I recently accepted a new job and am taking a little more than three weeks off in between leaving my old job and starting the new one. The responses from family and friends have been interesting:
What are you going to do with all that time off?
You don’t want to keep working until closer to Christmas?
What are you going to do with all that time off!?!?!
These interactions got me thinking about societal norms. People are expected to work. Whether they like it or not, they’re supposed to get up five days a week, go work for the man, go on one vacation per year, and maybe retire at 65. Other lifestyles just aren’t considered for the most part. When my new employer asked if I wanted to start after the first of the year, I said “sure sounds great,” calculated how much time off I’d have if I put in my two weeks as soon as possible, and then giggled to myself a little. I didn’t even for one second consider working for my old employer for any amount of time longer than the typical two weeks notice required.
Besides societal norms, I thought of other reasons people would think it’s weird to take three weeks off unpaid. Many people live paycheck to paycheck, so the thought of taking three weeks off without pay might not make sense or be feasible for many people. They may have monthly obligations such as car loans, student loans, a mortgage, etc. Many people consider these debt payments as inevitable and can’t really consider life without them.
I never was one that allowed myself to be defined by my career. I like to make sure I find self-worth in other pursuits. I do this for a number of reasons but the big one is that a job can be taken away almost randomly and I don’t want my self-worth caught up in something I have little control over.
I have always been able to keep myself occupied. I never really find myself bored out of my mind. I have too many hobbies and pursuits to allow that to happen. Sitting here thinking about the things I want to get done in the next three weeks and I actually struggle to see how it will all get done: read, write, adventures with the fiancée, workout, work on building my home gym, clean out the garage, go on a podcast or two, update my work wardrobe, go on walks, catch up on chores, cook, visit family, hang out with friends, play basketball, watch some movies, maybe go skiing, etc. And that’s just what I came up with off the top of my head. Some folks like the structure work provides them, I thrive without it.
At the end of the day I shouldn’t care that others think its weird that I’m taking some extended time off from work. It’s my life and I should live it free from concern at how others perceive it. Also, I should get used to the confusion as I have a whole mess of non-traditional plans for my future.