This is what happens when you don't work for half a year
March 10, 2016
I guess not a lot of people have the possibility to willingly experience what it is to NOT WORK for 6 months. And also without being a parent... In my eyes: that is also a job so I exclude staying at home 'moms or dads'. I mean actually FREE FOR 6 MONTHS. What happens when you can get completely out of the system?
This is of course not a scientific based article, just my personal experience... I want to describe what happens when you stop working (at least, what happend to me). A lot of my friends ask: "What do you actually do all day?" I expected this question, because I would have asked exactly the same a year ago.
The first months are really vacation Since June 2015, I stopped working as a fulltime project manager. First I traveled around Europe for 5 months until Dimitris got 'back to work' again. Although not into the real office life, but working from home most of the time. The first weeks of June, I had to really 'wind down' of the high tempo I was used to live with. I was still busy planning what will we do tomorrow and next week, where do we go to, how do we get there, what shall we get for groceries etc etc. Planning, scheduling and so on. But then vacation modus kicked in. Letting go of everything and starting to forget what day of the week it was. This happend for me after I think 3 weeks. Before that I was of course enjoying my vacation big time and I was relaxed, but I started to really notice it after 3 weeks that I didn't know what day it was. It stayed like for about 3 to 4 months. Complete vacation mode ON.
In the beginning I just wanted to do nothing and relax. Read a book, take a walk, make a bike ride, shop for some nice food and that was it. Then I became a little bit more active regarding hiking, biking, a bit of running and swimming. I started to notice that I had more creativity, I got more inspiration to do stuff, to explore the area or decide at the last moment where to go to. It felt like there was more space for new ideas and interests.
Then your everyday life continues
In November Dimitris went back to work and the full vacation mode went off. Although it was for me still some sort of vacation, after the 4 months that started to change. It became normal and before I knew it, I found myself starting to do things again. I automatically found something 'to do'. Like this blog for example. I guess it is in the nature of people, or at least in my nature to do something (even though you do not get paid for it). What I also noticed is that my days got a little bit shorter: you sleep more, take your time to wake up slowly, shower, eat breakfast etc and before you know it, it is 11 o'clock in the morning and you still didn't go outside. It is the phenomenon that everybody knows from people around them who don't work. They have 1 or 2 things planned per day and that is already more than enough. While, when you work fulltime, that sounds like SO LAZY. With this part I struggled a little bit and I still do. Some days I have the feeling I don't do ENOUGH and other days I manage to get a lot done and I ask myself 'Why...?'. So I guess I have a love-hate relationship with this one.
One other thing I noticed, is that my health improved. Of course I can not exactly connect it to this but I noticed I hadn't been sick for over 6 months. This was for me a long time. Not that I was that often really sick before, but I had a lot of times that I didn't feel fit, was a bit sick for a day etc.
But you are no longer part of 'the society' However, the biggest consequence was not that my days became shorter or that I was more healthy. The one thing that really hit me when I came back to the Netherlands, was the fact that you are no longer 'part of the society'. At least not the one I used to be part of. I was biking through Vondelpark around 6:30 PM on a Tuesday evening and I saw the whole 'working society' passing by. People in suits biking towards home. Mothers with kids whom they just picked up from day care, rushing to get them home for a quick dinner before they go to bed. I saw at least three dozen women jumping up and down on the grass having a bootcamp session. Runners doing their rounds in the park after work. Everybody in a rush to get home or to their next appointment. I stopped in the middle of the park to see all this happening and I felt like a stranger. Like I was a foreigner. What was my part in all this? Being back in your hometown after 5 months felt good and super weird at the same time. I didn't know how it worked anymore. My way of living changed and it felt like I didn't fit in anymore with the 'city society'...
Some sort of guilty feelings rise
As I said before, it wasn't that I was sitting on my ass all day. I had plenty of things to do. I could do my run during the day, when the parks weren't fludded. I could go to the famous Albert Cuyp market at 10 o'clock on Wednesday morning when there was hardly anyone or get my groceries in the supermarket without standing in line. But I didn't go 5 days a week to the office. On one hand this was a great experience. I could actually enjoy Amsterdam much more. But a weird kind of feeling grew: guilt. Sometimes I felt guilty that I didn't 'do my part' in the society. Guilty that I could sleep untill 11 o'clock if I wanted, while my friends are working hard from 8 o'clock in the morning. Guilty that I didn't do enough to enjoy my 'free days'. A really weird feeling if you think of it. It was not that I was taking advantage of anyone, so why would I feel guilty? But in my head, the 'city society' is completely set up around working 5 days at the office, or at least 4... And if you do not work, you better use your days to the fullest or do your part in a different way. As I said, this was my feeling and maybe this image is completely wrong...
Because of this and the feeling that I didn't fit in anymore, I was happy to leave Amsterdam and spend two months in Greece.
And then new ideas grow... Since last February, I started to work again, more or less. I started up my own company (together with Dimitris) which I really like up till now (although I did get sick two weeks ago, can not escape that one forever I guess). The idea to start up a company came by itself during the winter we spend in Greece. And of course also the fact that some money is needed at one point, chips in to the whole thing. But I never had the need to start up my own company before. I actually always said that I would NEVER do that... Kind of funny if you think of it. Now I can decide what I do, how I do it and when I do it. This feels like I have kept my freedom. But let's be honest: the first pay check hasn't arrived yet so let's see how it goes. I give myself 6 months to get this thing up and running...
So that is what happend to me after not working for half a year: in the end new ideas, a new company and of course a complete new way of living... Still sometimes a bit lazy but well: do we need to be busy or is being a bit lazy allowed?