I took a week off work, but it didn’t change my life.

Hi,

You know how when you’re working and stressed out but have all these plans on the backburner, you start fantasising about your eventual week off and you put all your eggs in that basket? And when your week off arrives like a freight train, you stand on the tracks thinking “wait a minute..” and it crashes into you and knocks you off course and, as you get up, you try to rebalance and accomplish all those things you couldn’t accomplish because your job was obviously the thing getting in the way of your dreams, but then the week ends and you didn’t do all the things you’d said you’d do and you go back to work blinking back the tears, because the problem was actually just you all along?

So that happened.

And I kinda just need to talk about it.

Part 1: The Normal Life

I’m still on the fence about the term “adulting.” I mean, I feel fine when I hear the word “adult” used as a verb. For example, “I can’t adult today.” I think that’s rather cute. But, when it’s turned into a gerund, I feel my face frown in disgust. For example, “Adulting is hard.” It’s just loathsome. Feel free to use it of course, I don’t care to police you and we can even be friends… just not really good friends, you know?

It’s not like I don’t understand the need for the word though. “You’re an adult now” is a nebulous, static role but “you need to get better at adulting” implies a certain skillset that can be obtained. It’s a process. So, it’s only loathsome because I’m being a grumpy old lady about it. It serves a function. It’s like how I hate the word sewist but I prefer its inclusivity over seamstress.

The skills required to adult successfully are numerous and arranged on a scale. This scale exists in your mind and you have placed yourself somewhere on it as you continuously reach towards the “perfect” standard of Adult that you see. This person doesn’t exist in the world at all and is purely a figment of your imagination but you tell yourself that this person is actually you, if you just stopped being a twat and actually did the things you need to do.

And when I say you, I mean me. This is about me.

As you keep reaching across this scale in your mind, you do settle into a rhythm back in the real world. You go to work, do the shopping, plan your meals, take out the rubbish all with some kind of regularity that is still not regular enough for your ideal. You text your mum, start reading a book but never finish it… You develop some kind of a normal. You fill your time. It whirls and settles and solidifies and there’s a rhythm. It’s normal. You have achieved Normal.

By you, I still mean me. This is still about me.

Part 2: Gaps

We all have our blind spots. There’s always something that’s common knowledge but it somehow never made its way into your brain. For example, due to a variety of reasons, I never formally studied history until I was 15 years old. I then studied history for two years and covered World War 2, The Irish ‘Troubles’ and the history of medicine. I got an A in my GCSE. But you could tell me that Hannibal led a bunch of flamingoes over the Alps to fight William the Conqueror and his Norsemen back in 1066, and I would probably believe you. A tiny part of me even thinks that I married a history graduate because I felt like lacking this knowledge would impact my survivability in some way.

Sometimes, the gap is not knowing how a word is pronounced. I used to pronounce vagina as vuh-JEE-na until the age of 13. Very confidently, I might add.

Now, gaps in knowledge tend to be explained away by variations in upbringing and, although embarrassing, can be overcome quite easily. “Oh it was elephants, not flamingoes? And the rest is all untrue? Oh… well I’ve learned something!” Just stay humble and it’ll work out alright. But forget about gaps in knowledge, let’s talk about gaps in skill. You know how some people know how much spice to add to a meal without really measuring? I can do that. It’s one of those things you just pick up as you go through life repeatedly doing things. It’s muscle memory. Estimation muscle memory. A skill.

So here’s my specific skill gap, I don’t seem to understand how much time things take. I know what my normal is and I have squished work, chores, rest, play all into one week quite well. There’s a rhythm to it. But then, remove work from that perfect balance, and I somehow assume that’s opened up an infinite amount of time and start stuffing it with all my desperate hopes and dreams. I just squish and squish and start turning what is just a week in my year into some pivotal moment in my life when everything will change and all my flaws will smooth away and I will become the Adult I have always dreamed to be.

Part 3: Last Week

Last week was just a week. It was technically only 4 days off. And yet I planned to write a bunch of blog posts, start an Etsy business, cook every meal, do all the housework myself and start a novel.

Is it just me who does this? I hope not, because it’s infuriating.

And I don’t do this at work. If I am asked to do something beyond my means, I tend to make my concerns known. I do still take on a lot at work but most of that is my own high standards getting in the way and it’s a separate issue. I generally know what is possible in the time given, but cannot seem to apply that in the rest of my life. This is probably because I have been doing my job for a while, and have learned the necessary skills to know what’s possible. But managing my ambitions outside of work tends to be more emotionally-led, because I have dreams and impatiently want to achieve those dreams.

I know I’m not alone in feeling that I should always be hustlin’. Even my free time needs to somehow be monetised or practically useful in some way. The Etsy store idea is me telling myself that having a creative hobby has no purpose unless I make some passive income from it. It’s a workaholic mindest that ties productivity to self-worth and I know I am not alone in feeling it. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with wanting side hustles. The problem comes when my planning skills aren’t developed enough to plan projects realistically. So a week off turns into The Moment my Life Will Change Forever. And if it doesn’t I am a Failure.

So, I feel guilty and blame myself. Instead of just accepting that I can’t complete all the tasks on my list for a day, I just keep squishing all my tasks into the next day and the next day and the cumulative workload increase swells until my holiday ends and I look at this bloated to-do list and feel like I’ve achieved nothing. Shaaame. Shame on you, Lazy Fia.

Part 4: Adulting

God, that word is just the worst. But it remains appropriate. This is the skill to learn isn’t it? The adult skill of recognising how to use your time realistically and be a little less emotionally abusive towards your ambitions.

I’ve spent this week coping with the emotional fallout of my week off. In this time, I’ve realised that I sabotaged what was meant to be a mental reset and turned it into a ridiculous boot camp. I pushed it too far, then blamed myself for not being able to keep up. It was a depressing one-woman show in which I played both the plucky young soldier and the battle-hardened drill sergeant. And now, I’m back at work feeling glum because both my characters failed in their tasks. The twist here, however, is… I actually did accomplish a lot in my week off. I mean, I accomplished a reasonable amount. I didn’t write 5 blog posts but I wrote two (here and here) and drafted 3. I didn’t start my novel, but I did some outlining. I didn’t start an Etsy shop, but did some market research… you get it, progress was made. But, because I wasn’t able to realistically plan for what was possible, I missed all the progress I was actually making. What an unnecessary waste of my emotional angst.

So I suppose the lesson here is… be kind to yourself? You learn Adulting by being an adult. Take time and trust that you’re not lazy or lacking in ambition. If anything you’re a little too passionate and you need to practice a little patience. You’re making slow, reasonable progress. Your life won’t change because you took a bloody week off work, you dumbo.

And by you, I still mean me.

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