Date: 28th May 2020 Days unemployed: 56 Days spent looking for a job: none Weeks spent in isolation: 10
When I started my sabbatical, I had great ideas about how much I would do. I couldn’t travel so instead I would focus on all the other things I wanted to do that didn’t involve being away. There were books to read, projects to knit, drawings to be made, a garden to look after, courses to take, introspection to be done. And more. There’s always more.
The first month, I tried to take it easy. After all, this was meant to be my holiday time and I needed to rest and recover first. It wasn’t always a success. I went out running too often (and raced too hard). I felt guilty most of the time because Mr K in the other room was being productive while on furlough and I wasn’t. Social Media and articles everywhere made it sounds like this was the opportunity to be super productive. After all, I had all the time, hadn’t I? The only other message out there was that if I wasn’t feeling productive, I should try to enjoy doing nothing and getting a rest. There wasn’t really an in-between. I thought that this was normal that I was feeling conflicted. I was adjusting to a new normal, while trying to take stock of what happened. To me, to everyone I know, to the country I’m living in, to the world.
The second month, I thought I’d try to get a bit organised. I had signed up for a couple of courses and I wanted to follow through with them. I was getting into a routine with a morning writing hour (courtesy of the London Writer’s Salon), a bit of exercise and some time spent on the courses throughout the day. Most days, that’s all I could manage. The knitting and reading I was so happy with the prior month fell to the wayside, along with any other activity I wanted to try.
I started feeling bad again. Why couldn’t I achieve more? Days seems to be slipping by with not much to show for them, aside from more kilometres run or ridden. I thought maybe I should aim to be less laid-back about all this and actually work hard for more than a 2-3 hours a day. Maybe I should have work days, with scheduled work time every week day and off time at the weekend. Or something like that. And then, that’s when I realised. Even if I did impose a stricter, harder schedule on myself, I still wouldn’t have time for everything I want to do. Everything takes time. There’s only a limited number of hours each day. I don’t actually have all the time in the world.
I’m surprised it’s taken me that long to realise. As a project manager, you’d think I would wake up each day knowing every task will take time and that’s why projects take months to get delivered. Weirdly, instead I wake up thinking all this doesn’t apply to my personal life and that I should be able to do and achieve so much, forgetting the constraint of time. The reality is that it is finite and every project, business or personal, especially the hard ones, will require many hours, days, weeks, months. Even if you’re at home, working or not, the number of hours in your day doesn’t suddenly expand exponentially to fit in all the unfinished or to be started projects in your head. You still only have so many hours each day and have to choose what you focus on. You and I simply cannot do everything.
Rather than being a blow to my expectations, it was a release. A weight off my shoulders. All of a sudden, it was ok. In spite of everything I was told, it wasn’t true I could do everything. I could be working hard and only have done so much. It was normal. Yes, I could be doing more. I could subject myself to a gruelling schedule with many more hours of work on courses and what the world qualifies as productive (anything to do with earning money). This is not what I want this time to be though. I want it to be about balance. About having time to enjoy a coffee outside first thing in the morning, listening to the birds chirping and feeling the crips cold air on my face or the tingling warmth of the sun as it rises slowly but surely every single day. Feeling the energy of writing every morning. The joy in having al fresco lunches with no meetings to go to. The satisfaction of having taken small steps towards a happier live, at 11am, 1pm or 5pm. Making space for what makes me happy and exploring more curiosities.
This is the space I’ve craved for so many years. Let’s not squash because of other people’s expectations. It’s my time to make space for what comes next.