Wednesday, 8 May 2013

What are you doing with your life?

What AM I doing with my life?

This is a question I have been asked a lot over the last few weeks, mostly because I took the massive decision to leave my job and take on the exciting world of unemployment.

I will explain.  When I was in New York, I realised that there is something in the world that I am actually incredibly passionate about.  Coming back to the UK and going back to work made me realise that, actually, my job was not that thing.  Doing a job that I'm not passionate about, that is exhausting, and that I just don't enjoy, is not what I want to do with my life.

Choosing to leave my job was one of the toughest decisions I think I have ever made.  I spent hours crying at my boyfriend, trying to work out how we would survive without my income, and desperately applying for every single job vacancy that I was even remotely qualified for (and some that I really wasn't - way to set yourself up for failure!) until one day I realised that, really, this was just making the situation worse.  Rather than stress about "what next", I should just go for it.  Jump off the edge and see what happens.   

I recently wrote a guest-post for my friend's blog about my "quarter-life crisis".  A lot of people thought this was a sign - leaving my job so "suddenly" was irrational, a snap-decision, and just plain stupid. But trust me, it wasn't all that sudden really - it took me well over a year to realise it was what I needed to do.  This is the thing I have thought about the most in my whole life, and for someone who is incredibly impatient, that is quite an achievement.  And yes, it probably is stupid, but if I don't do it now, when will I? 

The way I see it, I don't have a mortgage, I don't have kids, I don't have a wedding or other big event to plan - other than rent, bills and food, I don't have any financial commitments.  Heck, I don't even have to stay in the same city (or country) if I don't want to.  So now is the perfect time to step out into the world and see what I can find. 

Today is the first day that I haven't had something to distract myself with (what with finishing work, exams and a funeral, the last week has been pretty insane).  Today is the first day I have had at home, on my own, with nothing to do (apart from cleaning, writing a dissertation and catching up on all the other things I've neglected over the last 6 months, but we'll ignore that for now), and it's been...  interesting.

I knew that at some point this massive decision would hit me like a bus into a brick wall, so I thought I was ready for it.  There's something really very exciting about waking up in the morning knowing that there is nothing you need to get out of bed for, and that, when you do finally face the world, you can do anything you want to do, whenever you want to do it.  Well I think it's exciting anyway.

It's also bloody terrifying!  Today I woke up at 5am, a full 4 hours after going to bed.  On the first day in a very long time that I could have a lie-in, I was not impressed.  After three hours of annoying my boyfriend, I got up and made a plan - look for some jobs, do some cleaning, clear out my email inbox, start writing the project plan I've been putting off since I got back from New York (Andrea, if you're reading this - I'm sorry, I haven't forgotten, I promise!) and basically just take stock.

Nine hours later, what have I done?  Well, I'm still sitting on the sofa in my pyjamas.  I had a fried egg sandwich for lunch, and have drunk copious amounts of tea; I've watched three films, none of which I could tell you either the name of or the key plot points; I spent about five hours trawling the internet for job vacancies, which I've put into a lovely colour coordinated spreadsheet; and I had a little bit of a cry.  Just a little one.  We don't do emotion.

How am I feeling now?  Mostly exhausted.  I've never really done this job-hunting thing before.  In the past I guess I've been incredibly luck and have just sort of found something that fits exactly what I was looking for.  Not knowing what it is exactly that I'm looking for is spectacularly unhelpful.  Trawling through website after website, copying down the weblink, reading job descriptions and person specifications, and trying to convince myself that I do have the skill, experience and (most difficult of all) confidence to do x y and z, is really overwhelming.  Not helped by the fact that everything I want to do requires qualifications in everything but the things I am qualified in (I knew Grade 8 singing and the 1500m swimming badge were never going to come in handy!)

I think tomorrow I'll try a different tactic.  Tomorrow I will get dressed in the morning (not at 6pm when I realise we've run out of milk and need to drag my bum down four flights of stairs to the corner shop), I will take my laptop, and I will go outside.  I don't know where, but I can work that out tomorrow.  Rather than spend a whole day looking at lots and lots of different adverts, I'll try writing a list of what I want, and then find one job to apply for.  If I've taken this massive decision, I might as well do it properly.

So, for now, I'm going to eat cake.  Tomorrow... Well, tomorrow is another day!

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