Over a year ago, when I first decided to break the full-time work and school cycle I had been building around my life, I had a fairly clear picturesque idea of what my life would look like after the change:
On the days I had free I would wake up bright and early–well rested and stress free. I would consume a proper breakfast, take a quick dip in the pool and head to the coffee shop around the block to write. Of course I would write brilliant things. Inspirational even. Surely my work would make it to some fabulously glossy publication. Either that, or I’d finally come to terms with how to finish my short story and novel. I pictured my evenings filled with cozy dinners and quiet strolls afterwards. All of this was supposed to effortlessly materialize as soon as I wasn’t preoccupied with the taxing hours of holding down a job.
Ah, and who can forget the plans to travel at a moments notice? The new me would have life changing epiphanies with every new place I visited and maybe even fall in love on one of these adventures. I expected to have been met with calmness and contentedness.
It is possible that the above are all unrealistic expectations of a life with “free time”. For those of us that never have more than a few days off in between jobs, equating free time to utopia isn’t uncommon. Just as we had once equated work and business to a kind of long-term bliss to success, we are envisioning the idea of free time in the same way. Idealizing but not compromising to satisfy the vision.
I set out for a more flexible freelancing schedule, most certain that my decision was right and my dreams would become instantaneous reality. Perhaps a week into my journey to self fulfilment, I felt exhausted having realized I wasn’t exactly having “the time of my life”. Another week would go by before I began to feel drained from my new found “free time”. I had gone from overcommitment and overwhelming hours to underwhelming days and unfulfilled nights. How confusing it was to feel this way. We’ve always been told to be bold, be brave, to take risks in order to realize our dreams. But wasn’t this exactly what I did? There was something about the “follow your dreams” ideal that we’ve been failing to interpret.
With compounding feelings of disappointment and additional stresses from my dwindling bank account, the previous pleasant state of quiet now presented itself as isolation. The lives of others have continued in my absence. Nothing was missing. How was I to re-engage myself in this life?
Collectively, my choices and emotions formed what would become months of self guilt.
Because was I even allowed to feel unhappy with this choice? Would others not be thrilled to be in the same position? Why was it now that I had the “free time” everyone appeared to so desire that I can no longer admit to feeling anything less than ecstatic?
Truth be told, I was reacting to a different situation with my old ways. The life I had chosen before didn’t live up to my expectations, but neither did this new choice that was supposed to open new doors. What are we to do besides react the same way when no choice we make lives up to our expectations?
Granted there was nothing really wrong with my lifestyle change. It was more a matter of not finding acceptance to circumstances that didn’t match up to my initial ideals, so much so that I couldn’t enjoy any of the changes–positive or not.
At this point in time, I was still more than determined to push forward with this change in attempt to make it look more like the original picture I had painted in my head. My underwhelming days took a toll on my motivation level but I desperately wanted to convince myself that I was still in control. Perhaps we cannot will ourselves to have life changing experiences.
Then something unfortunate occurred. As unfortunate events occur in all our lives, this is where we can all relate no matter the circumstances. Death, failure, heartbreak.
In the weeks to follow, I could barely maintain my focus on any work I did. What was left of my willpower was dedicated to making it through each day intact. The thoughts of how my life was supposed to pan out from this day forward was replaced by hopes of regaining energy. But what was the use? I was stubborn in my ways.
Though if my dissatisfaction has taught me one thing in the months that have passed, it has taught me that my old ways won’t open new doors.
I hated every second of having to admit that I was wrong. Letting go of what I’ve known “free time” to be and getting acquainted with loving busy days felt like taking thousands of steps back in progress.
There are no simple comforts in this story. However, in time the self guilt fades with acceptance. Just as compromising to find what we really want out of life is no longer “settling” but basking in the most optimal solution to the overwhelming expectations we have of ourselves.