My life in content marketing for businesses started after a layoff.
It was (like every other entrepreneur’s story about being laid off) one of those blessings of the disguised type, though mine did a very poor job at the disguise part. (Click that. You’ll get cats.)
I’d spent a year or so watching coworkers in their 30s, and even 20s brandishing hospital visits, chest pains, and strokes as badges of honor in an increasingly unfair work environment. You know the kind — the ones where the best workers are punished and the worst are consistently defended, rewarded, and promoted (I am still a bit bitter). That job is the reason I now set my own hours, but it was still, absolutely awful.
I’d wanted to leave for years, but pragmatism, lack of direction, and general worry had made staying where I was relatively easy. The layoff shook me of course, but it was an immediate weight off my back — like being broken up with by someone you’d already wanted to walk away from at some level.
Health issues magically resolved, I had the energy to start studying Mandarin and cook again. I lost 30 lbs with very little effort…but I knew the severance would only last so long, so I started a compromised rest.
I’ve always incorrectly fancied myself as one of those people who would one day just drop everything and fly off to some foreign land and do NO-THING for three months — I am not that person.
I took my first trip to Asia in the middle of business school during a “break” that consisted of two weeks’ vacation from work during an off semester, and entirely too full an itinerary. It was beautiful and life-changing, but it wasn’t downtime. I came back with no revitalization or freshness. No new perspectives or increased energy. I took it to mean that my job was simply draining at a level that no vacation in the traditional sense could fix.
I saw the error of my ways and promised myself that, come hell or high water, I’d take two weeks off after I graduated and fly off to vegetate in a hammock in Samoa. Graduation came, an I ended up in Japan for a week…a great week, but again…not downtime. Realizing that I’d broken a huge promise to myself, I decided that if I ever got laid off or quit, that I’d take a portion of my savings, and rest…really rest…or at the very least try to.
I did ok that time.
A decade of watching coworkers sick and dying was enough for me to give myself a month…a full month to not search for a job, not read books on starting a business, not even budget for my new, jobless life. I just lived.
No big trips or lofty goals this time — just the things I enjoyed, in my usual quiet, calm moderation. I have to say that it was nothing short of essential to stopping the momentum of my normalized career path, and shifting gears into shaping a life that would allow me to live and breathe and do what I do.
One month though, does not a lifetime of habits change.
I still find myself using “light days” and weekends to “just market” and “just network” and “just do easy work”. It seems I still haven’t internalized the most important lesson of true, authentic downtime. (Even this post was supposed to be quick and light, but I find myself editing, checking, adding.)
That’s why I’ve started reading comics as a 30-something woman. I’ve always been a fan of the worlds of Marvel and DC, but not beyond the animated series and recent explosion of Hollywood offerings.
So now, I’m off to read Thor (God of Thunder if you’re curious).