Transforming your life is a scary thing. I’ve done it a couple of times now, and it never gets any easier. I’ve picked up and moved far away several times—twice to different continents—always by myself, always with nothing more than a basic plan and a need for change.
I’m about to undergo a new transformation, but a very different one from the ones I’ve tried in the past. I’m not going anywhere, I’m not doing it by myself, and I have a pretty elaborate plan, but it’s still riskier in some ways than any change I’ve sought before: I’m going to stop working.
Maybe it would be more accurate to say I’m going to stop trading my time, skills, and labour for financial remuneration in a formal and socially-sanctioned way. I’m still going to WORK. It’s just going to look different.
Here’s the thing: I’ve never been a big fan of the Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 grind. Or any 40-hour-a-week grind. Some people may think this sounds childish, like I’m trying to shirk responsibilities, but I think it’s a pretty essential issue. The day we are born, our days are numbered. Our time is limited. Yet what we do with that time is largely determined for us (up to age 65 anyway) by this system that requires us to work to earn money to live. Without getting into Marxist theory or anything, we work because we buy stuff. Some stuff we need, some we don’t. At every turn, we are encouraged to buy more and more things; we’re told that we need ALL THE THINGS. It’s a lie.
I turned 40 a few months ago, and I’m becoming increasingly aware that what I NEED is food, shelter, clothing, and love. (And maybe my iPhone.)
Seriously though, that’s about it. The rest is noise. Wait, there is one other thing I need: Meaningful Work. I have no desire to sit around watching reality TV all day, eating garbage. I want to work. But work that excites me, that inspires me, that challenges me. Work that I can do when I’m ready to do it, not when the Man wants it done. (That’s right. I used “the Man.” I told you: I’m 40.)
And lastly, I want work that does not interfere with my ability to enjoy life and the people in it. Work that does not leave me exhausted at the end of the day, so that I’m too tired to make a meal for my husband, or help him with work around the house, or play with my dog.
And so I’m leaving my job next month, and for now I am not going to look for anything else in the way of steady employment. It’s a bit terrifying. Of all the big changes I’ve made in my life—moving thousands of kilometers away from family and friends, sometimes to places I didn’t speak the language—I don’t think I’ve ever felt so unsure about how things would turn out. But here’s the thing: Everything we do contains an element of risk. The question is, what type of risks are we taking?
I kinda stole that last bit from this article from HuffPo, where the author quotes from Machiavelli (Machiavelli!!) and it’s actually really inspiring. The gist of it is, we all make mistakes in life, so “make mistakes of ambition, not mistakes of sloth.”
I am fully aware that my husband and I are incredibly lucky to be in the position to be able to live on a single income. The cost of living, especially food and fuel, keeps climbing, and wages are not generally keeping pace. But we’ve also made significant sacrifices to get here. This has been part of our plan for years. A dozen times a day or more, we have the opportunity to buy all kinds of things. Each time, I weigh the cost. Nothing seems to really appeal as much as having the freedom to do what I want with my time.
So what am I going to do with my time? Friends, I’ve got lots of plans. The big one, I mean the really BIG ONE… I don’t think I want to say. I mean, I’m excited and I want to tell people, but I don’t want the pressure of saying it and then having people asking me about it all the time. Because I don’t know for sure that it’s going to happen. But what I really want to do is write a book.
There, I said it. But please don’t ask me every time you see me how it’s coming along or how many pages I’ve written. And please don’t ask me what it’s about; I’m keeping that to myself for now. (To be honest, I have a couple of books floating around in my head, I think. It’s a question of getting them out and into a format other people can enjoy. Or suffer from. Whatever.)
I also want to read books. All the books I’ve been putting off reading for the last 25 years or so. A Fine Balance, Anna Karenina, Ulysses, Animal Farm, all the Jane Austen and Michael Palin books I haven’t read yet (no connection between those authors), the rest of the Song of Fire and Ice series. And TONS more.
I also want to spend quality time with my husband and our furry kids, and grow lots of veggies in our garden this summer. I want to blog more, and knit more, and get better at speaking Spanish. I want to cook and bake and meditate. But mostly, I want to figure out who am I when I’m not working. I think it’s going to be quite an adventure.