“A wonderful day to spend among women in leadership” said Rashmi Karthik an attendee of Women #BreakingBarriers Bangalore. Breaking Barriers is now coming to Pune, Panjim, Kolkata, Coimbatore, Chennai. Register now to attend!
A great job that paid fabulously, no responsibilities; I felt I had it all. Until it all came down crashing around me, and I had to take some drastic steps.
I will be the first to admit that I believed I had it ‘all’.
I had a great career, spanning nearly a decade where I was engaged as a Learning and Development professional working with multinational companies, travelling to exotic holiday destinations that would cause Instagram envy, spending excessively on anything that caught my attention, because in my mind, I had earned it and thus deserved it.
To an outsider, I must have been the envy of many because I was a single independent working woman, who had no visible or conventional responsibilities that one would expect of someone by the age of thirty-four. But deep down inside, only I knew that my life was a vicious cycle of activities which were detrimental to my mental and physical state of mind.
For starters, that job that I so loved, had demanding hours where I was working long hours, at work and from home. I was constantly connected to my devices, attending meetings, taking calls, facilitating virtual learning sessions, working on reports at odd hours, which left me constantly in a state of fatigue. My commute to work involved an hour or so of travel, which gave me no time to include an exercise regime.
My eating habits were anything but healthy; takeout, fast food, and junk food made my sugar levels go awry, I constantly was hangry, and no amount of diet, will power, or portion control could make me move the needle on my weighing scale from the right towards the left. I was thus overweight and I resorted to shopping for newer clothes in larger sizes as and when my clothes became tighter.
I was also sleep deprived from the erratic sleeping pattern that I had created for myself with my commitment to my job deliverable, that often at work I resorted to drinking copious combinations of tea and coffee in varying intensities to keep me functional. I was always cranky, negative about many things, particularly when things didn’t go my way, and extremely on edge at work.
Stress must have been my middle name.
Given my extreme commitment to my job, my primary indulgence for myself was travel. The purpose of any travel is to relax, but instead it became the opposite for me.
I would pack in a very crowded itinerary of things to see and do, which would leave me further exhausted. I’d do it because I had to update it on Facebook, Instagram and create envy, all the while getting the most from my bucks at the destination. I lost focus on appreciating the moments while traveling, and instead was more focused on getting a strong WiFi connection to connect to the internet.
My job provided me with a lot of financial freedom, once which I used and sometimes abused; I reached a point where I was living from paycheck to paycheck. None of my income went into savings and most of it was spent on things like shoes, clothing, bags, and expensive meals with friends and family. I was lavish in my choice of spending, but none of my ‘investments’ would provide me with any returns, unless I made changes in my spending habits, which I’m glad to say I did, but in hindsight I could have done more had I not been so careless and reckless.
I also have to mention my non-existent unsuccessful love life.
As much as I enjoyed the financial freedom that my job offered me, I missed the opportunity to be able to share it with someone. And while I made adequate efforts to date, I often found that the demands of my job took priority over my efforts to commit to another person. There was also the hubris that comes with a well-paying job and position of stature, I wanted to be with a person who was in the same league as I was, had similar experiences and could appreciate the demands and rewards of my job.
And so I flitted from relationship to relationship, with a sense of emptiness, foolishly reassuring myself that financial security was all that mattered in the long run, even though I secretly worried what would become of me as I grew older in age and had no one to depend on in times of need.
Time went on and as I approached my ten year service anniversary, I began to question myself. What did I have, apart from physical possessions that I could look back on and be proud of? Did I have a legacy to look forward to? More importantly, was I happy?
As I introspected and reflected on these thoughts, I knew the answer was a big NO. I was unhappy, with myself, with life and everything in general. I was also overweight and dealing with health conditions which, if left untreated, could be detrimental to my future well-being. I realized I had to take some difficult decisions, ones which I alone would be responsible for, and I could blame no one for them.
And so, after much deliberation and consideration, I quit my job. I went cold turkey. For the first time in ten years, I didn’t have to leap out of bed, catch a cab and head to work where I hurriedly wolfed down my breakfast and downed a cup of Chai. I could stay at home and restfully sleep without a care in the world. I didn’t have meetings to attend, projects to complete, or reports to make.
Was it liberating? Yes it was.
Was I happy? Momentarily.
But deep down, I knew I was actually terrified!
I began to wonder what my sense of worth was. I had grown so used to associating my sense of worth with my job, that its absence made me feel inadequate. I began to feel like a fish out of water during social interactions, because unlike the rest who were gainfully employed, I believed I had nothing to offer for them to relate to. My decision to quit my job was met either with false envy and optimism or speculation and skepticism.
I noticed I that had begun to spiral into an abyss of self-doubt, and then I decided that I had better plan my unemployed life as I would my job. The only thing I was confident about was ‘working’, and even though I had chosen to be unemployed, I figured I could make being ‘unemployed’ a job of sorts.
I decided that I would establish a time frame within which I would set goals for myself that needed to be accomplished. My goals for my unemployment were to pursue alternate career options from Learning and Development, to post more frequently on my blog, to regain my health, and to detox from social media.
With these goals in mind, I rediscovered my sense of purpose, because subconsciously I knew that if I were able to accomplish them, I’d be the sole beneficiary.
I didn’t want to feel isolated, so I made it a point to draw up a list of friends whom I’d not kept in touch but was keen to maintain relationships. I made it a point to segment them into people I’d like to meet in person and those I’d like to have telephonic conversations with.
Each week I tried to make two or three phone calls and meet people once a month. Again, I wanted to focus on quality and not quality, so I wasn’t very aggressive with getting all my appointments done. I wanted my friends to also feel special, that I was not contacting them with the intention to drive away my boredom, but that I had positive intentions. Thankfully, they realized my intent and it was met and appreciated with positivity.
I cannot stress enough on the impact and results exercise has on your mind, body, and self-esteem. I signed up at a fitness center where I had a variety of options to learn each day- Yoga, Zumba, Aerobics, Bollywood dancing, Pilates and Circuit training. All these group classes provided me with a routine of sorts to get out of the house, get some vitamin D, breathe, burn fat and sweat it out.
I thus felt proud every time I learnt a new routine, built stamina, meditated, and became stronger physically. I lost 22 pounds over the course of seven months- no crash diets or extreme exercise-just regular exercise, portion control, a healthy diet and a lot of water.
I made it a point to assess my progress against my unemployment goals, just as I would do at work, because it didn’t make sense to keep a goal on which I had no interest in making progress or that had lost its steam.
Often when one no longer has a steady source of income, the natural tendency is to skimp on anything indulgent for fear of societal reproach and monetary loss.
I factored in enough savings to keep me comfortably afloat, prepared for any monetary exigency as well as some luxuries, during the time of my decision to quit my job. So as time progressed and I found that I had something to be proud of, I rewarded myself in simple ways- a new pair of shoes, a top that I had had my eye on for a while, dinner at a nice restaurant with family, and the most magnificent of them all was a ten day trip to Thailand.
While the gaps between these rewards were significant yet staggered, I felt particularly appreciative of the effort that went into obtaining these rewards beforehand. Delayed gratification is a concept that we can all learn from.
As clichéd as it may sound, I did in fact ‘find’ myself. With ample time on my hand, I found myself becoming more mindful as a person: I started listening more and judging less while engaging with others, I was able to concentrate entirely on a person without the distraction of a mobile phone, my ability to focus and be grateful while I prayed seemed to have improved dramatically. Physically, my body changed from all the exercise and the healthy food I ate; I began to chew better, savoring the taste and was eager to learn how to cook, a skill that I had never taken an interest in. With exercise came weight loss and better health.
The biggest change was my level of confidence and self-esteem, they received an ample boost. One of the biggest outcomes of finding myself was that I met my husband. I was in a better frame of mind to meet suitors than I had ever been for the last decade, and with my renewed sense of being, it became so much easier to make the decision to commit to him, without the baggage of comparison and uncertainty.
Anyone in their senses will rarely advocate unemployment, given that we live in an economic environment of needs that have to be consistently met (they don’t, really), and that it would be foolish to throw in the towel at a period when one is financially very successful. But we all must remember that life isn’t just about work and the money that you make.
It’s about the quality of life.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I thought I had it ‘all’. I didn’t. But I believe I’m right now en route to experiencing what it is like to have it ‘all’- one where my definition of ‘all’ is good health, mindfulness, a family, and most important of all-peace of mind.
I hope you rethink your definition too.
Published here earlier.
Image source: pixabay
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