Skip to content

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and you will receive our stories in your inbox.

Nine To Five No More

Posted in Life & Love

UnknownI am no stranger to radical changes. When I left the music biz to move to the San Diego ‘burbs and “take over” an existing family, in the form of a husband, two children and two dogs, I didn’t really miss the days spent on the phone, the intercontinental travelling, the constant concerts I had to attend or even the Grammies. I was too busy figuring out what a soccer mom was and what PTA stood for (two scary concepts to this day). The only perk I missed was the expense account which had afforded me nice extravagances I wouldn’t have been able to pay for myself.

In time, a second career blossomed, one which was food related. It lasted eight years and gifted me with wonderful memories, new friends and a different kind of stress. Because I tend to be driven and competitive, it was easy for me to both succeed but also to identify with what I did a tad too much. Eventually, it became apparent that what  I did was not in synch  with what I wanted anymore. Not that I necessarily knew what I wanted but what I did know was that it was time to stop, get off the treadmill and quiet the constant mind chatter that was not helping me unlock the next phase of my life.

As I got older, I also realized how important it was to do something that suited my temperament more, a concept we don’t give much thought to when we join the workforce with stars in our eyes and big hopes  for the future.

woman_pulling_hair_outIt took many months to come to this momentous decision, countless phone conversations with girlfriends kind enough to listen to my whining, and pushing me to just do it (in the vague hope I might shut up) and a dose of that courage I thought I had lost.  Still wrapped in my ego and in the mechanics of my job, I could think of a million reasons why passing up on a reliable paycheck, an excellent career and wonderful coworkers for some thin ideas that involved writing was the wrong thing to do.

My parents taught me to be pragmatical and to always make sure I could provide for myself – tenets I always lived by but that, approaching my fifth decade, I also realized were skewing my approach towards a conservatism that didn’t befit me. In these times of economic downturn, especially in Europe, where people my age consider themselves lucky to have a job at all, never mind a satisfying one, my decision to quit my job was greeted with trepidation by both my parents, even if I am extremely fortunate to be in a financial position to be able to do this at all. Expenses had to be curtailed, there will be no exotic trips anytime soon and whipping out the credit card on a whim, every time I see something that “would look so nice on me”, is not an option anymore. But these are silly adjustments compared to the hardships so many people are experiencing.

Over three months after taking the ambivalent step of leaving my job, after tears were spilled, coworkers were missed and getting up in the morning without having to rush out  the door didn’t seem so strange anymore; after the initial elation that invariably follows hard decisions evaporated, I noticed that happiness, for lack of a better word, trailed me most of the time.

Me being me, of course I still worry, get annoyed/frustrated or impatient but in incremental smaller proportions. Anger does not figure into the equation of my feelings any longer. Because I have mild ocd, I still keep my house in a state of superhuman tidiness and cleanliness but I don’t feel the need to be in a constant state of multi-tasking.

And that is the good news that made jumping off the cliff worthwhile. But what about the drawbacks, dwindling bank account aside? Judging from what I hear from friends or read in the words of complete strangers, there are very  many of us considering radical changes. We hit a time in our lives when it’s natural to take stock; it’s as if a biological clock is forcing us to look at what we have done so far,  at the path we have embarked on and wonder if we want to stay the course. It’s a bit like hitting 39, thinking about having children and whether something needs to be done.

But there are a few things to consider – life is not necessarily easy once you kiss your mean boss goodbye or shred the subway card.

In the morning, I have established a new routine, new parameters so I don’t get lost reading a book for 8 straight hours. What used to be a day structured by events dictated by the workplace had to be reinvented.

reg_634.KateMiddleton.jlc.113012I tend to be a pretty self-disciplined person and, what has worked for me, is to visualize on paper or screen chunks of time and what I will be doing with them. By 9 am I am always at my desk, whether showered and dressed or in my pj’s  (most often the case). Lunch will be around 1:30 for about 45 minutes. When I am in a rut with ideas or frustrated with anything at hand, that’s the time the dogs will be rewarded with a walk. But, as organized as I am, I do fall into what I call “the bottomless pit” from time to time. Case in point, the day the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy was announced. I saw the news appearing on my screen and I went on a feeding frenzy of non-existent information. Why would I even care about the former Kate Middleton’s vomiting patterns is not a question I asked myself until 20 minutes into my fishing expedition. I was clearly avoiding something I needed to do and the Royal Palace gave me ammo to feed my procrastination.

Unknown-1At first, I was afraid my social life would take a hit. Many social events throughout my life  were work-related and it’s probably the case formost career women. Would my phone stop ringing? Would efforts to get things organized be placed squarely on me? Would I spend endless days in sweats, hair in a messy ponytail ? Would I miss the interaction with dozens of people, 10 hours a day? Mostly, the answer is no. Now that people know I am home, they tend to phone at all times of the day and invitations pour forth. So much so that I have to limit my social life or I would spend way too many hours away from my desk. Also, if I am writing, I will make a point of letting the phone go unanswered. But the water cooler chitchat is  now limited to the dogs whose gossip repertoire is somehow limited. I don’t mind the solitude but, if pets are not an option and talking to the walls would make you feel like a total loony, solitude is an aspect you might want to consider.

Financially, I know I will have to start making money again. When I stopped drawing a paycheck, there were some items that were non-negotiable: I had to have health insurance and I was not allowed to touch the little nest egg I had put away. Which means I cannot live without an income for longer than 12 to 18 months.

Whatever business or venture you are thinking of starting, under the best of circumstances, it will take around three years to turn a profit. You need to keep that in mind because finding yourself in the latter part of your life with serious money worries, it’s a stressor nobody should submit themselves to willingly. Yes, I do fret on whether I will still be employable again, or would much younger people be given precedence, but  when I put worries and the fear of regrets on the scale, the need to fly solo tilted the balance. Calculated risks can pay off. I hope I am betting on the right horse but if you are seriously averted to risk, such pressure might not be for you.

Slouching in Front of a Computer - XraySometimes I struggle with writing, sometimes I wish our site yielded immediate results and that is when I have learnt to stop myself, to remember I need to be a bit more compassionate of my efforts. I gave myself a time limit, I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t, and a deadline by when a steady income will be needed again. But, unlike the old me, I don’t feel as if I am living next to a ticking clock. Fifty years in, I started noticing that, most of the time, life takes care of itself. With a little help.

Share on Facebook

15 Comments

  1. Thank you LJ. I decided to write about it because, everywhere I turn, I see women in our position, other by choice or circumstance. I have been reading your astrology and it does make sense that turning 50, within the lifespan of a person, would often mean looking at what we have done and decide where next. We often justify what happens to us by saying that “it happens for a reason” while, in truth, it’s probably all random. But that we find reasons and ways to turn things around to suit us is the par of the human experience I like best. Thanks for sharing – it sounds it all worked out for you!

    December 9, 2012
    |Reply
  2. you’re story is not too far off from my own and i found this article inspirational. i began writing years ago for the love of it, but when i got laid off from a legal secretary position (usually good pay) last april, i couldn’t help but feeling like it was the beginning of a whole new chapter – scary and exciting at the same time. Actually, the paycheck part is the scary part, but all the rest is exciting. I was happy that I had backup income though through freelancing and I’ve honestly never been happier. To this day, my friends and I laugh that I must have been the only girl who ever smiled in excitement through her whole exit interview. In astrology, turning 50 is about the time we have what’s known as our Chiron return and it’s all about transformation and life change. Chiron is the wounded healer – We did the corporate world, which kind of turned on us a while back as far as appreciating employees with initiative – and now, it’s our time to become all the things we dreamed of but never had a chance to do before – be excited and don’t ever give up. i’ve been following you since the Accidental Chef blog and I think you’re a relatable and talented writer. best of luck.
    LJ

    December 9, 2012
    |Reply
  3. Great to read. Leaving my office job is the path I’m on in my forties. I don’t know that it will be writing that I go to, but it will be something that nourishes the soul (and hopefully generates not necessarily the same, but enough income). Very encouraging – thank you.

    December 6, 2012
    |Reply
    • Whatever it is, you hit the spot. It’s about nourishing who we are. I believe it’s not as hard as we make it out to be but, in my case, the jury is still out. Went to look at your blog and you had me in stitches on a few occasions!

      December 7, 2012
      |Reply
  4. I don’t miss any part of the 9 to 5 world: the traffic, the back-stabbing, the sabotaging, the favoritism, etc. 37 years was more than enough for me. I hope and pray I never have to go back. I don’t think I could. You know, they say you should look at something in the distance to give your eyes a break from the computer screen every once in a while. I think our brains need a similar break. If the Duchess does that for you then what’s the harm? Besides, the media makes sure that we know about it whether we want to or not. You can’t escape it! I wasn’t even looking for the info and yet I know that she’s been hospitalized for 3 days, she has been vomiting frequently, it’s a rather rare condition, and family members have been by her side. I wish I could be more disciplined and get more done with less distractions, but sometimes there are too many things to get done! I was up until 2:00 am last night trying to fix computer problems that have been plaguing me for weeks. I think I got one problem solved. I haven’t tested it out yet. But everything will get done eventually. I can’t stand loose ends. I’ve been writing lists the past couple of days. That always works for me. I cross things off as they get taken care of. It’s good that you gave yourself a deadline. Maybe you should even break that down into quarters so that you don’t have to put too much effort in the closer you get to your deadline. I don’t know, 150 pages by mid-point? Something like that?

    December 6, 2012
    |Reply
    • I know, you are right. In another comment to Stefan, I told him I am a compulsive list maker, more for the joy of crossing off items when a task is done. Heavenly. This is the compulsive obsessive speaking.

      December 7, 2012
      |Reply
      • Groan, I’ve got more things to add to my list. 3 people have contacted me from LinkedIn where I’m a member but rarely go there anymore. While it’s great to hear from them since I haven’t in a long time, they seem to think I’ve won an award for Blog of the Year 2012. They don’t know that at least 146 other people got the same award. LOL! I don’t have the gumption to tell them the truth: that you need 6 stars on that award and I only have one. What that ultimately means, I honestly don’t know. Maybe the first one to get all 6 stars is ACTUALLY the winner of the 2012 Blog Award? Who knows. This is embarrassing now! I plan to divert their attention to my speaking debut on the radio. Thank God for that! One of them is an Italian man whose mother I met when I visited Portland, Oregon years ago. He works in Sacramento I think. His mom and I still exchange Christmas cards. I met her when my Italian was better. She doesn’t speak English. Long story short, I had a camera with me and took pictures of her and her friend from Italy and sent them to her. She was very appreciative. We became friends. Her son was (and maybe still is) single. LOL, life is crazy for us single people!

        December 7, 2012
        |Reply
        • Oh be proud of the award! This is not a new thought but, sometimes, I feel technology adds to the list of things to do! That is why I am probably resisting Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter so much. Not to mention Linkedin. You and sofagirl should bemoan on singlehood together. But don’t you love coming home and finding everything exactly how you left it?

          December 7, 2012
          |Reply
          • “But don’t you love coming home and finding everything exactly how you left it?” You mean a God-awful mess? Like my lawnmower in my dining room? Sure. I love it because nobody is getting on my case about it being there. Hey, I’m not bemoaning singlehood. I love being single. And take me back to the typewriter any day! I miss the bell of the carriage return.

            December 7, 2012
  5. silvia
    silvia

    Dear Campargirl,
    I love this piece because a) I finally have your daily time schedule b) I now know you have a dead line for your project to take off c) I adore the image of you devouring lines on someone else’s pregnancy d) every single word says this is me

    December 6, 2012
    |Reply
    • Are you trying to say I was being vague about how I occupy my time??? Or just searching for the best time to call you. Thank you for your thoughts. As always

      December 6, 2012
      |Reply
      • silvia
        silvia

        Not at all, simply saying, but probably not very well expressed, that sometimes when you put it black on white I have the impression of learning new details of you. And you know I’ve always envied your ability to split time in portions to fill up your daily routine. Maybe oneday I’ll convince myself to do it or find something that works for me.

        December 7, 2012
        |Reply
        • You are just perfect as you are. You take care of loads of people and have one of the most positive and all inclusive attitude to other people I have ever come across. What you need is a long holiday and time to chill out. xxx

          December 9, 2012
          |Reply
  6. Dear Camparigirl, unlike you I never made a big paycheck, so it was easier to walk away from it all to try to make it in this crazy world of writing. But we have both been blessed in so many ways, supportive partners and economic situations that make it possible. We may not have those superfluous things we had before, but “anger does not figure into the equation. . . any longer” (love that line!) And that’s the most important thing. A lightness. Have you ever been happier? I know I haven’t. My days are filled with A Bearable Lightness of Being! And as you sit there reading your newspaper, getting ready to write, in a ponytail and Pjs, I can sense your lightness too. So keep the words coming and it will all fall into place.
    Xx theg(r)eekgirl 🙂

    December 6, 2012
    |Reply
    • Thank you for your always unwavering support! No, I have never been happier but, you know me, still not quite able to say it very loudly. The superstitious Italian in me is hard to get rid of…

      December 6, 2012
      |Reply

Got some thoughts? We would love to hear what you think

%d bloggers like this: