Freedom is a rather daunting prospect. Time – all of my own – to waste, to dream, to create, to work, to – well, I genuinely have no idea what. I’ve been given a gift. A priceless opportunity. Time.
When I lost my dad I moved into the auto-pilot phase at work. I did what I needed to do, what I was told to do even though I was finding it overwhelming on a subconscious level. I hit my deadlines, wrote my reports, delivered my grant programmes. I asked for one item of work to be reallocated, either to another person or another time, because I knew I couldn’t achieve it. That request fell on deaf ears (long history of passive aggressive conflict here that we don’t need to go into).
Month later, more personal bad news. Cue many alcoholic beverages, tears and soul searching. What are my priorities? Who are they? Where the hell do I fit in the midst of all this.
I have (had) a job that is wonderful in so many ways. I work with a lovely group of people, all looking towards bettering the lives of other people. I enjoy much of what I do. But I just can’t do it any more. I broke. I realised I need my family and I need to look after myself more than I need the constant harassment of deadlines and the inability to sleep at night wondering when it was all going to fall through the cracks and shattered into tiny pieces. Him Underfoot suggested it even before I’d realised it myself – time out. Step back. Look at your options. And my options give me enough in savings to take two years out.
Decision made, I thought I’d be ok when I handed over the letter. After I’d sobbed all over our HR director’s desk I realised this wasn’t the case. I’m terrified. Terrified of unemployment. I’ve worked solidly for over 20 years, putting myself through 10 years of night school to achieve an HNC, a degree, and two masters. To then voluntarily make myself unemployed is probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done.
It’s a decision that has caused much comment in those about me. I just watched a recent episode of the Big Bang Theory where Penny resigns from the Cheese Cake Factory to pursue her dream of being an actress. Leonard on the surface appears supportive, but then can’t help but shoot his mouth off with his real reservations at the first opportunity. Now Him Underfoot is fully supportive – but the rest of them? Not so sure. Telling people you are taking a full 6 months out of work with no intention of looking for another job is just not what we are conditioned to expect. My mother has taken to telling people that I’ve ‘retired’, whilst also telling them I’ve had a complete breakdown and ‘must be bad with her nerves’. Actually, what I’m doing is taking steps to stop myself having a breakdown, strange as it may seem. I just can’t marry the two sides of my life up successfully any more, and I’d rather leave work on good terms than end up a sobbing, emotional wreck on the sick for months and ultimately unemployable.
Of course, I intend to write. When you come from my working class, comprehensive school / social housing background, to resign from a permanent and decent job to flounce off and write stories appears to be a crazy decision. A presumption on my part that I have ability and something worth communicating. Well, actually, maybe I do. And I want to give it as good a go as I can, because if I never give this – my one true passion – a proper shot at success (and I don’t define success by publication, merely completion to my satisfaction), then I may as well resign myself to a life of corp-drudgery where my family will always come second to my deadlines and work imposed insomnia.
The one person whose opinion matters (because I’m financially reducing our partnership and placing more of a burden on him) is my husband. He’s behind me all the way. If he has faith in me, then I take faith in myself. I’m not a fool, I have options in the future and alternative income streams that I am investigating if this doesn’t work out.
I don’t know where the next two years will take me. That’s ok, because it’s my choice and I am in control. I’m excited. I’m sad, to leave many wonderful people behind. I may nose dive terribly, and again that’s ok – failure in this case is an option.
Finally I can be where I need to be, and do what I need to do. And that is priceless.