I have been taking notes about how the experience of “not working” is evolving and I will be sharing regular updates as the time passes. This the first update since I quit my job.
Thanks to the year that I picked to quit, my post-corporate life wasn’t anything like I imagined. Last year, I was dreaming that I would be traveling all around the world by now. My plan was to spend the first 4-5 months in Asia, then fly to Europe and spend another 5-6 months before exploring Latin America and the Caribbean. I was going to salsa dance in Cuba, watch the fireworks at Taipei 101, get lost in the little alleys of Tokyo and jump around with the Barca fans when Barcelona scored against Real Madrid in the Nou Camp.
Universe had different plans.
The week that I traveled back from Tulum and was about to give my resignation, the first Covid cases appeared in California which was followed by a ”shelter in place” order. This was the moment that life has officially changed for the rest of the year. Now we were stuck in our homes for an unknown period of time. Since I wasn’t planning to sit at home and binge on TV shows after quitting my job, I stayed in my job for a few more months. But once you set your mind to quit, it becomes more and more difficult to concentrate on work. Countless meetings become even more meaningless, Slack messages at 10pm feel more and more disturbing and pressure at work feels completely unnecessary. Therefore, I decided not to wait until traveling opens up and just pull the plug. I was going to learn Spanish and work on starting immigrantonfire.com until traveling opens up safely.
So I gave my notice, helped transitioning my projects for a few weeks and finally stopped working completely on a Friday. I had no clear game plan about traveling given the uncertainties due to Covid.
First Monday: Day 1 of No Corporate Job
The first day, I immediately felt a great relief of pressure. Even though I liked my colleagues and thought that I didn’t have a super stressful job, I realized that I was actually very stressed out. I was especially traumatized by Slack, constant flow of messages day and night, hoping that your name is not “mentioned” in a message (since at the minimum it would require you to respond which would then require reviewing what has been discussed in earlier messages and come up with a proper response. Other ones would require a “quick” look up or calculation of things, the worst ones would start another hairy project, one more thing to add to your already full plate.
First Monday after quitting, I woke up without an alarm around 9am. I had an urge to check my Slack for a nanosecond, then realized that I uninstalled it on Friday last week. It was a priceless moment of serenity. It was like jumping into cool waters from the burning sand. I asked my Google nest to play happy Monday music (and it actually did) as I lazily played with my phone for a bit.
Around 10am I finally got out of bed, I prepared my oatmeal and coffee as I listened to my Cuban Son playlist. While having my power breakfast, I read the news and chatted with family. The weather was surprisingly good for a summer day in San Francisco (Google Mark Twain’s comment about SF summers) so I went out for a run. The streets were mostly empty, so I ran in the middle of the road shirtless with the warm sun providing me all the vitamin D and the feel-good hormones that I needed. After the run, I made myself a bomb smoothie with banana, spinach, blueberries, strawberries, chia seeds and almond milk and sipped it while people watching by my window. After doing all these, it was still just 1pm. I started realizing that a day is actually 9 hours longer when you don’t work.
For the rest of the day, I started studying Spanish through Rosetta Stone (it’s free if you are a member of San Francisco Public Library), did my P90X workout, prepared a yummy plant-based meal while having a glass of my favorite wine (see Jam Cellars cabernet). I ended the evening with a mini-binge of Better Call Saul. It was past 2am when I went to bed. No alarm set for the next day.
Day 7 of No Corporate Job
The first week of no work felt like a month long. I had extra 9 hours every day that I had to fill with something. Honestly it felt a bit uneasy as I wasn’t used to the “not required to do anything” situation since I started elementary school. If I didn’t want, it was perfectly ok not to do anything. But those moments also felt unproductive and somewhat guilty. Going from 100mph to 0mph felt stagnant and anxious. I decided cut myself some slack and take it easy on me as it was just my first week. I was adapting to my new life.
Having full control on your time was a big responsibility.
I realized that if I did three things at the minimum, I felt much better. Workout, build or learn something and meditate. I was planning to start building immigrantonfire.com but couldn’t find the motivation. I guess one benefit of the work place is the pressure that it builds to get things done efficiently. When it disappears, you need to build your own accountability mechanism which takes some adaptation time.
On the other hand, I enjoyed how every day was equally valuable. Poor Sundays were now as valuable as Fridays. I started noticing how small things actually matter a lot. For example, not rushing when preparing and eating meals made me feel calm and content. Having a clear mind not clouded by work-things enabled me to be more in the moment. The flexibility to choose “what to do when” helped me organize my days the way that works the best for me.
The first week gave me hints about how post-corporate life is not going to be all roses and I will actually need to spend quite a bit of effort to create a new normal that will enable me to keep growing as an individual.
Day 30 of No Corporate Job
As days passed, I experimented with completely unstructured days and very structured days. I realized that unstructured days felt chaotic, unproductive and even somewhat depressive. I felt the best with mostly structured days as they felt more productive and organized ultimately leading to more progress and some unexplained joy.
Therefore, I started to build a new routine. Here is what my days more or less looked like:
~9am: Wake up naturally, play with the phone for 30 mins in bed (I know it’s bad).
9:30am: Prepare breakfast and coffee. Listen to energetic & feel good music. Eat it by the window imagining how life was before Covid. Catch up with the news.
10:00am: Study Spanish.
1:30pm: Prepare lunch.
2:30pm: Take a walk outside or go to the park to read while maintaining 6 feet distance from the closest human being.
4:30pm: Write, work on immigrantonfire.com.
7:00pm: Meditate, catch up with friends.
7:30pm: Prepare dinner.
9:00pm: Free time until going to bed around 12:30-1am. I would typically include reading, Netflixing, playing Catan Universe, chatting with friends and family, researching latest travel restrictions, checking how the world is managing Covid to identify where to travel first, dreaming.
Within the second week, the days started to become more fluid and I started losing track. Since then, I need to think for a moment (or check my phone) to see which day it is. Thanks to my new routine, I started making the most out of every day. I rarely missed a workout, progressed rapidly in learning a new language, ate clean and nutritious food, meditated regularly, slept well, and built the foundations of immigrantonfire.com! Most importantly I had no stress left, I found myself smiling for no reason and felt very grateful for everything that I have.
I also did couple of getaways in the beautiful woods of Bay Area, renting out cabins during weekdays for great prices. Here is when I was going through the potential destinations (don’t judge my Smirnoff Ice!) in one of the cabins:
Of course there is a hot tub outside, on the right side. It looks magical in the dark night with countless bright stars in the clear sky enchanted by the steam coming from the hot tub.
This was my first month of jobless life. More updates to come!