Stopping work

The last time I exchanged my labour for money was August 2019, aged 51.

At the time, the decision was simple, but it proved to be a pivotal moment in my life. I felt myself burning out, and wanted to have a period doing nothing at all. No idea how long, could have been two months or two years.

I never had any trouble finding work, so I just quit. But the company wanted me to return and suggested instead a seven month sabbatical, to which there was no downside – I would simply resign later if I wanted longer.

In October 2019, I joined Glorious Grasslands as a volunteer, simply looking for something to do outdoors. They restore wildflower meadows across the region, which sounded pretty good. I also started to tutor python remotely on an informal basis.

At this point, it’s worth mentioning that I had been pursuing an active plan for financial independence since 1998. Although at the back of my mind I was mathematically aware this plan was pretty much complete, I wasn’t emotionally ready to embrace the idea of actually invoking it.

I liked working, in particular the non-financial aspects. So it was my intention to return after the sabbatical. But in January 2020, I experienced something quite unexpected from far outside. I briefly became viral on LinkedIn due to my python tutoring, and an avalanche of enquiries deluged my inbox.

Most were pretty mundane … people chancing a request that I might want to tutor their own genius 8 year old for free. But one or two conversations opened up the possibility that I might be able to forge a new career path doing remote consultancy on digital platforms.

So I contacted the company and said I wouldn’t be returning from sabbatical. We all know what happened next … by March the country was in lockdown, by April my investment portfolio had plunged 32%, by the summer the world of work and everything else had changed forever.

I found clarity during the period of covid. I gained an urgent sense that time is a depreciating asset. My dad died aged 68, so maybe I only have 16 years left, who knows?

In the months after lockdown, I ditched the idea of digital consultancy. It just didn’t excite enough. I didn’t really want, or need, more money. Instead, I focussed solely on the idea of allocating time however I choose.

Over the next couple of years, I went all out on two fronts: nature recovery and local community projects. Opportunity exists everywhere, and my antennae were up. I became aware of a whole world of activities to get involved with. In 2023, I began documenting this new life in an online diary.

I haven’t looked back since.

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