of identity you can influence.
4. Our perception of value versus happiness
We have a very strange perception of value. On the one hand, I feel like a superhero when I find an underground online 10% discount code for a pair of jeans, saving me a grand total of £4.20. On the other hand, I have had no qualms about liquidating £60 on contactless and spontaneous £8 a Negroni after-work cocktails (on a Tuesday night)! It makes no sense. I have also found that we are just very good at living to our means. Like any good handbag, toolbox or house even, the bigger it is, the more we put in it. The more we earn, it seems the more our perception of cost, value and happiness shifts. As a graduate, spending £50 on dinner for two was quite the extravagance, but that would seem like a good deal to me now. Is that £90 toaster going to give you £70 more happiness than the £20 toaster? Probably not. ...and hang on a minute, when did I start spending £90 on a bloomin’ toaster anyway? What the hell is it all about? Why am I climbing the money + stuff + more expensive stuff + some travel + some more expensive travel = happiness ladder...? I’m just not convinced. Having left work now, relinquishing the salary, my stuff, and feeling like my eyes have been opened to some of the above. I honestly... feel relieved. Which brings me to number 5...
5. You don’t need ‘stuff’
Getting rid of your stuff is enormously liberating and genuinely, you don’t need it. I didn’t have loads and loads, but I still did my fair share of ‘oh I’ll save that, I might need it one day’. I’ve now sold all of my possessions for just over £800 and anything left, other than photos and family air-looms, I gave to charity and friends. Being able to fit my life into a few boxes feels great, not to mention lighter and burden free. It has also enabled me to not only see what I have, but also what I actually need. Whilst there are always belongings that we love, provide comfort or invite us to hark back to our past, there also seems to be a disproportionate amount of accumulated commercial tat. We buy stuff, we then buy a house to store stuff, and then we go to work to pay for it all. Maybe... we would all just be a bit happier with marginally less?
6. Nothing is more important than your health
Coming up for breath since leaving work, it is only now that I can appreciate the detrimental physical and mental health cycle I was in. From opening my calendar or emails at ungodly hours and a new-founded Americano addiction, to my daily battle with taste versus convenience of extortionate meal-deals for lunch... and sometimes dinner. I had become an expert at reading other people’s watches, so as not to miss my next appointment. I thought I was working to live, yet on reflection I can’t help sensing the irony. It was entirely possible to do my job in a much healthier manner, so the responsibility is with me, nevertheless a valuable reminder to put health first.
7. You have more options than you think
Whilst it is true that we have responsibilities and ‘can’t just drop everything’, you still probably have more options than you think. The elements binding you to your current lifestyle, such as finance, contracts, children, bills etc., they are within your control (well perhaps not children all of the time!). With the rise of convenience technology and online sharing economy websites such as AirBnB, Open Rent, Uber, Etsy and Ebay, the ability to generate alternative or additional income is now. I have used all of the above to make our plans happen, as well as drawing down on equity and rental income from property. I would add that employers are also much more open and recognise the benefits to flexible working these days, be it compressed or reduced hours, sabbaticals, unpaid leave or remote working. A small shift in any of the above, coupled with a large dose of will and hard graft, could make all the difference.
8. Making time to dream
One of the things I noticed when I told people about our plan to go sailing, was that almost everyone’s first reaction was a self-reflection. Many shared their own dreams with me, the reasons they couldn’t do something similar at the moment, or their plans for the future. I was a temporary mirror, in which friends, family, colleagues and people I had never met before, justified their own choices. I found myself either encouraging people about their present situation, or reassuring them that if they wanted to, they could chase their dreams too. This did make me wonder about how many people do hold back or postpone for the perfect conditions. It also made me think about dreams themselves, and the perception that they should be these big, life-changing, marks of success... which I just don’t think is true. There are a lot of ‘dreams’ out there that are extremely achievable, where you don’t have to win the lottery, or a recording contract to have the kind of day-to-day life you want. Maybe the first step is to dare to think about what it is you actually want.
So there you go, just a few early reflections. I hope these didn’t sound too cavalier or preachy – I can’t stand that! So I’d be genuinely interested to know what you think, please feel free to leave me a note in the comments below.
Otherwise, until next time, wish us luck and much love.
Date – 29th May 2018
Wind - 163° NNE, 4kts, gusting 7kts
Position – 53°47'64.8"N 02°23'60"W
Miles - 0.0