My eyes glazed over on the screen.
The Airbnb I was in had one of my best remote work setups to date: sufficient electrical outlets (in volume and proximity — rare), an actual comfortable office chair (rarer still), was directly in front of a window (love that natural light), and had a large, bright mural directly behind the desk (for an interesting Zoom backdrop).
I had my second monitor and my new, more-powerful work laptop in front of me, but I looked longingly towards my personal MacBook, just out of view. It was hard to focus on work while I was thinking about the chapter I wanted to write. When would my time be my own?
Unlike the people taking back their lives in the so-dubbed “Great Resignation,” I didn’t hate my job, I enjoyed it. I liked my company and my teammates and vendors. I loved my boss. I wasn’t “burnt out.” I just… didn’t want to work anymore. Not for someone else.
Ever since I started in my current role in late 2017, I moved tirelessly to reverse the lifestyle creep I had succumbed to in years prior, made blindingly clear after becoming one of many victims of an unexpected mass layoff in summer 2017. “You have made it! You can buy it! Show off!” was a loud and ferocious voice, coming from everywhere: advertisements, peers, and inside: conditioned and internalized. Finally, when I was down to my last $1,500, I woke up. Over the past 4 years, I saved, deferred, budgeted, and invested religiously. I didn’t see or spend nearly 50% of my income. I took on side hustles and temporary gigs, I downsized and minimized and made all the moves I could — to live a FREER, more financially secure life. That turned into selling my house and 99% of my things, to travel full-time in September 2020 (yes, in the midst of a global pandemic).
My decision NOW was made possible because of the choices and sacrifices I made THEN.
The average person works super hard for ~45 years and hopes all his efforts have paid off; that he will still have physical health and presence of mind (and financial security) to enjoy the time he has left. It doesn’t always work out that way. Case in point: my father Theodore P. Rose, atypical Parkinson’s and multiple systems atrophy, 1942-2018.
I’m young (36). I’m healthy. I’m single, un-obligated and uninhibited, with only a 5-year-old mini Aussie pup to care for.
I’m not hating on any job or any employer specifically, not in the slightest. In contrast, my employer gave me opportunity, flexibility, and autonomy to do my work from anywhere in an American time zone. I had holidays off, generous vacation time, a yearly bonus, and a 6-figure salary. Despite all this, I still wasn’t free. Not as long as my job took the best of me — productivity, creativity, ingenuity, mental energy — in output and in time.
I agonized for a while about when I’d finally get the guts to call it quits. When I would feel like I had enough put away. I wondered when the lure of a truly independent life (despite the fear of the unknown) would propel me past the stability of a steady paycheck and the worry that I was leaving a “good thing” behind at an inconvenient time.
Sometimes, I wished I hated my job. I could quit in a rage of self-righteousness, like so many others leaving the workforce in 2021. But for a job, it was a good one. Which made this decision very hard.
If you’ve been following me, I’ve been preaching for awhile that people should live their lives by design, not by default. I’ve learned a lot since that mass layoff and began finding myself. Know your heart, and FOLLOW it. Be true to yourself over any other. We should be defining OUR priorities, passions, and purpose, and then we should directly pursue those things. You could argue that, by taking my life into my own hands, while making my way across the U.S. this past year… that I’ve been walking the walk. But like everything else in my life, this was merely a baby step. One of many milestones I’ve reached and will reach in my lifetime. And now I’m upping the ante. The next step I’m taking is this:
To my employer: it’s over. It’s not you, it’s me. Call it a sabbatical or a mini retirement or a temporary early retirement, I need to put my priorities, passions, and purpose first. I’m going where the creativity takes me, while I have the blessing of mental prowess, physical health, and minimal obligations.
I sacrificed for years… so that I can live this life today and tomorrow. (You can do ANYTHING if you think it short-term.) I will have to re-enter the workforce at some point. But first, I’m taking the next year or so to write and publish my memoir about my exodus from tradition (home, relationship, and now, a stable job). If you’d like to follow along with my next chapter as I navigate the ups and downs of temporary early retirement, I welcome you to subscribe to my website juliedevivre.com, and follow on instagram @juliebrose and my YouTube channel “juliedevivre.”
Hey, and maybe I’ll actually make some money on my book so I don’t have to rush back into “work” 😉
My last day of traditional employment is Dec. 10. I’m so excited to see what this journey has in store for me. First step, Austin, next… I’m moving to Mexico (more to come!)!
For more of my thoughts on my mini-retirement, watch the video below!