Goodbye Job, Hello World: Thoughts I Had About Leaping Into the Unknown

in life •  2 years ago  (edited)

Snow Lake Reflection.jpg
Bring on the reflection!

A Day in the Life of a Spoiled Software Engineer

My life is like a dream.

Each morning, the light seeps between the blinds and wakes me. I pick up my book from where it fell from my fingers the night before, and my eyes wander over paragraphs between long, sleepy blinks. My boyfriend and I cuddle and converse in soft noises that start off nonsensical but slowly turn into words.

"Welcome to Wednesday," one of us finally says (adjusted according to the day of the week). Just like that, we raise our anchor out of the stream of time and set the day into motion.

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Roll out of bed. Put on the first clothes I see. Make silly faces in the mirror while brushing teeth. If I feel like breakfast, eat a cookie (healthy breakfast, I know). Walk to work.

In my new windowless office, time slips by with little to mark it, lost in designing and implementing new features, discussing and debugging and endlessly fixing bugs, waiting for builds to run.

Little pings tell me to go to conference rooms, where I spin around giggling in an office chair before the meeting starts, then try to act authoritative until it's over. By now, I'm used to being the only female in the room.

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My office, before it was filled with monitors. Not bad - just wish the building had windows!

In the afternoon, a teammate knocks at my door to signal lunchtime. I follow along, make my selection from the cafeteria food, and we pull tables together and spend up to a full hour engaged in the usual nerd-talk about pop culture and technology and games. The well-worn grooves of conversation are soothing, no surprises or controversy to be found.

Back to the desk, where work continues until I realize I should leave, some time after 7.

The evening air on the walk back from work is an invitation to dawdle and admire the distant mountains that play peekaboo through all the greenery. In these summertime months, I veer to the side of the trail and pluck the ripest blackberries from the vines, counting myself lucky not to be among the car-bound commuters crawling down the freeway.

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Stopping to smell the flowers.

Once home, the only remaining decisions for the day are simple. Rice and beans, mac and cheese, and/or tofu nuggets? Anime, movie, or video game?

If an ingredient for dinner is missing, my boyfriend and I wait until the town is dark and quiet and walk to the grocery store in our pajamas. We sing and dance down the aisles and joke with the bored cashiers on our way out.

We always leave with something different in our tote bag. A chia drink. Chocolate raspberry tamales. A pudding mold of the weird little egg yolk guy Gudetama. It's our way of celebrating the absurd overabundance and freedom of choice around us, instead of getting overwhelmed by it. (Who am I kidding, I'm still overwhelmed by it!)

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If you need proof that people are amazing, just look at what they've created: Gudetama and giant cookies!

The hour grows late. I help clean up. Practice yoga. Shower. Fall into a nest of pillows and blankets on the bed and cradle my book until sleep muddles my thoughts and steals my consciousness.

bedtime

There are a few variations between the days. Softball games. Bar trivia. Skype sessions with the family. BBQs and picnics. Movies. Bakeries. Live performances. Hikes and camping trips. A new restaurant every week. They're breaks from the routine that are somehow still part of the routine.

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Flight of the Conchords in the park and hikes to ghost towns in the snow.

Yup, my life is dream-like. It's carefree and comfortable. I never have to worry about being able to afford next month's rent or a sit-down meal or that musical I want to go see. I could live like this forever, and it would be a good life.

It's Time for a Change

But, also like a dream, time is blurring and slipping away at a terrifying rate. It no longer has that raw edge of discomfort that means I'm pushing myself. I can hardly distinguish one day from the next.

And, no matter how many accolades I might get, my crippling self-doubt doesn't get any less monstrous. I still feel like an imposter, a little girl pretending to be smart when she just wants to run outside and play.

Sitting alone in my unadorned grey office feels isolating. I still miss my previous office, the open workspace with the huge windows overlooking the sports field, the monitor constantly looping Reddit gifs or Twitch streams, the cliched Nerf battles, and the table full of baked goods.

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Who wouldn't miss this beautiful chaos?

There's even a part of me (a very small part, mind you) that misses the years of seven-days-a-week twelve-hour days, when I ate every single meal in the company of my coworkers and our late-night hysteria echoed through the darkened halls. The pace at work has slowed, for which I'm grateful, but my learning rate has slowed along with it.

Contentment is becoming complacency, stealing away my youth and creativity and leaving me lazy and self-absorbed. I find myself torn between routine and novelty. I'm definitely more of a risk-adverse follower, not a visionary or a leader, but I still crave impact and learning and adventure.

In the midst of my quarter-life crisis, only weeks after a promotion to senior developer, a re-org happens at work and my job simply vanishes.

Making a Decision

My first instinct is to immediately go out and find another job. I know I could do it, and the opportunities are right at my fingertips.

But a huge part of me screams that NOW is the time to take advantage of my privilege and the circumstances that have set me here as a twenty-something with no children, no job, no debt, a self-employed boyfriend, healthy parents, a month-to-month lease, and ample personal savings.

I am ridiculously privileged and instead of feeling guilty about it, I should take advantage of it! I need to be honest with myself and what I want.

A look around my bedroom reveals where my heart lies. There's the homemade collage of old National Geographic photos, an old fashioned traveler's trunk that I bought off Ebay and stuffed full of mementos, and the paper map of the world serving as a pincushion of memories. The world is calling.

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This is the first thing I saw every morning.

Soon, I find myself taking the collage down off the wall, one of the last things to go in my now-barren apartment, the rest dispersed between friends and Craiglisters and Goodwill and my 40 liter backpack. The official layoff comes nearly a month later, giving me plenty of time to make plans and a severance package to help fund them. It feels like the universe is actually helping me toward my dream.

Doubts and Hopes and a Confusing Whirlwind of Emotions

I feel like the whole "leaving your job to travel the world" thing is not for everybody, though most people I share my plans with respond with overwhelming enthusiasm and stories about their own experiences. I am so grateful for their support, but is everyone really that jazzed about the idea of leaving office life?

I still have reservations about my decision. I certainly won't be "making the world a better place", and I'll have to be very careful with how I spend my time and money so as not to make it a worse place. I'll get to try lots of new things, but I doubt they'll further my career.

Still, I can't deny the fact that the majority of my favorite memories, the moments when I feel the most alive, have been on the road. I remember the six months I spent traveling after college with more clarity than last week. At the time, I promised myself I'd do it again.

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I still dream about wild dolphins.

Four years later, here I am. Every trip I've taken thus far has had a return date, but I'm leaving this one open-ended. I want to see what this whole long-term travel experience is like.

First, my boyfriend and I will be hitting the road to visit our families in the United States, then we'll be flying with a one-way ticket to Guatemala to brush up our Spanish skills for a month or two. And from there ...? It's a big, bold, exciting, scary question mark.

I'll be giving up an enviable life of comfort for months of stress, exhaustion, sickness, extreme temperatures, getting ripped off and probably robbed, and losing touch with friends at home. It sounds like lunacy.

But it'll also be time spent learning new languages and skills, meeting new people, exploring new places, and constantly challenging myself with the unknown.

My new dream is to find a way to make a life of travel sustainable, even though I only intend to practice it for a year or two. Ideally, I'll find a way to use my programming skills to support myself and try to solve some problems out there. And when this lifestyle grows stale, maybe I will have visited a place to call home for the next dream.

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Thank you for reading! I can't believe it's already been 9 months since I wrote this and shared it with my friends and family. I haven't had any regrets since then, but I still have bouts of terror that I will regret it someday. Ugh, stupid brain. Still, I know I would have regretted not leaving even more.

I must be doing something right, because I feel that "raw edge of discomfort" I mentioned every day. It's surprisingly hard to make my own decisions about how to best spend my time.

Follow along for more ramblings about my journey. And, as always, I invite you to share how you navigate life with the dice you rolled.

What's the biggest leap into the unknown you have made (or want to make)? What lessons have you learned from it?

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Hey @thelovingreader. The life that you have created thus far or up to this point for yourself is a a big ole' world, which means whatever decisions you make as you move forward has to match or be greater than the circumference of life that you are use to living in presently. You will not be able to shrink and play life small. Even if you choose to work for self as a photographer of nature the work you will do will be major and beneficial to many which will be in alignment with your massive mindset and energy level. I read every sentence, comparing my lifestyle and energy level to yours I got tired a couple of paragraphs down, because I was in awe at how completely you make the best of each hour of the day. (But I did read the post to the end.) I soon came to realize that you live the life you have to the fullest, you cross t's and dot i's in life that many may miss. But you are and you do so much more. Wishing you much success as you move in to this next level of your life.

Wow, thank you a hundred times over! Your words are beautiful and inspiring and it seems to me that you make the best of life's moments too. I'm deeply touched.

@therovingreader, well written, thanks for sharing your dreamlife

I still feel like an imposter, a little girl pretending to be smart when she just wants to run outside and play.

I understand what you mean. But you are free to run outside and play again!

The world is yours.

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Wish I had your balls; I waited until I had a sure thing before jumping ship from the traditional life.

How did you make money the past 4 years? Or did you just survive off of savings and what you sold when you left?

I've only been out of the traditional life for 9 months, and I've been living on the profits from my investments. I'm comforted by the fact that I can return to corporate-land any time I want to, but the question now is whether I want to at all!

Hello
I love your post !!!
Coincidentally, my husband and I are also leaving everything behind end of this month ... We are planning to travel in Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal and visit and live in some places we've always wanted to see ... I identified with you. In part I am afraid but also excited to discover other places and cultures. It is also an experience to get to know myself better. Start living with the minimum necessary and appreciate the little things of life !!!
I think that in my case what has cost me the most is to leave the material things, sell everything you can, and save only the most important.
Exitos !!! I follow and I hope to share my experience later too. My husband explained in a post here
https://steemit.com/digitalnomad/@the-traveller/so-we-are-selling-all-our-stuff-and-will-hit-the-road-again

Nice! I will follow along with your story, and I wish you the best of luck and fun. I understand - the hardest thing for me was selling the digital piano I learned on when I was 8. But when the guy from Craiglist came to pick it up, he brought his two little daughters who were overjoyed to try it out, and I knew it was going to a good home.

Good luck on your Journeys I'll be following thanks

@lys ,

Beautiful shots my friend

Elrond Huston Aka ehuston

There is something beautiful in an unplanned life. That "raw edge of discomfort" changes lot of things. It makes us more alive in the moment and more grateful for little things in life. Wish you the very best for your next adventure. And, that last click is killer :)

Stay blessed! ~ Mohit

Thank you! I do feel more alive. That last picture is one of the only self-portraits I've taken - couldn't resist that sky!

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

Oh wow! This was written 9 months ago? I'm happy it's going great for you and your boyfriend. As a fellow emancipated software engineer, I applaud you for racking up those miles. I haven't been so fortunate, but I have high hopes that I would be following the same path you have taken soon. Consider my interim journey as an extended detour. We can't all be roving from day one, y'know :)

(I also studied Engineering, though Electronics and Communications rather than Electrical, and graduated with a degree in Computer Science. I became a Senior Software Engineer at 25, but I resigned)

You captured your journey so well. I really like how you scripted your whole journey, and I'm just so happy it's going great :D What do you do for income nowadays, if I may ask?

If you set your mind to it, I have no doubt that you will be heading wherever you want to! Right now, I'm living off of the income from my investments, but my boyfriend and I are flirting with business ideas to help grow my principal.

Haha! My fiancee and I are at that stage now, talking about, well, talking about business ideas haha! I'm living off my savings, as I don't want to touch my investments just yet. When worse comes to worse, that' when I'll dip into them. It's great to hear a fellow software engineer going through somewhat the same thing!

Hehe, totally! I keep joking that I have very little motivation to go back to work so long as my net worth keeps going up while traveling, but I'd still like to grow my principal more. Here's to figuring out what to do next!

Followed

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

I want to upvote this a 100 times. A lot of what you have said in this post resonates with me in abnormal degrees.

"I am ridiculously privileged and instead of feeling guilty about it, I should take advantage of it! I need to be honest with myself and what I want." - so many people - including travelers - don't realize this for example.

Two years ago I returned from traveling for a year. Before that I would go on as many small solo-trips as I could! Now, perhaps unfortunately, I'm at a certain point in life where I need, and perhaps also want, to work some towards a sustainable future. Which means, brushing up on skills I want to learn, but had a hard time focusing on when on the road, get some money saved up, etc. etc.

I hope that within another 2 years, I'll also be able to say: "You know what, it's time to get out there again, god damn it!"

Wish you and your boyfriend the best of luck on your trip!

Thank you @martibis, you are definitely a kindred spirit! And I think you've got your priorities straight - sustainability is crucial, and before you'll know it you'll be out there again with a bunch of new skills under your belt.

There is something beautiful in an unplanned life. That "raw edge of discomfort" changes lot of things. It makes us more alive in the moment and more grateful for little things in life. Wish you the very best for your next adventure. And, that last click is killer :)

I can relate to this so much, and you are so brave to have taken the plunge.
Your posts are so underappreciated, you are really doing a great job!


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I can hardly feel underappreciated with you guys around! I've already been selected for an OCD Team post, but I'll accept if you're willing to give me the extra promotion, haha.

Very nice of you to say that. And congratulations, your post was one of our featured blogs in the latest @ocd daily :)

Thank you so much! I really appreciate the recognition.

Very nice. Keep posting!

Nice write up

Nice write up