when the honeymoon of leaving a job is over (or, what do i do now?)

face realityIt’s been more than three months since I left my last part-time job. It was a job I took with excitement. After practically a lifetime of working freelance from home and raising four kids, I looked forward to getting back out into the “real” world, working in a field I really liked and collecting a steady paycheck. Because of circumstances somewhat beyond my control (a difficult boss, health issues, the reality of the cost of commuting to a job that paid very little), I decided to leave my entry-level job. I continued to work remotely while I held the part-time job and would have to leave better-paying work at times to drive to my barely above-minimum-wage gig. It was starting to make little sense. So, when two coworkers were promoted and replaced with inadequate substitutes and another left for a full-time work-from-home job, I began questioning my part-time career choice. So, I packed up my things and I quit, swearing to my besties at the office that I’d come by every so often.

The Honeymoon

The early couple months of leaving the job were amazing. My last day was seventy-two hours before my birthday, and I was delighted to not have to find someone to cover my shift so I could take the day off. I spent my birthday the way I wished. I did miss being out of sight and out of mind, however, when I received no happy-birthday wishes from any of my previous coworkers. My name was still on the birthdays list on the whiteboard in the break room. Did no one remember?

But Christmas and New Year’s, two and three weeks later, were quite pleasant. I had time to shop, cook, bake, buy a tree, decorate the house, and hang out with family and friends without worrying about having to run off to work or fitting those tasks in around a schedule. I also had time to have coffee with a good friend I hadn’t seen in at least nine months, go on a hike with another I hadn’t spoken to for even longer than that, and meet up with yet another longtime girlfriend. I was beginning to picture not only what I had missed while holding down that job but what I had in store for me in the immediate future and beyond, namely the freedom to do the things I wanted.

The Reality

But then reality hit. It’s now three and a half months later and not only have I not seen a single one of those three friends since, but I almost never hear from the couple-dozen people I used to work with either. I haven’t set a hiking boot on a trail, nor shared conversation over a latte, even though there’s a Starbucks on nearly every corner. I missed the constant companionship of acquaintances and good friends at work whom I could see on the regular. I also realized that people are busy, too busy to incorporate old friends who are not in the everyday picture into their lives.

The Phases of Leaving a Job

I have read that there are stages of retirement or leaving a job, something like the stages of a marriage. You start out with giddy anticipation, enjoy a honeymoon phase of doing those fun activities that had been postponed while working, and then  spiral into the reality of your new situation, which often comes with disenchantment. What at first had sounded like a permanent vacation or at least a sabbatical turns into the reality of not having enough to do to feel fulfilled. Boredom, laziness, and feelings of disillusionment can set in, and money can become an issue if the income you were used to is not there. It’s great to meet friends for lunch or a round of golf, but it’s not so wonderful if you’re on a fixed budget after a source of income has dried up.

The Next Stage

Most people do adapt to their new situation. They learn to live within their new financial means. Many fill their days with other activities to substitute for work, like volunteering or traveling.

I’d thought my freelance work would make up for what I was losing leaving my part-time job. But freelancing is a fickle work situation. (Think feast or famine.) One of my sources of income–the work I enjoy most–slowed way down this year. I had had four assignments in January and February of 2018. This year I had zero. In fact, I’ve worked on only one, single, small assignment since then.

Yes, I’m saving money by not commuting. (I spent at least $1,500 a year in gas and another $1,300 in car repairs while commuting). But when the money doesn’t appear in the form of a paycheck, it’s harder to see the savings, and many people chuck the “freedom” of being out of work with what they left: They look for another job.

A New Job?

Today, I have a phone interview for a part-time position. I’m not sure I even want this job. It sounds like it comes with a good deal of responsibility and I don’t know the exact number of hours per week or even which days and times of the day I’d be working. I also don’t know what it pays,  but from reading some of the job boards for this institution, pay likely is low, though probably a bit more than what I’d left. And the commute is shorter, not in-my-immediate-neighborhood shorter, but about half as far as the last job.

So, I’ll give the interview a go, but if I take this job or any job, it will be on my terms this time. No more nighttime work; no more weekends. I think of all the Saturdays and Sundays I gave to that last job and it kills me. That is one thing I do not regret about giving up that position.

Plus, I’ve just gotten used to my old routine of being home again. Even though I’m not bringing in the money right now, that can change, and I do like being able to throw a load of laundry in when I think of it or running to the store or walking the dog when I get the whim and not when I’m exhausted from having been on my feet and then stressed from driving home.

The honeymoon may be over on leaving my job, but I look forward to continuing in a long-term relationship with freelancing. Whether I take on a little side action is yet to be seen.

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