Thursday, 12 February 2009

Changing my life

I have done it now. I have put my notice in. I have no job to go to and no immediate plans to find one. What kind of idiot puts their notice in during a recession? I am surrounded by people at work worrying about redundancy and I know some people who have already been made redundant and who are coping with the knocked sideways shock of it all. I feel almost guilty for walking away from a job in these circumstances but I am doing so, and it is not even a job I hate.

Work has been a huge part of my life for the last twenty years or so. When my first marriage failed I had to earn some money so I was pushed back into the world of work when my children were quite small. I remember vividly going into Manchester for an interview, wearing my pre-children work clothes, feeling like a child dressing up, and finding that walking along the pavement in my high heels with no push chair in front of me felt strangely naked and vulnerable, as if my children were my protection. But work was a help, a structure for the day, scaffolding which supported me when my foundations were still shaky, something I was good at. I vowed then that I would never be financially dependent on anyone ever again.

As my children got older I worked harder and longer. I married again and my husband was massively supportive, taking over vast swathes of home life along with his own job so I could work away and climb the ladder. I have had a lot from work: purpose, expertise, clout, money, intellectual challenge and great company. It has been my own thing where I have been nobody's daughter, wife or mother, just me, operating on my ability, sometimes high on adrenalin, making my mark. Sometimes it has made me sick, with worry or literally, and often it has made me guilty, especially when my children were younger and nothing was ever enough, either at work or at home. But it has been, with my family, the focus of my energy for a very long time.

I am still not 100% sure I am doing the right thing in walking away. The process of re-evaluation though has been going on a long time, since 2004 in fact. In that year my elder daughter discovered that she had an ovarian growth. She was twenty four, young, beautiful, in love, living in London and doing a ferociously low paid job that she loved. She needed an operation and I was in the midst of the last push to the highest aspiration in my job. I wanted to be with her so I jumped off the conveyor belt, took some unpaid leave and, when I went back, resolved to cut down from the frantic travelling and sixty/seventy hour weeks that had been my norm. She was fine, her lump was benign and the time with her was precious. I cut down to four days and the following year we moved to Wales to fulfil a long held wish to live out of the city.

We had only been here for about three weeks when I became ill myself (there is a blog about it further down the sidebar somewhere which was a way of writing the experience out of me). Life was turned upside down. This too was an ovarian growth. When after six months or so I emerged shakily on the other side I had the profound sense of having been given a tap on the shoulder: "Hey, you, weren't you f***ing listening the last time?" Not rational, I know, I know.

So I reduced my hours to half time, determined to find the time to do other things, to garden and write and spend time with my much loved parents while they are healthy and energetic enough for the time to be a pleasure for us all, not waiting until they are crumbling and so am I.

And I have done other things. I have made the very beginnings of trying to create a garden out of hill and stone and rough grass, scratching so much at the surface that it would barely be visible to anyone but me. I have started to learn Welsh but am still not even in the foothills, just trundling along the approach road. I have devoted a day a week to looking after my grandson, now nearly three, not always loving it as I have never been great with babies and very small children, but gradually finding real satisfaction in slowing my pace right down, sitting on the floor, playing the same games and reading the same stories and knowing that this is special for him.

But it is hard to do a job which is a 100% job with a determination to give it only 50% of one's time. It has become harder and harder to feel that I am doing a first rate job and that matters to me. I have swung from allowing it to take over and to begin to eat up my time and energy again and pushing back fiercely, knowing that I will not be true to myself if I don't spend time on non-work things, doing them properly with just as much commitment as any job. When I leave my hillside I rarely want to go, however good it is when I get there, and in fact if it weren't for staying with my younger daughter when I am in London it would sometimes be nearly intolerable to leave. Seeing her gives me a personal reward for being away from home and stopping doing that will be a real loss in stopping work.

So I am going to stop. What will I do? I don't know yet. Some more of the same: gardening, yoga, Welsh, family. Something new: I am to be treasurer of the Blackden Trust, a blog in itself. Something else.

Sometimes you just have to hold your nose and jump in.

Dear God, I hope it will be ok.

43 comments:

  1. I think I am in the same conundrum.
    Thirty years in the Veterinary field, combined with owning a bookkeeping business, two years ago I made a complete change and became a leasing agent with an apartment community...
    Now I want to step down, and have some time to myself, do things I have always planned to do, not be on so much of a schedule.
    I'm looking for something that will just give me a few hours a week, and allow myself that "me" time, I so desperately seek.
    Change is good....
    Good Luck !

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  2. This is your chance to relax and find the simpler things in life that please you. Yes, garden. Grow your own food, pick yourself some flowers everyday. You will smile.

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  3. It will be OK.
    You're doing this with your eyes wide open and (God knows) with the awareness that life is sweet and unpredictable, so we'd best not wait and wonder.
    You've earned the right to take this step. There's more to you than mother, wife and professional woman. Have fun exloring the other parts of you. I'll follow the journey with interest.
    I had a look at the Blackden Trust site - interesting stuff!

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  4. I didn't jump - my health pushed me - but having the time to be ME and do MY things without feeling guilty has more than compensated. I am sure it will prove to be the right thing for you too.
    Whether we only have one life or whether we have many the idea is to live it to the full. Very best wishes for the future.
    SS

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  5. Phew..... You are a brave lady.
    I don't blame you one bit. You sound like you are in a really idealistic spot, so who would want to go in to London from there?
    Hope it all works out well for you.

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  6. Oh Elizabeth. You could have written some of this for me. The not being good at giving things 50%; the juggling yet it never being enough for either work or children. It is so how I am feeling at the moment. Good to read of your sound words and you know I think you have done the right thing. This is YOUR time, so now feel free to enjoy it xx

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  7. You will do it! Just give yourself time to see how you want to spend the rest of your life!! Its not a decision to hurry, nor does what you decide to do last for ever. Relax, enjoy each day as it comes, and give your body, mind and spirit time to settle, time to recover, and time to find their ways.

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  8. The very best of luck. As Pondside says it will be OK. My husband left his job three years ago because he couldn't face the long commute any more. He was (still is!) the main breadwinner and we had two small children. But it was damaging his health and I can quite honestly say now that yes, it was difficult at first, but it was the best thing. You are obviously a very talented and dedicated person and I wish you every luck with this big change. xx

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  9. Oh Elizabeth - this is a seminal post indeed. Gosh I can imagine a little bit of what you are going through. But you are much more of a realist than I ever was when I decided to leave the well-paid civil service to do my own thing in 1982. Ever since I have been muddling along. But I doubt you'll have any regrets - only the feeling of why didn't I do this sooner. Good luck and may the sun shine on you and your hillside.

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  10. Well done! You'll be fine, more than fine! you deserve it, give yourself what you obviously have been giving other people (and you job)Time!
    We don't have a dress rehersal, this is it!! Our Life, the only one. I think I'm telling someone who knows, how to suck eggs.
    Life will be different but so will you and you'll love it.
    I was taught Welsh in school and wish I'd kept at it, can't wait to hear how you get on!!
    Take care

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  11. The worst part in making the decision. You will be fine and start wondering why it took you so long to do it. Best of Luck!

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  12. Great news , more time to play is essential xx I think we all need a meet up at that garden centre again ..

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  13. "Hey, you, weren't you f***ing listening the last time?"
    I think that says it all. Shoulders back, don't look back, stride forward into your future, and enjoy it!

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  14. I gave up working four years ago to tend to home and children. It has been the best thing I ever did. I hope that's so for you.

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  15. I wish you the very best of luck, but I sense that you are one of the good people, and so if there's any justice you'll thrive in our new world order. Not to mention that you have gumption a-plenty.

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  16. I am sure it will be OK I have been in a similar position and worried myself sick about it - but i have never looked back - my life is my own and I have time to listen to the birds, look for wild flowers, read that favourite book, bake a cake - need I go on? The drop in income was never nnoticed when I no longer had to buy tight galore, new clothes, pay for taxis, run two cars etc. Go for it.

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  17. Your story of work, health and life is inspiring. Though it may not feel like it now, leaving a successful profession and moving toward an unknown goal can be exhilarating.
    It seems to me that you're due for a new adventure, and growth is often painful, and always scary. Tom Robbins said: When people tell you to shut up, they mean stop talking. When people tell you to grow up, they mean stop growing. I wish you well on your journey and your growth.

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  18. So many encouraging comments here -I think I should keep them to read on those days when I wonder what on earth I was thinking! It is also fascinating to realise how many people face similar questions and make similar choices. Not alone then!
    Thanks so much for the interest and the support.

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  19. I think you are listening to the inner voice, Elizabeth. Most people try to ignore it because it can lead you to difficult, uncomfortable decisions, but you'll come out of it a more fulfilled person. That sounds as if I'm describing something spiritual, which I'm not, I simply write from the experience of having to face up to a very tough decision and emerging a much happier person. Good luck.

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  20. Your story today resonates so much as it's so similar to mine.

    I'm just over a year ahead of you and enjoying all the opportunities that have come my way so far. And I still don't know what to do next, but I'm relishing that freedom.

    It's far better to jump in and see where swimming takes you than to stay resolutely on the side wondering what will happen.

    Good luck - you've taken the hardest step of the lot, so enjoy the rest of them.

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  21. You can now look back on your working life with great pride, while looking forward to the new. You have learned valuable lessons from the crises you've faced. Not everyone does.

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  22. Thanks for stopping by. Good for you, taking the big leap. If I lived anywhere near that header pic I would walk into it and stay. Simple things are the best. I still work part time. Decided to stay there since hubby just retired and is home ALL day. Love him lots, but not ready for that much togetherness. Hehe. Best wishes on your big step.

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  23. I only know the Elizabeth that has a beautiful home on the loveliest hillside I have ever seen. I have only seen that life of gardening and cooking and reading and quiet, so I can't quite imagine the high power, the kudos and travel and city and suits and high-heels woman. But you exude warmth and calm and capability and I know whatever comes next will see you flourishing.

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  24. I'm sure that whatever you do, you'll be great, elizabeth. Sometimes it's important to take a step back and re-evaluate. I know so well the frustration of not being able to give yourself completely to all the things going on in your life - a juggling act that becomes increasingly impossible. You've made a brave decision. Will follow your next steps with lots of interest...

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  25. i'm inspired by this. very inspired. and inspired by the way you have been living your life thoughtfully and purposefully. sometimes our purpose changes, and it is hard to change with it. but i love what you are doing and, for what it's worth, 3,000 miles away in the middle of america, you have enormous support and admiration.

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  26. Goodness, I'm consumed with admiration (and just a little envy). I wish you all the luck in the world.

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  27. Your plans sound exciting and very timely - I'm sure you will soon be so busy with other lovely things you'll be wondering how did you ever used to fit in a day's 'proper' work!

    I'm excited to learn of the Blackden Trust as it is near us and I had never heard of it... what a great opportunity for you.

    All the luck in the world to you!

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  28. Sounds like a thoroughly sensible decision to me. Good for you!!!

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  29. Hi thanks for your comments over at mine :)

    I've just spotted another of my regular readers today who's also taken the plunge. There must be something about February that's tempting you all to do it.

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  30. That is fantastically brave - well done. There has to be more to life than work and taking time to remember that is something I am not always very good at. I hope the space to breathe gives you some of the freedom to Be, not always having to Do.
    x

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  31. Oh my God! Somebody else sane lives in Wales. Miracles do happen it seems.

    Well done for walking away. I don't think you will regret it, in fact I think you would have regretted NOT doing it.

    Love the blog. Now must go and write about Saturday's date on mine...

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  32. It will be fine, it will be wonderful. But by heck I can understand it's scary as puck....
    Will you just look at those comments - you have the entire blogosphere behind you so how on earth could you possibly fail?
    I think you are doing exactly the right thing....and can't wait to see what Elizabeth Did Next.....
    jxx

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  33. I knew your news Elizabeth, but it was good to read through your thought processes; just sorry, as ever, that I'm a little late in getting here. I do so understand your dilemma, as I always seem to. You rationalise and express yourself so clearly. I just know you will be fine - better than fine. x

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  34. Elizabeth - I read this post with interest - but didn't know really what to say ... So I am back - and I still don't know what to say - but it looks like lots have people have said it all.
    So I will just say - great photo in your header picture. :)
    K
    xx

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  35. I di the same thing two years ago - I left a good job as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist in the NHS to work part-time teaching Tai Chi in schools and have the rest of the time to develop my reiki and reflexology practice from home and to just have a bit of 'me' time.

    I have never been happier. I hope you feel the same way in a few weeks - but be aware that you will feel very discombobulated by your freedom at first. I slept during the day for about 6 weeks as my body and emotions recovered!

    I read your other blog (- it moved me) and, trust me, you have more than earnt the right to do this!

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  36. Go for it. You'll be fine, even if it doesn't work out to be quite the same as you imagine.
    I haven't regretted giving up the day job for a moment in the three years since I made the break.

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  37. You believe in yourself and what you're doing. You'll be just fine.

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  38. I know you've been on the edge for sometime. How brave to take that final leap. As you know Robert did the same - he's only just getting over the initial shock and the feeling of swimming in a very unknown pond - but he's now embracing a much larger freer world. He took his time to adjust and didn't rush headlong into anything. He's never regretted it, even in a recession! We have plans together and private work, that he really wants, is beginning to come in (we also have a state of the art biome!).
    So, thinking of you, feeling for you, knowing you will reap rewards. Take time.

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  39. Elizabeth, thank you so much for your comment at mine this week. It was not harsh. I have made a choice which has and will have a huge impact on the children and wider family. It was a big decision and I hope the right one to make. Only time will tell. Thank you for your advice. I am sorry you have 'been there' too, but it is a comfort to hear form people who have survived.

    Your last 2 sentences on this post feel like my world right now - 'Sometimes you just have to hold your nose and jump in.

    Dear God, I hope it will be ok.'

    Thanks again, and best wishes and hopefulness for your future. :)

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  40. Hello, I'm back, just been looking at your lovely holiday cottage and thought I'd tell you thatmy brother is the professional at Denbigh Golf Club. Small world!!

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  41. What a fabulous post.
    So much here.
    Lots of people will murmur:" Yes, I know EXACTLY how you feel/felt!"
    But DO jump in and hold your nose and just you watch....you'll ZOOM up to the surface again and the sun will never have looked brighter...

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