Why I Left “The 9-5”
Updated: Apr 7, 2020
I don’t know how people do it. I don’t know how people do the “the 9-5” thing. (Side note: when I say “the 9-5”, I just mean a traditional work schedule -- 5 day weeks, 8ish hour days). I have always wanted to be able to effectively live and work this way, since it is arguably the most socially accepted way to live, but every time I’ve tried, my body lets me know that it is not happy living this way. I have always been amazed and impressed by people who rock the 9-5, but I’ve always struggled to keep up with them. It has taken me a long time to figure out why I struggle so much on this schedule, and even longer to accept that it just isn’t for me (although I still often catch myself getting sucked back into it, because the pressure of adhering to social norms doesn’t just disappear once you’ve decided you no longer want to adhere).
“I’m a lazy quitter.” For real, that was an actual thought I allowed to pass through my mind just because I can’t keep up with the pace society expects us to keep up to. Does anyone else feel like it’s all just TOO MUCH? Real talk -- I feel this way a majority of the time.
Part of my journey has been practicing positive self-talk, because I find negative self-talk debilitating. Saying those things to myself didn’t cause me to be more productive or successful -- they just made me feel like trying was pointless. But changing the narrative has altered my life in such a positive way. Because that’s when I realized that “laziness” and “quitting” only happen when I’m not honouring the needs of my soul. I began to realize that when I did certain things, I wasn’t lazy at all, because my passion was fueling me. The reason that I wasn’t putting my best self out into the world was because I didn’t feel inspired. I didn’t feel fulfilled working for someone else -- doing things based on someone else’s agenda just felt sort of meaningless. I felt “lazy” because I didn’t feel passionate, I felt like a “quitter” because I was desperately trying one thing after another to find something--anything--that would light me up. Once I started replacing the idea that I was lazy, with the mindset that I just need to begin moving towards the things that inspire me, and take time to rest and reevaluate when I’m feeling unsure of what that is. And instead of thinking of myself as a quitter, I shifted my inner dialogue to “I am trying new things until I find the things that light me up”. This has significantly increased my self-worth, and has allowed me to let go of a lot of my fear of judgement from others, which is so liberating. And while I’m not quite where I want to be yet, and I’m not even sure exactly where that is, I am moving towards it -- towards my purpose. And it feels so gosh-darn good! (That last sentence sounds best when read in a Minnesotan accent, which is probably my all-time favourite accent, just FYI).
So maybe you’ve read up to this point and you can’t relate at all -- and that’s great! If you are currently in “the 9-5”, and you are happy, then I am sincerely happy for you! Happiness is my favourite, and I genuinely just want people to be happy. But if you have been nodding your head along with me so far, and you want to potentially relate even harder -- then keep reading! Because I am going to outline the three main reasons why “the 9-5” didn’t work for me, and they might be the reasons it doesn’t work for you either. Then we can bond over it, and maybe together we can figure out where to go from here!
Why I Left “The 9-5”
1. THE SCHEDULE (hinders my process and my progress)
The actual schedule itself is just not conducive to productivity for me. It may seem obvious and almost silly to even mention, but this traditional work schedule has been so deeply ingrained in us, that I think we often forget that this is NOT the only way to do things, this schedule was created -- we haven’t always lived this way (if you would like to read more about how our work days have come to be structured this way, here is an interesting article). Also, the feeling I would get on Sunday nights, dreading Mondays, always waiting for the weekend, this cycle gave me so much anxiety that I just wanted to be free of that feeling.
Sooooo, confession: I am not a morning person. I never have been, and there is a pretty good chance I never will be. It’s not that I hate morning-time or anything -- I have actually always wished I was a morning person because (a) life would just be so much easier, and (b) early morning is a beautiful time of day! It’s just that no matter how much sleep I get, waking up early leaves me feeling sluggish most of the time. Morning is definitely not my most productive time of day, and by the time my productive time of day rolls around, the traditional work day is done and I’m pooped! But, if I allow myself to sleep in just a little bit later, I find that I am able to do SO much more in a day!
Another reason the schedule doesn’t work for me, is that I cannot sustain the amount of energy it takes to work steadily for that many hours. My energy comes in waves and I am most effective working in bursts. If I can dive into something when I’m really feeling inspired, and take breaks on my own terms, I can get A LOT done. What I found when I was working a 9-5 schedule, is that I was only productive during small increments throughout the day, and the rest of the day I felt distracted, unproductive, and frustrated. Then, I would go home and feel utterly exhausted. So exhausted that I would often crawl into bed and nap, then wake up, eat something quick and easy, watch tv, and then go to bed and do it all over again the next day. Needless to say, this did not feel good; this was not feeding my soul.
This schedule also did not provide me with the flexibility and freedom that I crave. I felt restricted and regulated and stuck. I wanted to be able to take a sick day without having to report to someone and worry about how it “looked”. I wanted to be able to go to the grocery store at a time of day when it wasn’t crowded and hectic. I longed for the energy to do things for myself -- not just self-care, but things I needed to do like laundry and cleaning my bathroom -- during my time away from work. Without freedom and flexibility, my creativity was suppressed, without creativity, my productivity decreased, and without productivity, my self-worth suffered (not that I believe we are only worthy if we are productive… but I will save that discussion for another post).
2. THE ENVIRONMENT
I have found that being outside more often significantly improves both my physical and mental health. The combination of the exposure to sunlight which provides me with vitamin D (and so many other wonderful things that you can read about here), the practice of earthing/grounding which provides me with a more balanced electrical charge, and being surrounded by nature which encourages mindfulness and enhances my spirituality -- all work together to improve my quality of life so substantially that it only makes sense for me to live this way.
I have also found that I am extremely sensitive to the energies of other people -- I tend to pick up and absorb other people’s moods and emotions. Spending such a large portion of time around other people has always been emotionally draining for me, even as a child I found birthday parties and social events to be so overwhelming that it would actually make me physically sick (I was the super fun kid who puked up the birthday cake and then cried in the corner until my mom came to pick me up).
In past work environments, the interpersonal drama was always what was the most difficult for me, as I’m not great at setting up boundaries (something I’m working on). Even without drama, maintaining interpersonal relationships in a workplace can be exhausting -- interacting with people all day, every day is just too much for me, even if I really like the people I’m interacting with! I just need a certain amount of time alone to maintain my mental wellbeing.
Also, in a typical workplace, there is a hierarchy, and you are constantly chasing the approval of those “above” you while they judge and evaluate you, which always left me feeling like no matter what I did, I would never be good enough. I know a certain amount of pressure to be and do better is good for us, but I just never seemed to thrive in those environments. You are also expected to be an edited version of yourself -- you have to conform to what that specific work environment expects their employees to be like.
I have learned that feeling appreciated is what fuels me. When I feel genuinely appreciated, I am a happier, and consequently, a more effective employee.
Finally, in a typical work environment, I get so distracted, and I am so distracting. I really struggle to focus when I am surrounded by people. If there is any drama, I stress about it, if I get along really well with my coworkers, I become like the kid in school who has to be moved because they are talking and giggling too much (not that I was ever that kid in school). Ashley and I got along really well as coworkers… staff meetings were a bit of a struggle.
3. HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Whenever I have attempted to work a typical 9-5 schedule, my physical and mental health have suffered considerably. Typically, I would operate in cycles where I would start out strong, I would put most of my time and energy into work, then I would hit a wall -- either a physical illness, or an emotional breakdown -- which would force me to rest, then as soon as I was able, I would start all over again. Not only was this not ideal work-wise, but it left me with no time or energy to do the things I actually enjoy.
When I am constantly draining my energy resources through working, I struggle to take good care of my body. I drink way more coffee and caffeinated beverages than I should (I personally think the reason we are so addicted to caffeine in our culture isn’t because the substance itself is addictive, it’s that we are just so damn exhausted we struggle to function without its assistance), I exercise less often or not at all, most of what I eat are foods that are fast and easy and often lack the nutrition my body needs. This leaves me with even less energy, less motivation in general, and sometimes nutritional deficiencies.
In another post I will get into my journey with depression over the last 15 years, but for now, I’ll just give you a very brief overview. When I was about 15 or 16 years old, I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having Major Depressive Disorder or Clinical Depression, and I have been on and off (mostly on) antidepressants ever since. So, I have become very aware of how my mental health is affected by my lifestyle. When I am expending a majority of my energy working, the first thing I end up scaling back on is my social life (it’s interesting how much things have changed from my early twenties…), which makes me feel like a bad friend, but I honestly just run out of energy.
And if I don’t have the energy for other people, I certainly don’t have the energy for myself, which means my self-care becomes non-existent. Self-care can look very different depending on who you are and what the situation is, but for the purpose of this article, I am just referring to the basic things that allow us to live with a certain level of calmness, like something as simple as being able to take my time preparing a nice meal for myself and then also having the time to sit down and actually enjoy it, rather than stuffing it in my face as I’m running around getting ready for the next thing.
I also get to spend more time at home with the people (and animals) I love! Whether it’s at my family farm where I grew up, or at my home in the small city where I live -- I loooove being at home. I love spending my time in environments where I feel comfortable and at ease (comfort is very important to me). I get to spend more time with my family, my partner, and my pets. I also get to be alone more often, which is something I have learned that I really need in order to recharge. I don’t think I even need to bother explaining how these things improve my mental health.
I would like to add that I do recognize that I have an incredible amount of privilege to even have the option to work a job outside of the typical workplace. I know that many people are literally working any job they can to survive, and that many people don’t even have jobs because they either can’t find work, or can’t work because of their physical or mental health. I am so grateful, and my privilege is not lost on me. I respect everyone for the choices they make according to what is best for them, this is just a post about my personal thoughts and feelings.
Please let me know what you think about this post in the comments! Do you currently work a “9-5” job? Do you like this schedule? Or do you work a job outside of the typical work schedule? What made you decide to choose your current work? Is this post relatable at all? Let’s talk!
Take care and be kind to yourselves, Root and Sprouters!