Licence to Be

Since temporarily moving back in with my parents, one of my rituals has been to go on long walks in our gated community. This is my way to keep moderately active in a life which – confined within the four walls of my parental home – has become more sedentary than the one I’m used to, roaming the streets of Bangkok in my sandalled feet.

This morning, while on one of those walks, I had what you might call a paradigm shift. It was as if someone had given me a new pair of eyes to see my life with, a fresh perspective to reflect on my current situation.

As I’ve written about here, my life is undergoing a seismic shift. I left a job that paid well and which I enjoyed so I could, once borders open, move to Vietnam to be with my partner. Until this morning I’d viewed this as a prioritisation exercise: I value a life with my partner more than I do a good job, and so I quit the job. Entering unemployment was a necessary sacrifice, a trade-off for a future I wish to build with my partner.

Not anymore.

This morning, my perspective shifted and I realised for the first time how lucky I am. That this move is happening, enabling me to hit pause and re-think the direction I want to take in life. By forcing my hand into quitting my job, the move gave me licence to just be.

Don’t get me wrong. The past four weeks since leaving full-time employment has been busy, with subtitles translation work, teaching, starting a new blog, picking up an abandoned cross-stitching project, plus conversations with prospective employers sprinkled here and there. As you can see, I’ve kept busy.

But it’s busy in a different way from full-time job busy. It’s been busy because I have made it busy. Last week, realising I needed to approach my tasks in a more organised fashion or the only things I’d ever get done would be my subtitles and teaching (both of which come with clear deadlines), I started a Kanban board (thanks Trello!) with all my projects.

A dear friend said a month ago with regards to job search that I need to think of it as a job. Looking at my Kanban board last week I realised: this is my job. My full-time job is now, well, me.

On my walk this morning, I was listening to a podcast about how some people who don’t get their dream job turn out to be more successful than those who do, because the former end up taking more risks that eventually return bigger rewards than their dream job would have given them.

And that podcast I think provided the gentle and final nudge for the realisation to drop: being forced to leave my job isn’t an inconvenience – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

How often do you get to, right in the middle of your prime years (or so I’d like to think), hit the re-set button with no second thoughts? Having my hands metaphorically tied has meant I’ve approached this decision, well, decisively. With no regrets.

I haven’t had to waste precious mental energy on dithering: do I leave Agoda or do I stay? I haven’t had to exhaust brain power deciding on which city to start anew in. I’m leaving my job, and I’m going to Vietnam. Done.

And now, with no time constraints of a full-time job, it’s as if I have a license to just be me, do the things I enjoy doing, take endless amounts of subtitles projects, write about topics that inspire me – provided, of course, they are on my backlog list (which has a strict maximum limit of 5 to prevent me adding to the list in perpetuity and never actually doing any writing).

And this realisation is wonderful. It filled me with joy as I trundled up and down the thoroughfare in my worn-out Asics, pondering all the possibilities that have opened up before me. I’m moving to a new country, finding a new job, starting a new life with my partner. A year from now, I could be doing anything.

I feel empowered and free. It’s exhilarating.

Of course, there are risks. Subtitles projects may dry up, as they have done countless times in the past. I may not be able to sign up more students to tutor. My new blog may be a dud. I may not find a job in six months and end up draining my savings. Or I find a job that turns out not to be quite what I imagine it to be, which might actually be worse.

And the scariest thought of all: in a year, I may still not know what I want to spend the next few years – never mind the rest of my life – doing.

But I’m optimistic. Now that my coin of epiphany has dropped, I plan to savour every moment of my lucky juncture. Make the best of this freedom to allocate time to do the things I enjoy most, to plan for whatever future may come.

So thank you, life, for gifting me with this opportunity, this licence to be.

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