No Going Back

It’s been six weeks since I quit my tech job and set a new goal for myself: to never have another job interview, manager, or performance review again.

Life on the other side is better than I could have imagined, and has brought pleasant surprises.

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but it may be not having to do anything right away, first thing in the morning. Sweet Husband and I can wake up as quickly or as slowly as we need. This has been restorative, sanity making, and health improving.

Having a completely natural sleep cycle has been a revelation. Sometimes we are in bed by 9:30 PM, sometimes it’s 11 PM. Sometimes we wake up at 6 or 6:30 AM, sometimes 8 or 9 AM. Our bodies get the amount of sleep they need, when they need it.

We feel so much better, it’s not possible for me to put it into words. We had no idea we could feel this good, ever, much less in our late 30s. All of the little issues and troublesome nits that prompted us to say, “Guess we’re getting old” are gone. Now we say, “Guess those problems weren’t about aging at all. Guess they were all due to stress.”

There are very few times in life when we humans are allowed to sleep when we need to, for as long as we need to. For most of our lives, our bodies don’t get sleep when needed, or as much as needed. No wonder we feel awful. When we’re babies, we’re allowed to sleep, but then… We might be waking up at a certain time for nursery school by the age of three or four, certainly for kindergarten and the rest of our school years. My high school’s first bell rang at the ungodly hour of 7:35 AM. Not long after that, you may have a job with breakfast meetings at 7 AM and video conferences with Europe at 5 or 6 AM.

I don’t drink much alcohol anymore. I wasn’t making an effort to drink less, but one day I noticed I hadn’t had wine or beer in over a week. When I worked in tech, I had at least one glass of wine at the end of most days, sometimes (usually?) more than that.

I haven’t exercised as much as I should be for the amount of free time I have, but I’ve still lost weight, though I wasn’t trying to. (I’m at the low end of my BMI range.) I haven’t changed what I eat, so I guess the accidental weight loss is due to some combination of improved sleep, reduced stress and not really drinking alcohol.

There have been lovely moments of bliss, of simple pleasures realized, that have made me choke up a little. One afternoon, for example, I was bringing in fresh smelling laundry that had dried on the line and the smell of my husband’s beef stew wafted over the yard. It was a perfect moment, one that would otherwise have been lost to work time in two tech offices. Moments like that make you realize what you were missing, and that it was so much more than you realized.

I didn’t plan to work, but I recently took on a part-time freelance contract that an old business acquaintance approached me to do. It’s my favorite kind of work, genuinely enjoyable, and going really well. This client is not in the Bay Area, so my work is refreshingly free of the Silicon Valley BS making the rounds these days. No one has asked me if I’m “out raising a round” or “looking to get in on the ground floor of something super exciting,” nor have I had to hear “Internet of Things (IoT).” Hallelujah!

I’m getting a lot done. Because I bill hourly, I set the stopwatch on my phone when I start and stop working to accurately track my time. I’ve been stunned at how much I get done in an hour. No one interrupts me, I focus, I get into a flow state, and just an hour later I’ve gotten so much done. And when I’m done, I’m done. I can read or nap or knit or cook or do anything else. I don’t need to continue to sit in the office, keeping up appearances until it’s an “acceptable time” to go home.

With great freedom comes great responsibility, however. I’m the only one who can waste my time now, so I’ve learned to watch for little distractions and time wasters. I’m working to optimize what I do and how I do it, in order to be more efficient for my own sake — learning certain software better, creating short cuts of frequent processes with hot keys, that sort of thing. It’s nice to have mental space and uninterrupted time to think about such things. At my tech job, I never had time to tool up for my own sake.

Before I made this jump, I was in “I wonder what this will be like” mode. Now, I’m in “I have to make this work” mode, because I can never go back to my old life. Never. I will do whatever it takes to stay out of large tech organizations for the rest of my life. I’m committed to keeping this new life I’ve found, and it feels great.