It’s been awhile since I wrote something. Truth be told, I’ve missed the sound of my fingers typing on the keyboard, the smooth movements, the ideas flowing through my head while I’m typing. What has been stopping me then? A lack of motivation for one, but also no ideas for a good blog post. The focus of my blog has shifted to testing during the last 2 to 3 years, so it feels different now to write about something not test related. Like that isn’t allowed anymore, but it’s my own website! Craziness. The tagline is even “Maaike’s blog on testing, thinking, and life”. So, this will be about ‘thinking’ and ‘life’.
If you weren’t aware already, I’ve quit my testing job back in March (2017). The reasons for that are myriad, but most importantly I was very unhappy. It sucks to admit to that on the internet, but it was true. Unhappy with the direction I had taken myself, unhappy with what I was doing and basically not enjoying anything anymore (also not outside of work). I feel very fortunate that I had the financial means to quit for awhile. I was already saving up to quit work for a sabbatical in 2018, but the circumstances made it necessary to do it in 2017. I say necessary because I fear that had I continued, I would have been home with a burnout quite soon. The telltale signs were there.
Signs of physical and emotional exhaustion? Check.
Depression? Double-check. Hello darkness my old *friend*.
Signs of cynicism and detachment? Did anybody call my name?
Signs of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment? It certainly felt that way for me. I remember that painful moment when I had to write a report for a client and my mind was just blank. Writing had always been what I felt was my strong skill and suddenly that was gone?!
In any case, my boyfriend asked me why I was continuing. I honestly never considered quitting before that, I was just desperately trying to make it to 2018. That blissful idea of the sabbatical, that El Dorado, kept me going (or so I thought). We also had the idea all thought through. We were going to buy a campervan, tour Europe for 8 months or so. If I would quit in 2017 there wouldn’t be enough money to do that (a campervan is quite expensive, even second-hand ones), so quitting wasn’t an option. Again, I had to face the fact that you can’t plan your life. Not really, anyway. Once my boyfriend mentioned the idea to me and stressed that he valued my health and sanity more than the original plan with the campervan (bless his soul), the idea of ‘quitting now’ started making a tour through my head. It’s not an easy decision to make, you know.
I’m not a firm believer of ‘steady job security’, so that wasn’t a concern. I also had arranged my life to be cheap for awhile now to help buff up my savings account, so money wasn’t a concern as well. Of course, it will run out, but I have enough to last me a year or more.
No, the real troublemakers were the concoctions created by my own head. It’s quite easy for me to get to a place I call ‘toxic thought world’. In this thought world, I am useless for society if I’m not working. I’m not exactly a homemaker type who enjoys cleaning, cooking and going grocery shopping. So what exactly was I going to do, hmm?! Having a career was the big thing I believed in. Because… you have to *do* stuff, right? RIGHT?!! Else, you’re just wasting space on this earth. Exactly this type of thinking is what got me feeling worthless in the first place. Whatever I was doing, it was never enough. I always could do better, more. The productivity craze has really gotten to me, ya’ll. (Even after 4 months of not working I have trouble losing myself in a book or in a game. I feel guilty for not doing ‘useful things’. Clearly, I have ways to go.)
In the end, I decided to quit working. I simply didn’t think I could make it in 2018. That fact alone was a big wake-up call. In March, I was a free person. Not bound by work anymore, although my mortgage is still there. Gah.
I can tell you that after a good 4 months, I’m not waaaaaay more happy than I was before. El Dorado appears not to be a lush beach lined with palm trees, but more like the landscape in the Netherlands; not ugly, but also not amazing. That is to say, I’m not unhappy anymore and I feel calmer and more composed. However, I’m not going around jumping with glee telling everybody they should quit work and find themselves. I’m simply not that kind of person. I have re-found joy in many things, thankfully. The main thing is that I can enjoy feeling social again. I have spent much more time meeting up with friends and I can enjoy it again. Making music is great again too. I do yoga every day and make sure I eat well. I do enjoy cooking more now.
The big challenge is still the way I handle things. That’s why I started reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” again. This time, I’m not only reading it, I’m actually going to DO IT. I’m currently still at Habit 1: Be proactive. There’s no easy solution. I have to take accountability for how I carry myself about in this world. I enjoy taking care of my body with good food and enough physical exercise. Now it is time to take care of my mental space. Yoga helps, meditation helps, but of course, the big challenge is to take the toxic out of my thought world as much as I can.
My problem is not ‘what is happening to me’. It is how I react to what is happening to me. There are people out there who have it much harder than me but who feel happier than me, simply because they are more mentally resilient. I envy that skill. If you have it, I applaud you!
A big part of Habit 1 is also the question: what motivates you? I really have a hard time getting to an answer. That is because there is not one answer! I used to think that you had to be ‘passionate about something’. But I’m not. I’m sort of half-arsed passionate about a lot of things. Doing one thing for a long time bores me. That’s why I wasn’t able to be a professional musician. I have never been insanely focussed on one thing. I enjoy a variety of things. For some reason, I had (have?) a warped idea in my mind that this approach to life is sub-par to a single-focussed one. That having one passion is more desirable than what I have. The truth of the matter is, most people don’t have this burning passion for one thing. And that’s okay (that’s what I keep telling myself, anyway!).
This thinking about how I lack passion and motivation, combined with the feeling that I never do enough, is still the biggest problem in the day to day battle with myself. Some days I feel quite alright, on other days I’m really anxious and I lose the mind-battle with myself. When that happens you can find me on the couch watching something on YouTube and avoiding the news and the ‘look at my life being awesome-posts’ on Facebook, most likely. Thankfully, even on the bad days, I find myself doing yoga and cooking something healthy. Apparently, there is always a little motivation for some things… deep down in my core. That gives me hope. The road towards finding purpose(s) is in front of me and I’m taking steps, sometimes small, sometimes big. Sometimes, I fall flat on my face and get injured, but that’s part of life. The trick is trying to enjoy the process, and accepting reality, even when you fall.
Wow, this post has evolved into something serious! I don’t want you to worry about me. I will be fine, I will land on my feet. I just want to be honest about the harder parts of my life and not pretend like everything is cool and dandy. That’s why we have Facebook, to showcase how awesome our life is, right!? I think that many of you who read this struggle with something. Maybe you will recognise some parts of what I wrote, some parts not. If you like, share your struggle with me. I always appreciate people being open towards each other and getting to know a person beyond the superficial.
The next post will focus on the positive outcomes of having so much free time and what I plan to do after my time off.