2021: The year of the Great Resignation and the Great Re-evaluation

I said to a friend the other day, that all I seem to be doing lately is quitting and breaking rules. But it feels like quite a truth wherever I look. 

Whether it’s work, how we spend our time or considering our relationship with social media to name a few, there doesn’t seem to be many who aren’t in a post(ish) pandemic flux of re-evaluation. And maybe now is the right time for that. Maybe now is the time when we feel that we can allow our minds to consider such things. We may have had the feeling of our ‘not this’ over the past 20 months, but there simply wasn’t the space to countenance it when we were in the thick of the unknown operating in stressful, survival modes. 

I found it interesting that people are still signing up for my audio journalling guide: Lessons from Lockdown, but it makes sense because the truth is we’re still very much detangling and dealing with what we’ve been through. 

For me, I thought that my slowed pace was just a response to the pandemic. That my concentration span being whittled down to nothing was a symptom of the acute set of circumstances from which I navigated that season. But I am coming to realise that I am changed. And the place that most shows up for me is work.

I’ll just put in the spoiler here and now: I quit. Another job. Again. 

What if …for one day you didn't consider yourself as broken? Or as the problem? What if it really isn't you? And what if we remembered that coping mechanisms aren't meant to be long-term modes of operation? Or that maybe you can't cope because the mechanism is broken? Or simply a place where you are meant to be any longer? And what if we were reminded that a mechanism is "a system of parts working together in a machine." Are all the other parts playing their part?

I went back into full-time employment for the first time this year back in September. I felt ready. But soon after, I began noticing things that didn’t feel right. The presenteeism, the lethargy and experiencing what felt like 13 different emotions in three hours sat at my desk. My screen time shot up to ridiculous levels. I wasn’t eating right, and my bin at the end of a week was so full of chocolate and snack wrappers and Costa packaging, I’d empty it before anyone else could see and judge me more than I was judging myself. 

I felt frustrated that the work I had done for almost a decade, I didn’t feel capable of doing any longer. I felt like I couldn't hack the 9-5 anymore, but that I should be able to. I have lived my life by should. I should be able to should myself into anything. ‘Don’t be silly,’ I’d tell myself.  ‘You need to be grateful to have a job right now. It’s all in your mind, it’s not that bad.’ 

But you see, the thing is, when you start listening in to the quiet whispers of the innermost recesses of you, unleashed, you can’t un-hear it. It doesn’t necessarily get louder, you have just become more attuned. And my body was saying week in, week out: ‘No. No. This isn’t right for us anymore. Hello? You asked me to speak, so I am. No. Not this. I don’t want to make the best of a bad situation. What kind of phrase is that anyway?’

I must stress that this workplace was very decent as workplaces go. They were agreeable and easy to get on with. It was mostly an “it’s not you, it’s me” situation. I’d changed. My feelings towards work and what I need it to be for me and mean to me have changed. How I want to approach it has changed. 

And for some of those weeks, I got really angry at myself, wondering why I couldn’t make this square peg fit into that round hole, as I’d always done. But I had promised myself that “I will not stay, not ever again - in a room or conversation or relationship or institution that requires me to abandon myself.” You didn’t think you were going to escape a blog post without me mentioning Glennon Doyle or Untamed, did you?

I want to share something with you. Something I wrote for the lols at the time, but that was actually quite far from funny. 

Work day screenshot

I felt this multiple times a week.

And as I wrote in episode 14 of the podcast, all about changing attitudes to work, “the focus is no longer on making a living, it’s on making a life.”

What I think the pandemic did for me was allow me to see that I could relax into me: an ever-changing undefinable shape and still create, earn money, enjoy life, be loved and accepted, all at the slow pace that seems to be here to stay. I didn’t need to worry about holes anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. Holes, much like labels are fast fading into the background for me. Being able to say ‘I don’t care’ and ‘I don’t want that’ and genuinely mean it without envy via comparison, has given me a freedom that has changed my life.

This is my life, and I know what I want for this portion of it. 

I want space. I want a slow life. I want a soft life. I want to create gently. 

I don’t want to work full time. And for now, I don’t have to, so I’m not going to. And I’m not going to feel guilty for that. I don’t want to not work full-time because I’m unable to, or because there is another obligation to fulfil. I just… don’t want to. I am practising letting just my no, on its own, be enough to base decisions that are right for me on. 

I didn’t think it was an option before, so I would wear the right masks required, play the game, speak a certain way, present myself acceptably and contort and please.

I had been primed by the year that has preceded it though. I quit a job, I got more work. I lost a job, I got more work. I don’t view jobs as security anymore. I am my security. The abundance mindset can be a bit divisive, but I do have a feeling of abundance about work. There will always be more because I’ve changed the way I see it, what it means to me and what I need it to do for me. 

So, what I’ve figured out is that full-time work isn’t for me right now, and may not be ever again. I’m not averse to working, but whatever I do, has to help me create space to be, to  live the life I want to live, and to allow Frank+Feel to be a prominent part of the mix. 

But in the midst of all this, let’s just put a Virtual Virtue note for context. I think I’ll include these whenever I write, as context and nuance are the things so often missing from so much of what we see. I don’t think it’s owed to anyone, but it is helpful sometimes. 

I could quit my job on what seems like a whim, because I have a few months of savings, do freelance work that covers some of my living expenses, and live in my family home by choice. I don’t have children. I also think that this feels doable for me because striving has been a default in my life. I’ve gotten very good at getting by and making things stretch. That’s somewhat of a traumatised money response informed by my socio-economic background and upbringing. 

This is doable because I finally climbed out of my overdraft six years ago. Or because of things like having an old rust bucket of a car that I love, and choosing not to buy one on finance. Don’t let articles and YouTube videos make you think this stuff happens at the drop of a hat, because in most cases, its very possibility has been years in the making. 

Something for your journal: What are your great resignations and re-evaluations? Maybe your resignation isn’t in work, but you’ve resigned from a role or relationship. 

More: 

Audio Journalling Guide: Lessons from Lockdown

Embers (Replay): A journalling gathering for the end of the year

Episode 014: We Ain’t Never Gonna Be Respectable

Episode 008: This Is My Life

Grow With Soul: Guest episode 118 with Kayte Ferris

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