Year 2020 has been different in many ways. One change that I experienced the strongest is the change in the way we work. As many others have publicly shared, the pandemic and the experience of working from home has made me reevaluate life.
I spent hours thinking long and hard about whether the life I created is the one I want to keep up for the next decades. The answer wasn’t as straightforward but the right feeling wasn’t quite there.
It’s not that I don’t like what I do in my day job (I’m actually really passionate about my day job) – it’s more about how and where I do the work.
Office Life & Commuting
The thing that I can’t continue doing for many years to come and that has slowly been brewing under the surface is spending all my days in an office. And also commuting to an office. It’s what everyone talks about these days. Because for the first time in their life people have seen improvements in their health and wellbeing due to not having to commute for so many hours every day.
They suddenly found that they have more time for their loved ones. Time to dedicate to exercising, eating healthily, reading or just spending time in nature. Sitting in a car/train/bus did not make them better employees. Newly-acquired time and a healthy balance did.
2020 made me realize that I don’t miss rushing every morning to spend hours in traffic just so that I reach the office where I theen do all my work from the computer anyway. No, I definitely wasn’t missing that. It didn’t make sense anymore. Why did we ever think this was a good idea?
During my one-hour commute to the office I’d be thinking about all the things I could be doing with those extra two hours a day. I’m sure millions of people felt the same way.
Funny, how a new reality of working from home changes the way you think about time and the value it has.
Some say that they missed the office vibe, the conversations, and the social aspect of working in an office. I get that – if you are an extrovert who gets energized being around people. But not everyone is an extrovert. Some people thrive in queit spaces with zero distractions. For some people it’s enough to come to the office one day a week.
Everyone is different. We shouldn’t put people in boxes and decide what normal is for them.
I also need the diversity. I am so much more productive and efficient if I can tackle jobs without chatter in the background. If I can listen to ambiental music and do my research without any interruption.
Work is a huge part of our lives so why not enable people to work in the way they feel is best for them?
Deciding to take a Career Break
So here I was, soon to start my career break. When I shared this plan with others there was a clear division in how they reacted.
There were some, a minority, who supported me and told me that it’s good to take a step back. Take time to figure what’s next.
But there were many more who were immediately perplexed in the sense of What on Earth are you thinking? And Did you lose your mind? They didn’t understand why anyone would leave their job in the middle of a pandemic.
This group had the typical fear-filled questions on what will I be doing with all my time. They all shared the opinion that of course, one must work. What else would I do with my time? They informed me that I should not have a break on my CV. That’s not a good thing. What will my future employers think?
At this point, I realized that we are wired to think in a very strange way. We think of our lives as a straight trajectory, where everything must be in perfect balance. To constantly follow a script, just so that everything makes sense to others. There should be no deviations from the plan.
It’s just a CV, it’s a piece of paper. Surely our life is much more than that? Were our predecessors’ lives worth any less just because they didn’t have a picture-perfect CV to validate them?
I brushed off the comments from people who were projecting their own fears and insecurities onto me. Because I understood where they were coming from I did not take these words personally. I too was (and still am) a victim of our society’s expectations and pressures.
That expectation to tick certain boxes and in a particular order. The pressure to climb the career ladder, follow the crowd, purchase a million and one things and acquire massive amounts of debt. Everyone is supposed to buy into this dream. It’s an endless cycle of consumerism without thinking about the bigger picture.
First Office Job Stint
You never forget your first and the same goes for your first job. I still remember my very first office job. In my early twenties and enthusiastic about this short summer internship. I found a company with a small team of very cool people who would show me the basics of running a Company.
The team was very nice, I got along with them well. The problem was that I had to be in the office for eight hours every day 🙂 This was a shock to my body and I felt exhausted every day. During our daily break, we would sit in the sun and enjoy our coffee and I kept on asking others how they managed to cope.
How were they able to sit in the same office day after day? The response I received was a couple of awkward smiles and shrugs. They were probably thinking how young and naive I was – clueless about how life really works.
Nevertheless, despite all the signs that got sent my way and the same old feeling I had almost instantaneously after starting yet another job, I still ended up following society’s expectations.
Graduate, get a cubicle job, improve yourself, climb the ladder, and repeat this year after year.
I knew there were other things out there. People who lived a different life. An alternative way. But I guess I didn’t have the experience and wisdom to give it a go. And let’s face it, it’s hard to think about alternative ways if you have zero savings 😀
Life is Too Short to Let Fear Get in the Way
If anything, 2020 taught us that life is short. It’s painful to be struck with this reality. So many people lost their loved ones too soon. So many dreams ended without having a real chance.
The lives that this pandemic has claimed left a mark. We owe it to them to stop this madness and think. What do you really want to do in life? What fires you up inside and makes your eyes spark?
Maybe we don’t have to make a radical change to leave your job. It might be a case of taking small bits of your time to spend on something you love. Or asking to reduce your hours or to work remotely.
I guess the thing I want to change in my life in 2021 is to be more bold and take risks. To find a way to do the thing I love most and do it in a way that works for me. Thankfully, people’s values and lifestyles are changing and with it so is the world of work.
Another thing I learned in 2020 is that nothing is guaranteed. If we thought we had certainty before, we were wrong – we never had it. Nothing is certain in life. So it makes sense that we are brave and bold? When, if not now?
It’s definitely daunting to try something unknown. Without the cushion of an employer and a steady paycheck every month. But I’ve accepted that this is my journey. If I think taking a career break is what I need at this time then it must be the right decision.
Here we go – on to new beginnings!
- Why Taking a Career Break Is Good For You
- A Year of Changes, Growth & Being Bold
- The Pandemic Made Me Re-Evaluate My Life
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