The view from here
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A blank slate puts all of the control in your hands, which is both liberating and paralysing.
It has been nearly 6 months since I left my day job to pursue Travelher full time and turn it into something profitable. As many of you know, the decision to quit was a difficult one - largely because I actually liked my job, along with the usual worries about financial security, etc.
I wrestled with it for a long time before finally taking the leap. What finally made me do it was not anything earth shattering but rather a quiet whisper inside telling me to do something else. I always wanted to work for myself and now was the time to do it.
When I finally did, I felt free and also terrified. I set to work putting into motion an online concept I had been toying with for the last couple of years. For two months I spent every waking second thinking about the business and how to turn it into something great. And also kind of missing my old life. Not the job per se, but the whole routine and sense of belonging that comes with it. Now I was at home, still working all of the time - actually much more, and without a physical community of people with whom to share the burden.
The barbs of freedom
Once you are out of the familiar construct of a 9 to 5 lifestyle, the possibilities of what you could or should be doing can really bear down on you. A blank slate puts all of the control in your hands, which is both liberating and paralysing.
I also found it nearly impossible to disentangle myself from habits formed from getting up every day at a certain time and spending those specific hours in a structured setting. As creatures of habit, we tend to cling to patterns we are used to and try to master them.
I knew that I had to get out of my familiar environment to really appreciate the new situation I was in. It was time to finally take advantage of the lifestyle I had long dreamed about - being location independent yet financially stable.
After 6 years of living in New Zealand, I decided to spend a full summer at home in Canada. Suddenly I had to manage my time much more effectively. Instead of obsessing about every single detail about the business, I would have to be laser focused during my working hours so that I could spend the rest of the time catching up with family members and friends I had been living without for so long.
It is a challenge that I’m still learning to master. Sometimes I had to disappear for a while or skip entire outings in order to get my work done. However, being there in the first place is something that could have never happened had I stayed in my job.
With these new realities, I began to forget about the constructs of a daily routine and started living a daily life that made sense to me. I was working hard and playing harder.
The space between
Once I unraveled myself completely from the ‘normal routine’, it became apparent how much room there was for other things. As I had long suspected, working for someone else takes up so much of your thought process that you barely have time to recognise it let alone take steps to change it.
If it’s not about the job itself, it’s about the other aspects of it. The dozens of relationships you maintain in the workplace. Petty disagreements. Making sure people know you value them. Office politics. Contributing enough in meetings, but not too much. You go home at night and you carry much of these thoughts with you, doing your best just to forget about responsibilities for a couple of hours before you are back to do it all over again.
“Yes, that’s called having a job,” you might say. And you may be right. But that doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be, and more importantly, it isn’t the way it needs it to be. And now I know that for sure.
This is not the same thing as being unemployed, which we all have been at one time or another. Without a job, we are continuously in a place of lacking. There is plenty of time but no money to do anything with it. We spend our time obsessed with getting that next job to validate our existence and continue filling up the bank account, paying off debt, or whatever else it is.
Now that I’m in a place where I’m neither consumed by the directives of an employer, nor financially struggling, there is a whole new world of possibility to fill that space. This can be exhilarating but also terrifying.
With that space comes more questions about life as I had known it. Existential questions about what comes next. And that’s kind of where I’m at now. Back in New Zealand and thinking hard about the next steps. As a 30-something female, there are some obvious well-trodden paths to try. And don’t even get me started on the pressure around that. But then there’s also so many other things rushing to fill that space. My mind is a jumble of different directions.
It’s of course wonderful to have a lot of options! I’ve just been focused for so long on this one goal of getting to the point where I can work for myself that now that I’m here, everything else suddenly seems urgent and confusing.
Has anyone else experienced this? Where the realisation of a goal leads to an existential crossroads?
If only we could live forever...
Author - Meghan Advent
Co-founder of Travelher. She's traveled to all 7 continents with no sign of stopping any time soon. If there's a cat nearby, she will hug it.