Wow, changing your life is actually really hard

If the best ideas are the hardest and most scariest to implement, then my idea to leave my 9-5 life is pure genius.

When I told my friends about this idea seven months ago, I knew I would change my mind 100 times (a day). But I really, really, really felt I was on the right track with this idea. So I told them, ‘If I get distracted, remind me that distraction is not an option. This time it is really happening.’

It was so real that I started a blog about it. That way I would be held accountable.

Then I discovered remembered that starting a blog doesn’t mean sh*t.

But like I said in my last post (written three months ago), the good ideas seem to have a habit of bubbling to the surface – even when you do your very best to drown them. Kind of like a beach ball. Or giant plumes of methane in the Arctic Ocean.

There is SO MUCH on the internet about changing your lifestyle. But none of billion blogs and e-books and webinars say how hard it will be. Actually, they probably all say how hard it will be. Then why am I so surprised to learn that it’s so hard?

I have faced sabotage, resistance, well-meaning supporters who only have my best interests at heart suggesting that maybe I should just stick with my current job.

And that’s just the stuff coming from me.

I am getting enormous resistance to my idea to shift out of 9-5 work from friends and family too. Well, I think I am getting resistance. When I told my friend she gave me this really confusing look. I’m pretty sure it was a disapproving look.

I’m getting so much resistance that at the exact time I had earmarked for my departure from my 9-5 job (January 2012), I applied for and was offered a new job in my current office. More pay, more hours, more pressure. But hey, it’s a great job, I have great colleagues, they pay me well. Did I also mention the lingering, inexplicable soul destruction? But hey, you can’t have everything.

My bosses encouraged me to apply for the job. Ah, what a vote of confidence! Wouldn’t it be a great addition to me CV?! Why don’t I just do it for a year or two? It will be great experience. Maybe this new position (which looks exactly like my current position) will be more interesting?

I procrastinated the hell out of submitting my application. I told ANYONE WHO WOULD LISTEN that I didn’t really want to apply for the job. (I was not fun to be around that month. You could have been having heart surgery and I would have made the conversation about me and my problems). I even told my BOSS I didn’t want the job.

I was nudging, begging, pleading for friends and family to say, ‘you know what, don’t apply for the job. If you don’t want it, don’t do it. It’s your life.’

But they didn’t say that. Maybe a couple did. But they also said, ‘what a great opportunity! Just do it for a year or two.’

I knew that all of these people were just being supportive. They probably didn’t even care all that much. But as I forced them into yet another conversation about moi, they answered just exactly how I could have expected them to answer.

And yet, instead of listening to my instincts that said ‘DON’T DO IT! DON’T DO IT! DON’T DO IT!’ I listened to everyone else.

I applied for the job, was offered the job. And – you can see where this is going – accepted the job.

So now, instead of leaving 9-5 I have just signed on to a new job in my same office. The same job, just busier, more boring, more pressure. But they pay me more! Which is good, because I think I’m going to need a therapist.

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The Artist in the Office – can a book change everything?

When I set out on this journey to leave my full-time office job life behind, I knew it would be hard to stick to my guns.

When I told my walking buddies that I’d made a major decision about the trajectory of my life and that in six months I would leave full-time work, I also told them “So when I change my mind, remind me of this conversation”.

It seemed highly unlikely at the time that I would change my mind – such was the clarity I felt about this decision.

Lo and behold, within a couple of weeks, I was enjoying myself a lot more at work and while I was still keen to make the transition away from full-time work, I could see the cracks starting to show.

Evidence of cracks:

  1. I said to one of my walking buddies, “I need to write a post called, How to Leave Your Job When You Like Your Job“.
  2. Ideas started circulating in my head about boundaries. About the necessity of not feeling owned and controlled by your work. The importance of being able to go home and have a life outside the office that you love. I am truly hopeless at setting these kinds of boundaries – usually to the detriment of my career. I’m pretty sure it was my lack of boundaries that had me calling my mum from under my desk one particularly horrible work day a few years ago. (NB. This is evidence because it shows I’m thinking about ‘how to make the workplace better’ instead of ‘how to escape the workplace’).
  3. I started writing posts like this one about reuniting my fragmented being.

Then, the book happened. I was in a discount book shop with the very same mother who received the call from under my desk. I picked up a copy of Nora Ephron’s I Remember Nothing, but I didn’t feel like buying anything else. I had reached the point that I reach very rarely in my life – I didn’t feel like buying any more books.

My mum picked up a book about happiness and mentioned that it had been a while since she’d read something like this and it might be fun to dip into. I mentioned that all I ever read was books like that and my brain felt read to explode with helpful information for a fulfilling life in which one’s potential is reached.

We went to the counter to buy my mum’s stack of books and my single book. Then I saw, displayed on the counter, The Artist in the Office.

It’s short, simple, nothing in this book totally blew my mind (i.e. the ideas were commonsense). It cost me five bucks.

And yet, it changed EVERYTHING.

The author, Summer Pierre, perfectly articulated the desire to leave the office and get on with the good stuff – and then perfectly articulated all the great stuff about having a job and still getting on with the good stuff.

This is the back and forth I have with my walking buddy who is also a writer who also goes to work full-time. We know work is good in so many ways.

* Don’t have to stress about where the money is coming from (especially good for people who hate thinking about money).

* Have a regular routine that keeps you on the straight and narrow.

* Keeps you connected to the humans – no fear of becoming isolated and out of touch with the world.

The best solution we came up with was the part-time solution – i.e. what this blog is supposed to be about. I don’t want to completely disconnect from formal work, but I don’t want my office job to be my whole life.

Summer Pierre agrees that my office job doesn’t have to be my whole life! But she shows a way the regular job part of the artist’s deal – something to work with instead of something to work against.

Here’s the weird bit – I’ve never, ever, not once in my whole life, every thought of myself as an artist. And yet, this might just be the exact framework I need to reunite my fragmented being.

So thank you very much Summer Pierre, your short book might have just derailed this entire blog.

Making the Money Work – getting the dollars and cents right for my great escape from corporate life

This is the first post in a series I’ll call Making the Money Work which will look at 1. Living costs, 2. Income, and 3. Savings.

Now that I’m embarking on escaping the 9 to 5 office job, one of the first things I need to address is the finances. Before I can “have a little chat” with my boss I need to know:

1. how much money do I need for the next 6-12 months to to keep me out of the gutter (living costs)

2. how much money can I expect to generate in the first 6-12 months of leaving my office job (income)

3. based on the first two assumptions, how much do I need saved before I can finally turn my back on that sweet, sweet weekly pay check AND how long is it going to take to get there (savings)

I am going to go through each of these processes over the next few weeks and keep you posted.