Monday, 2 June 2014

Slowing down and living more - why I walked away from a successful career

One of the main reasons I left my previous job was to slow my life down a little and concentrate of the things that really mattered. Family, health, community and the environment.

If I described myself as an environmentalist you would laugh and I would probably join you. My life is very far from squeaky green clean but making an effort is important to me. What I found was that the busier I got and the more I earned, the easier it became to justify making choices that weren't very eco or good for my health. Always in a rush there seemed no option but to take the car. Ready meals and take aways started to invade the kitchen and the number of plastic take aways boxes we have amassed is a bit embarrassing...........Cooking from scratch became a real challenge and there never seemed to be time for fun or light heartedness. Holidays were invaded by work and I felt like I was neglecting my husband, my family, friends and my health.

Even recognising all of this it took me about two years to leave. While my heart said leave very loudly, my head said no, you need to try harder, you've worked so hard for this. As one of very few senior women in my company I thought it would set a bad example if I said I can't do this or I don't want this. I have always believed that if you don't like something you should change it and I found it incredibly hard to admit that I couldn't change the culture I worked in and I couldn't make my job into something I wanted to spring out of bed for.

But eventually my heart won. Ultimately what was right for me and my husband was more important than what people might think. In the end I was overwhelmed at just how supportive people were of my decision. Within days of making the change I felt like a huge weight had been lifted and much as I miss my colleagues, there is nothing I miss about that life.

Trying to make up my mind what to do I read lots and lots of books.  Some made me feel like a terrible under achiever (168 Hours:You Have More Time than You Think) and others were hugely inspiring and uplifting like The Fire Starter Sessions, Danielle LaPorte and Outrageous Openness, Tosha Silver. There is a webcast of Danielle LaPorte talking about goal setting on Marie Forleo's website - I highly recommend watching it for really straightforward and practical advise on working out what is right for you and setting your goals.

One incident really tipped the scales. I went on holiday for a friend's birthday last year, 16 of us hired a huge house in France for her 40th. While I was waiting for a hire car my bag with all my ID documents, my holiday money, work phone, iphone, ipad and clothes got stolen. It should have been a disaster but actually I had a fabulous holiday because I was forced to switch off and just enjoy the company, the food and use the very few things that were in my husband's bags! There were three lessons I learned 1/ I didn't see how I could ever manage to feel that disconnected from work if I continued to do my job, 2/ the way we had lived for the week was very similar to how I was brought up and a million miles away from my everyday life and 3/ I was really shocked at how little losing all that stuff mattered, ie, I must have far far too much stuff if the impact is so insignificant. I could dismiss this as a healthy attitude to loss but I found it really disturbing!

So what has any of this got to do with making green choices?
In a way I think green choices are interlinked with simpler living. Less stuff = less impact. More conscious cooking = less impact. More time = ability to walk or take public transport instead of taking the car. Less rushing about looking busy = more time for social interaction.  But perhaps the biggest shift is simply one of mindset, it took a big push for my head to admit that status and stuff isn't important, making time for priorities and connecting with people is.

So what am I changing? 
  • I work for myself so I can flex my hours to fit around other commitments and I don't feel guilty making a commitment to do something frivolous like going for a walk on the beach. When I tried to define success for myself one of the things I listed was being able to leave work and walk on the beach or cycle through the woods. It seemed unobtainable but it isn't.
  • I now work in town so I can walk and get the bus to most places I need. I feel lots better for even getting a short walk to the bus stop rather than hopping in and out of the car!
  • The second car is up for sale as we really aren't using either - hubby is much more energetic than me and cycles everywhere :0 Now I just need someone to actually buy the car :(
  • I have the time to consider what I buy, to look at packaging and buy local. We are eating much better and our waste is going down.
  • I have the time to indulge my old sewing hobby. The sewing machine is out and years with of mending has taken place, my wardrobe has been updated with simple changes and I have vowed not to buy any new clothes for the rest of the year. It is going amazingly well so far, mainly because the mending has given my wardrobe a new lease of life!
  • There is space in my head to think about saving energy and reusing materials. I have still to compare our energy usage but I'm sure we have made progress in reducing it.
  • Most importantly I have time to catch up with friends and family. I have seen more people. smiled more and laughed more in the last two months than I have in years!
  • Over and above that I'm loving reading other people's experience of simplifying their life and homemaking.
Specific challenges?

  • Buy no new clothes in 2014
  • Buy no more toiletries in 2014 - a trawl of the bathroom revealed a ridiculous stash of part used products and miniatures released from hotels :0
  • Sell the second car
  • Reduce the amount of packaging we buy and consume - I'm not sure what an appropriate target would be though?
  • Spend more time with friends and family
  • And the one that is ridiculously hard to measure - laugh more and cry less  - I guess you know if you're there by the way you feel!
I hope you'll follow my journey!

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