Untethered (Part 2)

Friday, November 23, 2012 Permalink

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling a bit. A few days ago in my diet blog I wrote about not knowing what I SHOULD be doing or even WANT to be doing; and wondering what it is I want from life. Here I am, I said, in paradise and able to whatever the hell I want… I should be ecstatically happy, I said. And yet…

It’s about two months since I finished work and my plan to take an extended break to pursue my passions, well… has me floundering more than I expected.

Don't give up, the beginning is always the hardest

I’ve long desired to not-work. “You’d be bored,” people said. “No, I won’t… I’d fill my days easily,” was my response.

And I kinda do. On one level days are flying past. I am however, I must confess, wallowing a bit and throwing myself down onto my bed like a truculent two-year old several times a day.

As per my plans, I am trying. I’m making an attempt to settle into my new hometown: I’ve started doing Zumba with a bunch of older women and even joined them for post-class coffee on Monday. I’ve joined the library and knocked off nearly nine books in as many days. I’ve contacted a local writers’ group and am going to their next meeting. I’ve caught up with some people I met via Twitter and spent time with family who live in the area.

I’m not loafing about watching daytime television as feared, although part of me feels as if I’m still on holidays. In reality, some people do have two-month long breaks, so I guess I could be just vacationing. Indeed, every so often I find myself thinking, “When I go home….”

I’m creating ‘to-do’ lists so I feel I have some sense of direction and to help make my new apartment feel like ‘home’. I’ve tried to get rid of any unpacked boxes to rid myself of clutter and any feeling of transience and just today I’ve been out to buy another plant for my verandah.

In mulling over this sense of displacement I wondered if I could be concerned about money. Although I’ve worked out I have enough savings to last me a few months (disasters / large expenses aside), it’s the first time in my life I’ve got no money coming in. It’s all just oozing out of my bank account, in fits and starts. Indeed, nervousness about my finances has me pondering on the notion of part-time work earlier than planned and I’ve found myself checking out employment websites for something which would offer me some form of income for a few hours a week – to supplement my savings.

But…. after a mini meltdown yesterday (I was having a REALLY bad day and am COMPLETELY over telecommunication issues!) it occurred to me that what I’m really struggling with is my loss of identity.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not miss working. At all. In fact, after only two months off, I find the idea of  W-O-R-K-I-N-G (in the way I’ve done for most of the past 20-25 years) repugnant.

I’ve realised, however, that my entire sense of self is / was tied up in my working life. It defined ‘who’ I was. It was my purpose in life: I was a public servant, an international development worker, a Project Manager, an Executive Officer or a diplomat.

Sure I’m a daughter, sister and friend, but mostly I’ve been someone who dutifully goes into the office every day, does their job and goes home.

What I DID was who I WAS.

My plans to just tell people I’m ‘writing’ or ‘blogging’ still feel incredibly self-indulgent. Even I don’t take myself seriously (though I have just completed my first paid blog post!). I’m yet to ‘pitch’ ideas and attempt to ‘tout’ for work; but am not expecting great things.

In my diet blog post I commented on how confronting ‘not-working’ had been. When I first finished work I talked here about that sense of being ‘untethered’, but believed that once this new fabulous life started, all would be well.

My life as a writer...My plan was to make my life about things I enjoy doing.

Of course the cold hard facts are that to support myself in some way I will need to do some form of paid work outside of my writing. But… whether I’m capable of doing some (possibly) mindless part time work which allows me to focus on the things I enjoy is yet to be seen.

I do worry that I’m so scared of failure or rejection (in terms of my writing) that I’m delaying the inevitable and not even trying. In the back of my mind I expect that any day I’ll see some job advertised that I ‘wouldn’t mind too much’ and will again fall into a world where I’m defined by my work.

I suspect many people who ‘stop’ working and don’t immediately move on to something else (motherhood / other careers) understand what I’m saying. Perhaps?


  • Jo Tracey
    November 23, 2012

    You know, this is one that comes gradually. I had a mini meltdown at about the same stage & ranted around the house feeling sorry for myself because I’d always been identified by the roles I was paid for & if I was no longer paid by anyone, did that make me obsolete? Then I went to bali for a week. By the time I came back, I’d settled. Now, what I do is who I am & what I’m paid for in my part time role is just what I’m paid for. Hang in there. In fact, I reckon I might write a post on this very thing too…

    • Debbish
      November 23, 2012

      Can’t wait to read it Jo as I know you’ve had to find a balance – although you had the paid writing work AND your book you’ve been working on. I did at one point note that I didn’t talk about ‘writing’ as a potential career – more as a passion / my interest etc.

  • Satu
    November 23, 2012

    Oh I do understand you, Deb! I’m quite confused about what I am even at the moment 🙂

    It’s interesting to read this post because I’ve come to know you through your writing, not your day-time career because you’ve never much written about them on your blogs.

    I hope you can get yourself writing (fiction) soon. You could start with any piece of writing, for example that erotic novel(la) you mentioned earlier…

    • Debbish
      November 23, 2012

      It’s funny Satu, because of the positions I’ve held in recent years I’m very cautious when it comes to talking about work – or ANYTHING related to the government etc. Only recently have I made a couple of politically-specific comments in tweets and so forth, but am still conscious that I may again one day be a government representative in some way.

      I forget that most (nearly all) people who know me through my blogs don’t know about the rest of my life. (And I guess it’s the same for me with them / you!) It’s actually quite nice to be known more for your thoughts and opinions rather than how you’re ‘labelled’ in the workplace!


  • Becci
    November 25, 2012

    I envy you. I’ve always felt I needed to have a ‘job’, even when I had my two kids I always knew I would go back to work but it’s always been a matter of convenience and money that drives me. To actually sit back and find something to do every day that would be inspiring (which I hope to be writing that novel) would be very frightening for me. It may happen for me one day but I need to have the lady balls (and no mortgage!) to get to it, hopefully before I’m a crazy old dog lady. The only advice I can give (with no authority or experience whatsoever) is to stop falling into the habit of looking for a ‘job’ and instead look around for opportunities that can make you fire up – good luck!

    • Debbish
      November 26, 2012

      Becci, not sure about the lady balls, but the no mortgage helped me make the decision to take a break. I like your notion of looking for ‘opportunities’ instead of jobs. Great approach!

  • Melissa {Suger}
    November 26, 2012

    I hear you. When I first left Property Management last year it was 6 months before I went into other part time work. I napped, I wrote, I lady who lunched and I felt adrift from reality and all the people out there working, producing, doing stuff. Identity is a weird thing. It’s wrapped up in all sorts of things.

    • Debbish
      November 26, 2012


      I’m thinking more and more I’ll make a pre-emptive strike in the New Year and look for a part-time job so there’s less pressure on myself to either: make money from writing; or give up and go back to full time work. I think I’d rather START by working to support my writing rather than wait until I feel there’s no choice or that I’ve failed.

      And you’re right, it will be strange, working in something that doesn’t define my identity (unless I can find a writing-related job of course!!!).


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