Years ago I started working for a typical large-ish company. One with enough people that you could regularly go into the kitchen or ‘break out room’ and know only a fraction of the people in there. It was a reasonably sad interior, as the inside of offices usually are. Lots of grey carpet and artificial light.
My boss was a tool. I know lots of people think their bosses are tools but this guy really was. He had no actual idea what he was doing and thought he’d been ‘head-hunted’ because the company asked him to move from one branch of the business to another. Sigh. His inflated sense of self infiltrated every interaction he had; he referred to his company credit card more times than I’ve had hot dinners. You get the picture.
One day he was talking to our small team about our previous work histories. I said I used to work in corporate banking. This intrigued him. ‘How much did you earn, if you don’t mind me asking?’ He asked.
‘Just over a hundred grand,’ I told him, knowing that he knew my current salary which was almost half of that.
‘Oh my God. Why would you leave that job?’ He asked. I couldn’t tell whether he was more horrified by my walking away from the money, or the fact that I used to earn more than he currently did.
‘Because I didn’t like my job and I want to be a writer.’ His incomprehension at my response was comical. He stared at me, brow furrowed, like I was some strange and foreign creature that needed an autopsy to be more fully understood.
You should have seen his face when he told us flippantly about a company initiative where you could donate a portion of your pay to the charity of your choice and I opted for the Cancer Council, 50 dollars per pay. He came to see me and said ‘Did you mean to put 5 dollars here? It says $50.’
My boss was a tool.
I only lasted 4 months in that role before I was fired for writing a poem. It was a damn good poem and took the mickey out of the business (no names of course!) But let’s be honest. I wasn’t fired for a poem. He just didn’t like me. But you can’t fire someone for that. Instead he took great joy in pulling me into his office, explaining to me that he’d been monitoring staff emails, saw the email, it wasn’t appropriate and I was to be frog marched out lest I take any sensitive materials with me. Ha! Before I left he said, ‘It was a really well written poem though.’ High praise indeed.
That same tool would no doubt be agog to hear that ten years later I’ve decided to once again step away from a reasonably well paying job to follow my heart. I understand that money is important and there would be more than just my old tool of a boss who might think I’m crazy from walking away from a good income for a year.
Well, I’m here to say it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. The improvement in my mental health – by not having the same level of responsibility – is worth more than I can explain. I still have ways to make the money I need – Arbonne, consulting and relief teaching all enable me to pay the rent and put food on the table. But the extra money I was receiving last year cost me so much in other ways.
I was tired. All the time. I felt irritable, particularly after a long day and the I had to rush to pick up the kids from after school care, make dinner, run the ‘shower, teeth, pyjamas’ routine and read before bed. I hated feeling annoyed with doing these things when I hadn’t spent any time with my own kiddos all day. But I did. I was just longing for that moment when everyone was asleep in bed and I could finally sit down with a cup of tea and have no one talking at me, or asking questions, or wanting something. That’s a pretty miserable feeling – wishing the day away so I could sit quietly at 9pm.
Not only did I feel like I had no ‘quality’ time with my kids, I felt like I had no time whatsoever for myself. Or for my partner. Actual work, or thinking about work, was all consuming. If I managed to fall asleep quickly I would wake with a start at some point in the night having dreamt about work. More often though the day’s events would swirl in my head as I tried to get to sleep. I used the Calm App almost every night so I could concentrate on something other than my recirculating thoughts.
I knew I needed a break. A few years ago when I was talking to my psychologist about a particularly difficult aspect of work, she said, ‘You cannot go on like this. You need to go part time.’ I looked at her incredulously, ‘I couldn’t possibly do that,’ I told her. I needed the money. But really, I think the reason I dismissed the idea so quickly back then was because I didn’t want to miss out. I didn’t want to miss out on a promotion that I thought was coming (which did). So I stayed. Full time. And continued to try to work like I didn’t have children and tried to parent like I didn’t have a job. Regretfully, I think it was my kids that came out on the losing side of that ridiculously impossible endeavour.
So towards the end of last year I made the decision. The money, the possible promotions, the FOMO – it just wasn’t worth the toll it was taking on my health and my family. I decided to take a year off and hit the reset button. Spend more time on myself and spend more time with my kids and apologise to no one for the decision.
And let me tell you – It really has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I laugh like I used to, heartily and frequently. I actually see my kids. I mean, I ‘see’ them for the incredible small people that they are, and I love them more every single day and I really don’t know how that’s possible. I work when I want and I make enough money to keep the wolf from the door. I swim, write, dance and read, and I see my friends as often as I can.
I fully understand that everyone is on their own journey and for some people life changes like this are not desirable or simply not possible and I get that. But for me, this was the right time and the right decision.
For the first time in the longest time I can honestly say that I love my life. What a feeling.
Time for tea and writing in my gratitude journal I think xx
Oh before I go, here’s a sneak peak at the poem that got me fired. Feel free to use it if you need to be released from your current employment. xx
An Ode to the Grind
A day at work is hard to take
When brain doth melt and back doth break
And all you want is to escape
But jails old walls are sound
Managers lurk with absent stealth
Doing naught but growing wealth
It’s very trying for your health
The noose is tightly wound
Though sun still shines and rain still falls
You’re wedged between the closing walls
Forever fielding thankless calls
Ahead is rocky ground
In the kitchen, cupboard’s bare
No plate to use, no fork to share
The bosses say the budget’s fair
While laughing, bank-ward bound
Your fishbowl isn’t made of glass
It’s not just people slouching past
but coming in with further tasks
Respite cannot be found
And when you think you’re nearly done
A fishy boss will spoil your fun
There’s errands only you can run
Sore temples start to pound
In the background, endless chatter
On topics that can hardly matter
At your desk just getting fatter
No normalcy around
The end is nigh, there’s no debate
You sneak off early, arrive late
And tell the boss to kiss your date
The freedom is profound.