My six-month (compensated) unemployment is winding down. It’s been a slo-mo mind trip; life pontification at the speed of creeping molasses. Looking back, I’ve enjoyed it very much. My only regret is not documenting more so I can reflect on a time of doing little with delirious nostalgia (I am aware of how few people on this planet are able to enjoy such freedom).
When I opted out of applying for a newly-minted job at the corporation, I pledged to take advantage. “Garden leave”, they call it (literally f#*k off money to go and garden so you won’t be in their hair). I would do something grandiose. I would pen a book or travel to strange and faraway lands.
In those first days, I wore my ambition on my sleeve. I went to the gym each morning and fantasized about my impending, stupendous six months. I obsessed over flight prices. I swore up and down that I would make leaps and bounds in my diploma work.
Given I was required to be in the country to take my unemployment classes (which were a required part of my compensation), I did allow myself to indulge in countless movies, most of them accompanied by entire bags of caramel popcorn. I fattened up in those unseasonably warm days of January and February. I lounged in my tiny front garden and strolled through the center of Den Haag, making myself furniture in an assortment of coffee joints.
I went to Belgium and meditated at my retreat center, volunteering my hands to cleaning bathroom stalls, planting flowers around the campus and cooking vats of gado-gado. I made dates with friends. I travelled to Paris, Curacao and the Black Hills of South Dakota. I swam in the Caribbean Ocean until it felt like therapy, and I lounged on my mother’s front porch swing drinking ice tea (or whiskey) and reading tao te ching or helping her sort garden seeds. I played with my nephews, mowed my grandma’s lawn and went on long bike trips to camp alone in the woods. I ran many miles in quiet contemplation of whatever.
It was not all play: I plotted my future to ensure my continued freedom from the 9-5 grind, taking an online business course on setting up one’s own business and in the process “doubling one’s income and free time”. I allowed myself to be inspired by the idea that I don’t have to spend my life in an office doing meaningless busy work and kicked my own ass into believing that if they can do it, then so can I.
And so here I am, in the dusk of this freedom, getting ready for one more solo camping trip. I will spend these last few weeks seeing family and friends back in Iowa, and then I will finally return to the Netherlands where I’ll pin my hair into a twist to rake in those freelance projects. Back to the world of schedules and knowing what day it is.
I could have exercised so much more productivity than I did over these last six months. I never wrote a book, and I didn’t travel nearly as much as I would have liked. I avoided my diploma work almost entirely.
What I did do was enjoy my life. I have lived in the moment like never before.