Preparing for the Return to Work (When I Really Don’t Want To)

It was only a matter of time. From a combination of lots of accrued holiday and some compassionate leave, I have been out of the office for three and a half weeks. The clock started ticking about a week ago; a little whisper of “this time next week….” getting louder and louder as the week progressed until now – Sunday – I can hardly hear myself think for the hammering of that blasted second hand, reverberating inside my skull.

Over-dramatic? I’m just being honest.

Maternity leave aside, this is the longest period of not working I have had since I took that first step onto the career ladder and what a ride the last few weeks has been.

From the exhilarating highs of our family get-away to the crushing low of dealing with a family health situation, work has been flung far from my mind. I feel like I have been living “real life”. Spending time with my family in good and bad, no distractions.

It has driven home to me why I am doing this. Why I focus on saving and investing, track my expenses, drive them low and keep them low. Why I monitor my net worth, measure progress and get excited at the month-end to update my spreadsheets. Because constant practices like these, over time, are what creates financial independence and financial independence creates freedom.

I’ve had a taste this last few weeks and it has been wonderful. In years past I would have been terrified to take so long out of the office and my email out of office message would have read, “I will be checking email intermittently”. But having this security nestled away gave me the ability to take a real break and for those precious few weeks simply not give a damn about anything except us.

The Battle Between Lean and Comfortable

The battle that plays out in my brain constantly is choosing between a lean FIRE and a more comfortable one. I could stop working now and have enough money coming in from a combination of rental income, drawing down my ISA and various interest sources to fund a basic lifestyle. Granted, no frills, but a perfectly adequate living and a back to basics mentality. Personally, I am attracted to this simpler life and if I only had myself to think about I would go for it. But there is my family to consider and so the opposing sides fight it out in my brain daily.

If it gets to breaking point, of course I will resign and deal with the consequences. But am I at breaking point now or is this churning in my stomach a bad case of Sunday Night Syndrome? Is this feeling any worse than what the boys will be feeling when they have to go back to school this week? My advice to them is that it will feel better once you get there and so I am taking some of my own medicine and just getting on with it.

Resetting the Mindset

There are a few things I have been doing or telling myself to make the coming days a little easier.

  • Make an effort to stop hating the day job. Remember – it is the reason I will be able to retire decades earlier than the norm. Try to re-frame as gratitude rather than resentment.
  • Remind myself of my FIRE goals – what were the financial targets I set for myself which need to be reached before I pull the plug?
  • List the big expenses coming up in the next few months which would take a chunk out of my FIRE fund if there was no income coming to pay for them.
  • Recognise I am not alone in this pursuit even though there is nobody I can speak to about it “in real life”. Take comfort and learn from others on-line who I admire. I love this post from Our Next Life which is about surviving along the way.
  • Have some mantras at the ready to pull out if needed:
    • Nothing lasts forever.
    • This too shall pass. (It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass).
    • I’m here because I am choosing to be not because I have to be.
    • A year from now, this <particular problem> will all be forgotten.
    • I can’t control everything, but I can control my response.

The Other Side of the Argument

Even as I write the above list, the “let’s quit now” army of brain cells is fighting back and demanding I consider their point of view. Experience tells me if I try to drown them out I will feel trapped and that my situation is out of my control. I need to bolster my confidence and remind myself that even if Monday turns out to be a bad day, I have choices – a mental security blanket if you will. So there are a few things I am doing:

  • Reassuring myself by reviewing the numbers for a “quit now” scenario, building in all worst cases and seeing that, yes, there is enough.
  • Having a look at the part-time finance jobs market just to see what’s out there (reassuringly, I found 2 roles locally that would be perfect).
  • Making contact with a couple of ex-colleagues that could potentially pass me some freelance work (which received a positive response).

Perspective

As I write, I feel a bit like the condemned woman, waiting for the executioner. Swiftly followed by shame for allowing my first world problems to dominate my thoughts. This is how the pendulum swings in my brain – “this can’t continue / get over yourself / I’m so stressed / get over yourself….”.

I’m sitting in my garden enjoying the last of the Summer sunshine. There is a roast in the oven, the boys are happily engaged with their own hobbies, I am free to spend hours however I choose. My castle is secure, everybody is well and I have nothing to worry about.

The pendulum swings but it’s all just noise. Underneath it all – it’s a wonderful life.

(934 days).

 

20 thoughts on “Preparing for the Return to Work (When I Really Don’t Want To)”

  1. You are a tough person, I can’t see you not being able to keep on keeping on whichever way you choose. But as someone who loved work for over a thirty year career with very few unhappy moments I wish you could find a way to love a job and also love your time away from it. I hesitate to advise people to look for work they love because it seems to be a rare thing to find. I did but I’m not sure why or how. But it might be out there?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know – it is out there. I’ve read some job descriptions for positions advertised today and I actually felt excited about them. They were jobs I have done before and have loved – working in small companies without the corporate nonsense. I’m on a mission now to update my cv and get it out there. I know I can be happy at work, just not in my current job. You are one of the lucky ones to have had so many happy years, I envy you. But I can do something about it and I will.

      Like

  2. It sounds like a superb taster of freedom, and I empathise. I had 6 days off, and even from that it was fairly tough going back! But what you’ve been enjoying for the last three and a half weeks will be yours permanently before you know it.
    Straining up a hill on the bike, legs screaming, I tell myself just to get to the next telegraph pole. Then the next one. One more. Then that gate 10 metres ahead….and then the top – feels damn fantastic (and impossible if you asked me two minutes beforehand). Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and hopefully push as far from lean to comfortable as possible.
    Ganbatte!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s heartening to read that you are actively looking to do something about your situation, instead of waiting for things to get (inevitably) worse, so all the very best with updating your CV and going for a position which will no doubt make you happier. We’re all behind you here!

    Similar to @steveark, I’ve enjoyed a huge part of my 25-year career so far, so perhaps I’ve been very lucky in that respect. I can’t say there were ever any jobs that I actually ‘loved’ but there was a lot of like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Weenie. Honestly, the support from you lovely people is keeping me going right now.
      You are right, it’s inevitable that the situation will deteriorate so time for action. You are lucky with your working life – or maybe that’s doing you a disservice and you just have a better attitude.

      Like

  4. Isn’t it amazing how you can have whole, opposing conversations going on in your head? Deep and intense without an end in sight. This may be Sunday Night Blues or it may be the beginning of the end. Either way you’ll be in work in the morning, you will get through it and by the end of the day/week you’ll have a better idea of whether you need that updated CV right now or can old off for those bonuses later in the year.

    You can survive leanFIRE and a local finance job on top could be just the ticket. Please don’t have these head conversations ad infinitum, find your happy place and go for it, what it looks like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, sometimes I wish I could shut up all my internal conversations but at times like these it never stops. I won’t keep going round in circles, I promise. Find my happy place….. I love that thought, thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I sympathise – it is tough going back to job and routine you don’t feel excited about. But it sounds like you’ve been working hard to create different options for yourself, which is more than most people who feel trapped in the rat race can say. Good luck with your first day back!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. let’s be honest: work sucks; the only difference between jobs is the time it takes to be disillusioned. I found that it usually boils down to who lied more at the interview: you or them. Keep the end goal in sight: which option gives you the shortest time to be free?

    Yes, kids complicate things. What do you remember about your childhood: all I remember was my parents did the best they could. How can I hold that against them?

    BTW, enjoy following the blog.

    At the end of the day you need to do what feels right for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Agree with others you have a choice now. For me that wouldn’t be lean fire or continue 3 years . It might be lean fire and a part time role for say 6 years. What is more important to you? The goal or the journey

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Driving back from the beach today after a nice Labor Day, knowing the hustle and bustle of school will be starting (we still have 1 kid at home) definitely made me appreciate the day even more. I hear you about the conflict of lean FIRE versus a more comfortable FIRE. For us, we could only do FIRE now if we moved out of our higher-cost geo (NYC) to one of our lower-cost places where we now have rentals. But we’re not moving for at least a year till our youngest finishes HS, and in the meantime, we’re adding to our FIRE stash. So maybe there’s a way you can build in a constraint that keeps you more motivated to push for comfortable FIRE, like the HS issue does for us. Can’t wait to hear what you decide!

    Liked by 1 person

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