Earlier this year, I was unhappy in my job and decided to take some extended time off. I was in a unique position where I had a permanent job to return to in three months, which helped shake off unemployment concerns. At just 26 years of age it probably seemed premature to be booking in my own long-service leave, but I didn’t care. I needed some time off and space to stretch my mind and relax.
I didn’t have any grand plans for an overseas trip, though I did consider it. Maybe I could just hang out in South-East Asia for a while. I enjoyed Vietnam when I went, Cambodia could be good. I don’t really want to go to Europe, I have been before and my partner and I plan to go next year. After about half a day of pondering, it was settled – no big solo overseas trip. I didn’t want to fork out money on flights just for the sake of it. I only wanted to go if I really wanted to go, and I couldn’t find that feeling in me. My partner and I did pop across to New Zealand for two weeks, though this had been planned for a some time.
I never took a gap year after high-school, or university, and I’ve always been the type that doesn’t sit still for too long, so it was a strange feeling to be diving into a long period of time off with no concrete plans. What will I do? Will I get bored? What art classes could I sign up to? Should I learn a language? Maybe I could do a Yoga Retreat? I don’t even like yoga!
One rule I did set for myself for this upcoming period was ‘No Lists’. I am a big list person and they often provide structure in my life when nothing else will. I set this rule because last year, when I had a week off between two jobs, I made myself a stupidly-long list of ‘Things to do’. I only ticked half of them off and felt like a failure. I also exhausted myself in the process. I didn’t want to revisit this feeling and so ‘No Lists’ became a thing. For the record, I did keep this promise to myself and it was oddly freeing to not have a collection of tasks haunting me. Though, my memory is pretty good so if there was some piece of life admin to attend to, I usually just remembered to do it.
I could wax lyrical about all the mundane things I did, the movies I watched, the books I read, the recipes I tried, the big hikes I did, the small trips I took, the times I woke up not knowing what I’d do with my day, the life admin I achieved (my car is now super clean, and serviced), but I’ll just tell you a few things I’m proud of, and also what I learned.
What I’m proud of:
1. I relaxed
The main reason I don’t often take time to relax is because I don’t think I deserve it. Unless I’m run off my feet and achieving world peace, why should I treat myself to a cup of tea and a sit down? Sometimes I don’t even think I’ve ‘earned’ washing my hair if my workout wasn’t intense enough, seriously. I’m smart enough to wash it anyway but it’s a weird mindset I’m trying to change.
Alas, in the last three months I can honestly say I spent a considerable amount of time relaxing – out in nature, on the couch, walking, watching a movie, reading a book. It was great, and the world kept turning. It may seem an odd thing to be proud of, but it’s a big deal for me, and I look forward to finding time to relax when I return to working full time.
2. I tried new recipes
A nice little routine I got into with my extended break was borrowing recipe books from my local library. There’s something nice about flicking through culinary delights and potential options for dinner. I made some hearty meals for my housemates, learned more about my spice cupboard, made lots of loaves of banana bread and had my first go at making my own granola. When I look back on my first year living out of home when my appetite revolved around mexican beans and rice, I’ve come a long way.
3. I started this blog
Since keeping a blog in 2014, while I was on a university exchange, I have been wanting to get back into it ever since. I just really like sitting down at my laptop and writing out whatever is on my mind. I find it therapeutic and a good way to organise my thoughts. Doubt and reluctance did creep into my mind as I thought to myself, what will I write about if I’m not travelling? Who will read it? Is blogging still a thing?
After literally days of brainstorming a name for the blog and navigating the plans on WordPress, I settled on ‘Maze of Moments’ and began with introducing myself. From there, everything seemed to fall into place and I’m really enjoying it so far. The challenge is going to be blogging when I’m back at work though I’m determined to make time for it.
4. I went hiking in Central Australia
A few months ago I discovered a women’s adventure organisation called ‘Women Want Adventure’. I noticed they had a Larapinta Trip coming up in the middle of the year. The trip involved hiking parts of the Larapinta Trail in Central Australia with other like-minded women. I was keen for the experience and given my new year’s resolution of ‘more hiking’, it didn’t take me long to book it in. Now that I’m back from this trip, I am filled with a new found love for being in nature and out in the elements. I’m proud of myself for hiking 81kms in 5 days and making some new friends along the way. I’ll be writing about this adventure very soon.
What I learned:
1. It’s okay to not book a one-way ticket
As mentioned, I couldn’t find it in me to head off overseas for a couple of months. Maybe if I’d been 21 again I would have felt differently. Having time to myself, at home, was my priority for this period of time off. Life is not always an inspirational quote on your Instagram feed and it’s okay to crave some downtime right where you normally live.
2. Routine and structure can be important
I’ve always been the diligent type and not being at work didn’t change that. Most mornings I would still wake up the same time as my partner and have breakfast with him before he went to work. This was a really small thing but a nice way to start the day and it added some consistency to repeated days off. I did a trial at an F45 gym, a yoga studio (I still don’t like yoga all that much) and also joined a ‘Meet Up’ group that goes for bike rides in my area. These all added structure to my days and also reasons to get moving.
3. Weekends can still be exciting
I read a few posts about taking a long break that said the weekends will merge with the weekdays. Personally, I still looked forward to Friday because that meant spending time with my partner and my friends. As I live in a share house with people that work full time, my weekdays were still differentiated from my weekends. Having the house to myself on a Wednesday was certainly a different vibe to having brunch with everyone on a Sunday or doing an activity with my housemates or other friends.
4. Once you do go back to work, you don’t have to put your pursuits on hold.
Over the past few days I’ve been getting this sinking feeling that my time is running out and I need to cram in as much ‘stuff’ as I can before I return to work. By stuff I mean books, blogging, hikes, bike rides, new recipes etc. I realised after a mild panic that this was pointless thinking. Having a full time job should not stop me from being creative and trying new things out.
It has been nice to have extra time to do all the ‘stuff’, and I accept I’ll have less time to do it once I’m back into a full time routine. However, I am trying to remind myself that relaxing, trying new things and working full time don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
5. Having a job can be important for socialising
Something I have noticed since having so much alone time is that I’m not interacting with people like I would in an office environment. Having work friends can be important for your social skills, mental health and feeling like you’re part of a team. It’s something I have missed since not being at work and I look forward to interacting with colleagues again soon.
6. Life and work are marathons, not sprints
Taking three months off from your career may seem daunting when you’ve put in the hard work at university and written countless job applications, but it doesn’t have to be. The older I get, the younger I realise I am. At 26 years old, I know I’ve got years ahead of me to achieve all the things I want to achieve and build up my career. Humans need recharging too and there’s no shame in taking time out to recuperate and reset.
While I was on my extended break, I was in fact offered a new job that I’ll be starting soon. Not once was I asked about whether I was currently working or not. With enough experience on my resume from previous positions, I don’t think it really mattered.
7. There’s no one-size-fits-all for approaching extended time off
Before I started this time off, I spent what felt like hours searching language and art courses in my area. I felt like this was something I should be doing. I was very close to signing up for a French course before I realised I was just trying to be poetic, not because I actually wanted to dive back into conjugating the future tense. I would say it’s important to do what you want, how you want. There should be no pressure to be turning into a different version of yourself.
8. Having good money habits pays off
Speaks for itself. Save while you’re working and going without an income for a while won’t be so stressful.
9. Libraries are awesome
Use your local library, you won’t be disappointed. Want to borrow a book? Get some study done? Read a magazine? Do some printing or photocopying? Search old newspapers? Take a break from the outside world? Your library can probably help you.
On the whole,
I am pleased, proud and that little bit wiser since deciding to take a three month break from work. It’s not something I had planned for long at all, though it certainly came at the right time. I’m not feeling super romantic or poetic about life right now, just happy I had some time to stretch and recharge.