6 fears I had leaving my full-time job (1-year review)
I was unhappy with my life situation. So, I took a giant leap.
About a year ago, at the age of 28 turning 29, I left the beautiful city of Ōtautahi Christchurch and moved back home with my parents all the way to Te Papaioea Palmerston North.
I went from working full-time to part-time (5 days a week, to 3 days and then 2 days a week).
The main intention for reducing my hours was to explore the possibility of switching careers to software development. Working less meant I had more time and energy to work on personal projects that I could show to potential employers.
Now, this “goal” is still going through many iterations, which I may cover in a later newsletter. But the aim of this article is for those who may be contemplating this decision of making the switch. I’ll provide the fears that I had and what happened a year later.
Those fears were:
I would go completely broke
People will judge
My friends will soar above me
You will waste all this time, missing the opportunity costs of working full time
You won’t get any dates with the opposite gender
You’ve unsecured your future
Here is the original tweet (it’s a thread).
1. I would go completely broke
When I was working full-time, I was earning about $1,100 a week after tax (it’s easier to speak in terms of weekly after-tax income, so I hope this is okay, and if you are wondering, this is just over $95,000 per annum salary).
I also had a house at the time with my previous partner. We had split and I was paying the entire mortgage of $500 per week, as well as the insurance and other costs (we did have a 50/50 ownership of the household).
I was fortunate to make enough to save a little, but a large majority of my income was going towards paying off a house that I only half owned with someone I no longer wanted to be with.
After grinding for a while (working, going home to cook, and then learning code for my escape), I realised that I just couldn’t create more time. I was lucky enough to discuss my immediate future with my Dad, and we concluded that I had to sell the house and move back home with my parents.
And so I did.
Two fortunate things happened: I made some money from the house sale, which gave me a runway (aka a large emergency fund or FU money). And by moving back home, I was able to reduce my expenses dramatically.
Now I was able to reduce my working hours and focus on the ‘dream’ — which was writing, programming and creating content.
A year later, my fears of losing all the money didn’t happen thankfully. I became more cautious about what I spent. I do think if you are making a surplus, you will come up with creative ideas to spend your money on useless things — keeping you on the hamster wheel.
I went from spending money on a mortgage in order to satisfy this societal norm of being a ‘home owner’ to spending money on courses to improve my well-being and skills in the hope to utilise these to make more money in the long run — the investment in myself.
Right now, I am not saving and I am earning about $500 per week working two days a week. I do pay my parent’s rent of $250 and I spend money on ‘self-investments’ (e.g. coaching, gym etc).
After a year, I have still retained my runway with little financial instability (or perception of scarcity).
2. People will judge
If I told you, “I don’t care what others think”, I’d be lying to you.
The judgement of others — if I like it or not — is deeply important to me.
Before moving back home, my parents and I had little to no contact. We were in a feud. The reason was I was dating someone who they did not agree with. So, when I was moving back home, they weren’t worried about me reducing my income to chase a fantasy; they were happy to have me home.
A year later, however, they are worried that all I have done is type, type, type in front of a laptop with nothing to show for it.
In “The Pathless Path” by Paul Millerd, there is this concept of the “good egg”, the “bad egg”, and the “good egg disguised as a bad egg”. When we take the traditional path, of university, job, family life, retirement, and death, we are automatically labelled as a “good egg” for following societal norms.
As soon as we deviate from the norm, we (and what we think others think of us) automatically mark ourselves as the opposite, a “bad egg”.
Back then, when you meet new people, how their eyes would light up when they asked what you did, I was so proud to say, “optometrist”.
When you see old friends and family, how easy would it be to talk about it all, work and life?
Now, I’m too scared to say it for fear of judgment.
“I’m having a bit of a crisis, so I moved home with my parents”.
I sometimes mask it by saying something heroic along the lines of becoming a digital nomad or switching careers — to this day I’m still wondering if this is what I truly want.
Our choices and what we do might as well just be a product of how we want others to perceive in us. Therefore, it is difficult to discover what the true self wants.
And after a year, I’m still trying to figure it out. And after a year, you know the time has ticked away and it’s still ticking, so you better come up with an answer fast!
To answer this question of judgement, some people supported me, some people didn’t, some people laughed, and some people didn’t.
But what matters is what you want and that you are taking action.
3. My friends will soar above me
A large majority of my friends are optometrists and working professionals. They have houses (multiple), earn over $100k, have lived in different cities and countries, travelled the world, got married, had kids, and are destined to retire early and comfortably in the top echelons of society.
They are living life perfectly according to the norm.
On the other hand, I’ve barely ticked any of those milestones.
It’s troubling because we are trying to constantly get a bearing on life and to do so we look at our peers.
I feel like I’m behind, but that doesn’t mean I have to be miserable.
The “I don’t care what you think” mentality doesn’t really work and it is true that I did feel somewhat special coming home — “I took a giant leap, look at me!”. But it’s been a year and nothing has really happened, so now the shame is slowly kicking in.
I did get some outstanding advice:
A lot of the advice centres around reframing the mindset around what I am doing, which is very valuable but the gains are not perceivable, yet.
This is the hardest to grasp. Studying optometry and getting a job was guaranteed. And you would be getting a well-paid salary. I had a lot of people around me who would dream about this.
Finally, it’s okay to feel this way — there is nothing wrong with you.
As advice usually goes, because your friends are doing well at the current time, doesn’t mean you won’t do well in the future so as long as you just keep going.
4. You will waste all this time missing the opportunity costs of working full time
If you have more money, you tend to spend more. Less money, less spending. However, if you have an abundance of time, there is a chance you may not utilise that free time wisely.
Not working full-time means you get more time to pursue other options, but the downside is you lose out on the money you could have made if you were working — this is opportunity cost.
If this thought is looming, good. It means you won’t be binging TV shows, going on extravagant holidays, or wasting more time on social media scrolling.
That’s what someone would do if they didn’t have the goals you have — like the people who say what you are doing is a waste of time.
You will be using your time wisely. You know you have to make the seconds, minutes, hours and days count.
However, I did fall into the trap of thinking, I can just do this later in the day or tomorrow. It’s an ongoing battle, but after a year, I feel like I have been pretty successful utilising time.
I would plan my day, and try and do tasks that were of high value and took me closer to my goals or improving my health, knowledge and skills.
5. You won’t get any dates with the opposite gender
I would love to be married one day to a person I want to be with as well as start a family.
In order to get this, you need to go on many dates.
And in order to go on many dates, you need to have eligibility. That means having a full-time job, earning a good income, and supporting yourself.
I was doing the opposite.
Even when I did tick those boxes, I wasn’t getting showered with dating opportunities, anyway. So why stress about being considered less eligible when that means I have the benefit of exploring other options with my life?
Does that mean I will be alone forever?
What really helps is thinking about life in chapters.
This new chapter is reinventing who I am. That means I need to devote a lot of time selfishly to pursuing different things and seeing what sticks.
Once I’ve done all that, when the motivation is fresh I will have a better grasp of who I am as a person, and then I can move on to the next chapter of my life — finding a girl, settling down and starting a family.
6. You’ve unsecured your future
I think to myself that I am so lucky to be an optometrist and have stable full-time work.
When I signed up for studying optometry, I wasn’t thinking about money or career prospects. It was my backup option for not getting into medicine.
Again, how lucky am I?
Optometry pays very well after graduating compared to other professions; it’s a high-demand skill — you’ll always be employed and paid decently.
Optometry is also well respected by others and provides good social value to society — you help people see to the best of their ability.
Now that I want to leave the career, I have this fear of giving all this up.
There is no way I can do better than this. I’m just going the screw it up.
What I’m trading, here, is a certainty for uncertainty.
There are two paths ahead of me. The continued route of certainty or the alternative route, which is slightly less certain.
There is fear when taking the less certain path. And what is the best antidote to fear? Action.
There is always inaction, which leads to two things:
The “what if” of taking the alternative path, which often leads to regret.
The risk of doing nothing is mediocrity, which is fine for most, but if you want to make your mark on the world, it’s one of the worst things.
As cliche as it goes, you just need to do it. Take the leap. If life doesn’t go the way you expect it, you know how to deal with it.
Facing challenges is what your life for and overcoming them is what gives life it’s worth.
Embrace the insecurity of the future — it’s scary but also exciting.
And after a year, I don’t think I’ve unsecured my future the way I thought I did.
I can always go back to optometry if I need to, but the same with finance and my living situation, I haven’t become a drug addict or gone completely broke.
I had a lot of irrational fears that held me back from reducing my hours working as a full-time optometrist.
Those fears centred around money, my future, and what others thought about me. But after a year, none of the fears actually turned out to be true.
So if you are considering a career break or if you aren’t happy with your current situation and want to make that switch, I hope my story helps you in making whatever decision you decide to make.
If you are contemplating that decision, or you have made that decision, please share your story in the comments. I’d love to have a read but I do think sharing helps others too.
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Stay focused and talk soon,
Book The Pathless Path by Paul Millerd — Keeping to the theme of this newsletter, this book helped me a lot with taking the “alternative” route in life. Millerd was in a similar situation, leaving his well-paying consulting job in New York and moving to Taiwan to start another adventure. Millerd redefined money and work and I’d recommend it to those who are considering moving away from the default life script.