So it turns out I'm really bad at resting. It has been about a month and a half since I left the Civil Service and went out into the cold, unforgiving world with nary a plan to my name except to relax, calm down and find out who I am when I am not consumed by work. Except, of course, I did have a plan and a long list of contacts to talk with along the way.
My standard day is to get up (much earlier these days - a very positive sign!) and spend the morning on calls with friends in the industry and recruiters. Many of these are advice-and-discussion calls, which fulfil most criteria for being called Work, other than being paid. Then I make some lunch and spend the afternoon drinking coffee while reading something edifying (a book on depression here, a white paper on approaches to building a digital organisation there...) or writing some code before some cooking and the evening. It's actually very pleasant but is rather reminiscent of a gentle working day rather than a total break. While I am doing some LEGO and other minor crafts, I haven't dived into a totally new life or anything.
So to fix this, I did something different. I set up a company. To enable working. Sigh.
I often write posts for this blog by pondering my own behaviour from an external perspective and sometimes I end up wondering what on earth I am doing. On this occasion, and joking aside, I am finding this all raises an important question. What does "relaxed" actually mean for me? See, I can rationalise looking at work again so soon by writing about arising opportunity (and especially when they tie in neatly with my plans) but the fact is that I know my sense of self is overly defined by my work and I genuinely am not good at relaxing or unplugging. This is a bit of a problem since the answer to the question "who am I if I'm not working" appears to be "someone who is trying to work". Not healthy, and not a good idea.
I can, of course, make excuses. Some of the things I want to try are hard during COVID / while I live on the top floor / don't have a car / etc etc. While these may well be genuine excuses (it's hard to run a lathe in a 1 bed flat) they feel a bit tactical, which means I'm asking myself the wrong question - or rather dodging the right question. It's not about who am I without work - I always knew the answer to that would be a bit empty - it's about who do I WANT to be.
The problem with questions like this (similarly "where do I want to be in five years, and if I do nothing will I be happy with how I've spent five years?") is that they are about making decisions then deploying effort to effect change. Coming into this period I had very little energy. I needed a rest, and that meant retreating to my comfort zone not trying to become some new enlightened being. However my comfort zone turns out to be rather like working and thus the problem cycle continues.
And I am still dodging the most important question - who do I want to be? And the answer is ... I don't know.
There are some components. When I close my eyes and imagine, I see someone who looks different. Someone who is secure in themselves. Someone will skills. Oddly, not the ones I already have - I don't know if this means I take myself for granted, or if (more likely I think) I don't really value my own skills. I do have a deep-rooted assumption that if I can do it, it can't be that hard (ideal attitude for consulting...) which may explain this picture.
So, this suggests a few courses of action. First, I need to recognise and respect my own abilities. When I close my eyes and see this person I want to be, I need to make sure I see the bits I've already done in that picture. I need to recognise that while I always want to learn new things and be a bit different, there is an awful lot I do not want to just discard. Next up, I need to look at the differences and decide where to act. As I wrote above, I do not have boundless energy at the moment so I need to be careful and precise about what I try and what I don't and along the way, I need to rediscover my love of learning and trying (there is another post in that, but that's another day).
So in the short term it's back to the gym for me. Then, I think what I really need is to rediscover a middle gear. A mode where I can be energetic and inquisitive, but without being full "on" so I can learn new things without it feeling like a chore, and practice new skills without a ongoing fear of failure. The "how" is something to ponder, but keeping flexible time has got to be a part of it.
Of course, with Christmas coming I've got something else to help me continue hiding from all this...