Since quitting my job, I’ve been surprised by a couple of things. A lot of people have been asking how it’s going, so I thought I’d give a little update on the things that I didn’t expect.
What I Haven’t Felt: Depressed
I’m surprised I’m not the least bit depressed. Yes, I’m one of those people who felt like I needed to work in order to gain the social aspect and “stay busy.” The only extended breaks I’ve taken from my job in the past 7.5 years have been my two maternity leaves. Those leaves were both difficult, as I suffered from mild postpartum depression. But I’ve learned that, quite to my surprise and delight, those periods were difficult for many reasons…like hormones, lack of sleep, being house-bound with an infant, and recovering physically… Not working was just a very small part of the equation!
I’m happy to report that I haven’t been lonely or depressed since quitting. It doesn’t mean I don’t love and miss my work family. (I think of y’all often and of course you’re always in my heart!) The worst part by far was the last few shifts I worked. The nostalgia and the inner struggle was difficult. I felt so loved and I felt like I was turning my back on something special. I was afraid of the unknown and afraid of depression. I loved my job and I still think TJ’s is a fantastic place to work. But have I missed it as much as I thought I would? Thankfully, no!
What I Have Felt: Freedom
Having the openings in my schedule has allowed me to say yes to so many things! I’ll admit that sometimes I’m intimidated by free time. I feel the urge to fill every moment of down time. But then I realized – life is what happens in the down time. Life is what fills the schedule cracks. Simply being available more often takes the stress out of getting together. I’ve had play dates with other mothers, swim dates with family, gone on bike rides, volunteered at the circus, ran lots of places, spent hours at the library, hosted several dinners, read lots of books, and sat on the porch almost every night drinking beer. My life didn’t end when I quit my job. This freedom is far from boring.
It’s been incredibly awesome having weekends free. Josh and I have never had this – I’ve been working part-time (mostly weekends) our entire dating and married life! I no longer have to schedule things far in advance and request off for them. I no longer have to have a reason to be off on the weekends. It can simply be family time if nothing is going on.
What I Have Felt: Camaraderie with my Kids
I’ve always loved my kiddos, of course. But until recently I thought of them more like a job. I counted the hours till I was “off the clock.” We didn’t do a whole lot other than eat and play at the house, and wait for them to be picked up so I could go to work. I don’t judge myself or other working moms. At the time, I definitely needed the breaks. I’m still a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child and moms need lots of help and support from people outside their immediate family. That said, my mindset has changed in delightful ways. I’ve started taking my kids everywhere rather than trying to escape my kids. In my mind we were on opposing teams, but now we’re on the same team.
I’ve started appreciating my kiddos a bit more. They’re awesome and they can handle a lot more than I used to think. They love getting out of the house, as do I, so I try to get creative and think of free things to do and places to go everyday. (Thankfully St. Louis has a lot of awesome free things to do. We aren’t even close to running out of ideas!) But more than getting out, these experiences bring us together.
In a couple weeks Josh and I are going to Audiofeed music festival and we’re bringing the kids. I don’t view them as an inconvenience on this trip, but as part of the experience! It has always been a dream of ours to raise our children going to festivals, since Josh and I grew up going to Cornerstone festival. Now we’re able to live that dream out.
What I Have Felt: Joy of Serving
We’ve had a couple opportunities to host friends and students from around the country in our home lately. It’s so refreshing to be able to sit and be present, without the pressing need to go to work afterward. Yesterday we hosted 10 guests for lunch, and I found myself looking at the clock, thinking “I would be getting ready for work right now. I would be headed out the door.”
In addition to the slower pace and joy of serving, I’m thrilled to see my boys get in on the action. Josh and I have always wanted to serve alongside our kids, but we thought it would take time. “Maybe when they’re old enough to serve at a soup kitchen or do home repairs for people,” we thought. But right now, our kids help us host people in a way only they can: by being kids. Toddlers and babies break the ice when there’s guests. We used to visit refugees when Malachi was a baby, and even if they spoke no English, they bonded with him and had a great time. Everyone relaxes and let’s their guard down when there’s kids around. Malachi has even started getting out Play-doh and inviting guests to play with him. He’s quite the host. I just sit back and watch! How cool is it that we don’t have to wait to serve with our kids? They’re already doing it without even realizing!
What’s Cool: This is just the Beginning
As I write this, it’s only been a couple of weeks since my last day. I’m grateful that it’s been an awesome couple of weeks! I’m optimistic as I think about the possibilities that the future holds. This is what the rest of my life might look like! I’m excited about more opportunities to serve, host, and volunteer. I’m excited to watch my boys grow and be able to travel more, hopefully camping and unschooling them on the road for a time. This is just a starting point, not a destination. I’m thrilled and thankful to be an “early retiree” with so much life ahead of me.
I was recently thinking about Shiloh’s birth and how it related to this situation. I had planned to give birth in a hospital with a doctor. I had planned for an epidural, and a birth similar to Malachi’s. At the last minute (more accurately, the last trimester) those plans were shattered and I had to make a decision. We chose to switch to a midwife and have a home birth. This spontaneous, last-minute decision was one the best things we ever did. The birth was awesome and I will always count it one of my proudest accomplishments. It wasn’t the plan, but it was right. In the same way, this spontaneous decision to retire at age 27 wasn’t the plan, but it’s the right thing. Story of my life right now. I’m encouraged. The future will be a good one.