When you think of your weekend, what do you think of? For most, it’s two precious days that you can spend doing whatever you want, getting up whenever you want, being on no one else’s schedule. What would you say to an extended weekend? Three days? Four? Most people I know would be pretty excited about that. What about a week? A whole year?
Today is a pretty special day for two reasons: first, it marks three years of living in Canada for me (crazy, bizarre, unbelievable, feels like only 2 weeks I got off the plane from the UK). Second, it’s been 365 days since my last day of work. A year-long weekend.
Take a moment to imagine that. You wake up in the morning, the day stretches out ahead of you. Maybe you’ll go for a walk, read a book, watch a movie. You can take your time; you have all day. And the next day, for tomorrow will be the same. And actually, the day after that… and the day after… in fact, you have no obligations for the foreseeable future, so you can do whatever you want.
How does that make you feel? Excited? Jealous? Worried?
Perhaps you cannot even fathom a life without your job. I think that’s quite normal, because in our culture, which values productivity, being successful, and making money, taking an unpaid-unstructured-unplanned year off is pretty unheard of. (Having said that, my post “How To Be Unproductive” is my most popular, so maybe times are changing.) If we do leave our jobs we often start another immediately, if we’re lucky with a week in between. For me, it took being forced off of work (visa stuff), or else I never would have stopped working. Realising this is why I decided to write something about the last year, because it hasn’t been what I expected.
So, one year of “days off” later, what have I learned? Has it been fantastic or have I plunged into new depths of boredom unexplored until now? Have I financially ruined myself forever?
Well, honestly it’s been great. Without anyone to tell me what to do, I’ve resorted to doing stuff that I actually WANT TO DO! Every SINGLE DAY! And I’ve been so busy, it barely feels like I have enough time to write this blog. Ok, there was a brief time when I was spending a bit too much time playing online cribbage, but whatever. For the most part, I’ve been busy with projects, hobbies, studying, going on adventures, and so on. I certainly don’t have a spare 40+ hours a week to go to work, I’m at a loss how anyone has time for it.
Maybe here I’ve struck upon a fairly normal dilemma: people don’t want to go to work, they’d much rather do their own projects/hobbies/etc. but they have to work in order to earn an income. But if that were true, then why don’t people find a job that they like? That aligns with their interests? Seems kind of obvious, that’s what we’re always told right? Follow your heart! Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!
However, that leads to the question of, well, what do I like? And I found this question impossible to answer until I gave myself the space I needed to figure that out. Unfortunately, usually we’re kept so busy by our work that we don’t have time to explore what really makes us happy. For me, the escape from the pressure of having a job was monumental.
Maybe that sounds a little drastic. Financially, it’s not been the best year for my bank account. Thankfully, I have no dependents, pets, or financial obligations, apart from paying rent, and after 7 years of being a student and then a ski resort worker, I’m accustomed to living very frugally. And I’ve actually surprised myself at how little I need to get by.
The number of people who I’ve talked to during this last year and said something like, “wow, I wish I could have a year off work”. Or “wow, you’re so lucky”.
Well, why can’t you? What’s stopping you? Think about it. It doesn’t have to be a year, even just a couple of months of contemplation, exploration, and pursuing things that you truly love. Maybe I’m an optimist. I understand it’s not for everyone and not everyone’s situation will allow it. From what I’ve learned in this past year, however, is that the best way to figure out exactly how you’d like to spend your life is by taking away any obligations, anything that doesn’t give you true enjoyment (you can read this as: things you do only because you get paid). Get rid of all that, see how you spend your day, and then figure out how to align your work with that. It might be easier than you think and it might just change your life.
I know that was some unrequested life advice that might not make sense to everyone. I hope that at least it made you think. I’m going to be writing some smaller, slightly different pieces in the coming months, so let me know your thoughts. I always appreciate all the feedback I get.
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