For two months straight I have noticed a lingering fascination with the post I wrote about resigning from my full-time job to dedicate energy toward other endeavors. People want to talk about this subject in the grandstands at the kids’ sporting events, at family functions, on walks, and over coffee. I even received an email from a friend in Japan who shared that she is re-thinking her work commitment, knowing it may mean a smaller paycheck. Apparently, this idea of balance is on the hearts of many, but what does it actually look like to leave, or cut back from, a full-time job? Is the grass truly greener? What is life like on the other side?
Let’s just cut right to the bottom line: Whether you quit your job or reduce hours you will likely have less money in your bank account, and so life on the other side will likely involve discipline with the budget. It just works that way. Are you ready for that? I mean really ready to take the plunge? Below is a snapshot of our lifestyle (context: we are a family of four and had two incomes prior to my transition).
* We grocery shop one time a week, purchase a lot from bulk bins and make all meals at home now (vacation as an exception). We let our Costco membership expire as we found that we bought too many non-essentials and the food would often go bad with the large volume. We have a garden and use a rain barrel to collect garden water.
* We committed to no new clothes this year. Now, in all fairness, I hit a great sale and stocked up on kid shoes for the next 12 months. Thankfully we inherit hand-me-downs and, as a fun aside, I actually mend the kids’ clothes when they get holes!
* We have one TV and no cable subscription. We never buy DVDs (they are free at the library along with books). I carry a flip phone. When our laptop broke I purchased a used Mac for the great price of $100 (it is a slower model, let’s be honest). We turn off the lights when we leave a room, run the dishwasher and laundry only with full loads.
* Our cars are older models but paid off. We don’t spend money on pedicures, manicures, house cleaners, lawn maintenance services, etc., but we value health insurance, education, and vacations so include those things among our expenses.
And all of the random items that we used to buy because purchasing was convenient? Within the limitation comes creativity. Thank you to our neighbor, John, for loaning us your tall ladder to clean the gutters! Thank you, Mom, for sharing your Costco deal on toilet paper! And, thank you to our neighbor, Mac, for letting us chop up your fallen tree so we can give the firewood to mom to repay her for the toilet paper! I could go on here, but you get the idea. In fact, one fun thing I have discovered is that there is actually a barter culture out there on the other side. Wood for toilet paper, anyone?
So, before you cut back on your job/paycheck, get real about whether this sounds ideal… and not just for a week but as a lifestyle change. It’s not that you won’t find abundance, it’s just that life on the other side means encountering abundance in new ways. Abundance is not experienced through large quantities of material goods but rather through life, energy, and relationship. Board games, picnics, walks with friends, and time of solitude are all activities that infuse life energy. It harkens back to a simpler time. Fewer hours at the office means more hours to engage elsewhere. Less money in the bank means getting creative about using, and re-using, what is already there.
Other benefits and challenges with life on the other side? With true work/life balance, it is possible to further live into our priorities and the change of pace is conducive to greater integration of values.
Huh? What’s that last piece about “integration of values?” Let me explain.
We sometimes embrace values conceptually but don’t actually live them out fully, and this results in a disconnect. Integration means connection, wholeness. In other words, actually doing what we believe we do. While working full-time I maintained that I was the same person on the job as off the job, living out my values around the clock. In many ways this was true, but life on the other side has revealed that I have room to grow. I just did not know what I did not know. For example, family is a value but I am now more patient with kiddos during the morning routine. Wellness is a value, so I now cook dinner from scratch with whole foods. And I now take the time to make better choices with respect to conservation to live out simplicity.
Living into that which we value takes margin and when there is no margin the default is convenience. Perhaps the greatest aha moment about this life on the other side is that I can look back and see that before when I thought I was thriving I was actually just surviving. Now, with more margin, thriving is possible and with it comes lightness of spirit.
It goes without saying that the idea of thriving is attractive, and yet it is usually at this point in the conversation that I hear the comment, “but where else can I go/work that ___?” The truth is that if you adopt the mindset that change is just not possible, then you might unknowingly be embracing a perspective of scarcity and fear. If this is the case then the odds are pretty high that you actually feel trapped. I am here to tell you that life will look different on the other side, and it may require sacrifice, but there is great freedom that will come when you leap from the nest of familiarity. After all, leaving the nest is how you soar.
At the end of the day, you have to decide if you are ready to re-calibrate. If you find yourself frustrated with the dynamics in your life, there are three options: accept, influence, or leave. Prayer, reflection, and meditation should be part of the process. Complaining and criticizing will not help you move toward a better dynamic.
But here is the good news: you don’t have to quit your job, you just have to find the sweet spot! I am actually working part-time now and loving every minute of it. Perhaps you hit great balance by working 35 hours a week, by changing jobs at your organization, or by working from home more often.
Whatever it takes, I hope you will join me in life on the other side. In my experience, it’s been worth every penny.
About the Author: Jen Macnab is an avid reader, writer, and runner who recently resigned from a full-time career in higher education to pursue balance and simplicity. Jen launched Toward Thriving, LLC to support others on the journey toward best self.