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Three weeks into Life 1.2: What I’ve learned so far

Right now

Hi All! So, since I last wrote, my request to go part-time (0.5fte) was granted and I’ve dipped my toes into the water of part-timeness! Three weeks, to be precise, though part of the first week was on holiday (in London and Brighton) and work’s been weird and work-busy this week as it’s Fresher’s Week (I work at a uni) and I’ve been in in-person for the first time since March 2020!

It’s been an exciting transition, though truthfully yet to reach the heights that I felt on the precipice of putting in the application for real! That was just freeing. Which in itself says a lot. The commitment to my Self was a Big Thing to get my head around when society says that you should work full-time or otherwise be doing something productive. But no, I’ve not even promised to do more housework and my child is definitely going to after-school club everyday (he’s 5 now). My pre-child self would have thought that self-indulgent, but now I know I’m a better mum this way.

From the outset, this blog had a tagline that I later removed, something like: “On my journey to Life 2 via a midlife gap year”. Given that I’ve gone part-time for 2 years, it only recently occurred to me that, seriously, I’M LIVING THE DREAM!!!! This IS my “Midlife Gap Year”. What did I want to fill this new time with? Well, very loosely, I have wanted to:

  • Live a more creative life
  • Live a healthier life (aka not sitting at my computer all day every day)
  • Strike more balance, with more energy for my family

I don’t have joint finances with Mr Firelite, so at the same time I am aiming not to decrease my ‘net worth’ and hopefully for it to continue increasing. Besides that, I realise that there may need to be some financial investment in order to live my creative, healthier life, to make the most of my time and learn from the best. I honestly think that in the past I’d have been extremely reluctant to make such an investment – but I really do KNOW now that time is such a finite resource.

From my previous FI perspective, I could see this as a trial period of ‘early retirement’ or the (partial) Independent Life. I can try different things and see what I might like build for my post-FI life. All with the safety net of some income still (and the possibility of returning full-time after 2 years).

From a perspective of where I’m sat now (well, I’m in a café, but I mean the phase of life I’m in!), I look back and see how hard I have been working for a long time now, and that things look predicted to carry on in that way (in ways I like and don’t like), but I’ll never just suddenly get more time to do X, Y and Z, to grow in new ways. Responsibilities seem to only increase; cynicism is a horrible beast. Yet I have more to give besides my job. An experimentation toward fulfilment, I guess.

So, what have I done with my free time so far?

While I planned certain specific ideas, I haven’t really stuck to it! This is what I’ve actually done:

  • Doing a 4-week ‘writing a book proposal’ course online (though fallen behind)
  • Working on a book idea/s (none concrete yet) and researching for one of them
  • Work stuff – a conscious choice, though intending for this to decrease!
  • A bit of reading – personal development books
  • Gravity yoga online course for more flexibility
  • Signed up to an in-person intensive art (drawing) course

If this sounds like hard work, haha, then I can seriously say I’ve not slacked much at all – I’m still always running late to pick my kid up and struggling to fit in lunch! No mid afternoon naps, Netflix binges or meeting friends for coffee! And before I start sounding too self-congratulatory, still far too much sitting down at my computer!! A lot of this has been due to the writing course, but I signed up to that on a bit of a whim given that it was running for the last time this year. By my standards it was a high financial commitment, and only time will tell whether it was worthwhile.

And have I enjoyed going part-time so far?! Hell yeah, I can safely say right now that it’s already been a positive decision but not in ways I expected. Going part-time has given me the mental space to truly appreciate my work achievements and to value my time IN work a lot more. I have suffered from some type of imposter syndrome since forever (where you simply think you’re an imposter as opposed to suffering from the syndrome!) and paradoxically going part-time has enabled me to come out of my bubble and see myself – past and present – more objectively. To appreciate how specialist my knowledge is (in ways good and bad). To understand my failures were due to focusing too much on the ‘low hanging fruit’ and that I need to use my precious time to be more selective.

I’m feeling more sure now that I’ve got a book in me and at the same time I have new insight into how gruelling the business of writing can be; it’s not all about the kind of creativity I’d like it to be! The processes of drafting and re-drafting, there are striking similarities with my work life! I have gone to more different places to do this – cafes, parks – but I did enjoy doing that anyway in my pre-pandemic life.

I think, most fundamentally, not having to spend all productive hours on externally led goals that paid work usually entails is liberating. I like myself more. I generally think of myself as open-minded, but having spent weekends recently going away camping with my son (just us two) and trying out family martial arts, maybe this is a spillover. Rather than fighting to counteract the rigidity of work life outside of the 9-5, it felt like this was a part of my life. And when I am ‘in work’, my decision making comes less from a place of needing to meet other people’s expectations (as I perceive them to be). I am more my own person.

There is a lot of fear though. If I dig a little deeper. Fear because I’ve not being artistic and creative for so long, not truly so for decades! What if I’m crap? Fear of being out of touch, fear of not producing a tangible, successful outcome – whether it’s writing a book (gulp) or ever regaining the flexibility of my twenties (haha). I am trying to focus on PROCESS – enjoying the process. But I think it’s fine to acknowledge the beast that is fear. The other side of the coin is excitement – I wonder where this two years of part-timeness will lead (if anywhere). Good things happen when we open ourselves to it, right?

If you’re wondering where my finances are up to since I last updated, I’ll post on that VERY soon! Thanks for reading. Please do comment if you have anything to share or ask! Book ideas welcome. ;P

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