Archive for the 'freedom' Category

One year anniversary

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

It’s been one year since I quit my job. I’m going to Bali on August 15 for a month to mark the occasion by learning to surf.

Six-month anniversary

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

I have been on vacation for exactly six months. Andy sent me this link about taking a year off:

Grand Theft Auto

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

One of my goals for this sabbatical was to absorb some of the pop culture I missed out on while living in Tokyo for so long. I had planned on watching the Sopranos through to the finale, and maybe playing some video games. Manny’s pad in Covent Garden has all the important mod cons: 42″ plasma TV, Xbox, Wii and PS3. Why wait?

We bought Grand Theft Auto IV on Wednesday and it took until just after midnight to learn to drive, fight, shoot and take the Michelle character out on dates. On Thursday I played from about 2:00p until I had acquired a set of body armor, a knife, a pistol, a shotgun and a police car about six hours later. Then we were ready to really start playing.

Most days we’ve been up until around 1:00a playing, and that was exercising real discipline. I’m not sure that playing a violent game like GTA makes you more likely to commit violent acts in real life, but I know that after playing for three solid days it does affect your perception. In the game, if you beat up or run over a character, any cash he has falls out of his pockets and glows green. I was walking down Neal Street on Friday and saw a fluorescent green plastic spoon from the local gelato place glowing in the sun on the cobblestones. My first thought was, “Ooh, money.”

The early worm gets eaten by the bird

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Today is the start of my third week of freedom, and I woke up again before 7:00a. Why so early? I think it’s because I feel like the “pipeline” is still full.

I will license the following metaphor to the first management guru to write in: As an employee, you are an avalanche victim — you are buried in snow (work), and your job is to dig your way out. Part of what you are paid for is to prioritize correctly — there’s always more to do than one person can accomplish. You need to pick the correct direction (up, or at least upward), the right tools, and the right technique to make progress while the snow continues to accumulate above you. If you dig deeper, or dig upward but try to make the hole bigger than necessary, or if you use your hands when you have tools, you won’t make enough progress. You don’t have to shovel all the snow, just enough to get up to the surface. (OK, maybe this metaphor needs some work.) Anyway, I wake up every morning ready to dig, even though the things I still have to arrange before I leave should take less than a week. All the pressure of work waiting to be done is more or less imaginary.

My friends who have taken sabbaticals have not been encouraging: they say it takes four months to stop feeling like that.

What you sign up for when you resign

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Endless lectures! I mentioned before that I had talked to several long-term travelers to learn what their trips cost, what they learned while traveling, what advice they had to offer, etc. In addition to those mentioned earlier, I got histories from the following people:

  • Someone who left the company with a big enough package not to have to work again.
  • Someone who took four months off while transitioning from his job in Japan to a new company in the US.
  • An IT contractor in the UK who regularly takes a month or more off between assignments.
As with anything else, people have all sorts of opinions on how to spend your time when you’re not working. But whatever else people said, pretty much everyone said some version of the following:
  1. Make a plan — it’s very easy to let the time drift by and find your break is over before you know it.
  2. Budget about four months to recover/decompress/get back to your old self/repair your spirit (none of these phrases is my own…) after you quit working.
  3. Don’t buy a round-the-world ticket — you’ll almost certainly find a reason to stay in one place longer than your plan (see 1) called for.
I have a plan (of sorts), but I did buy a round-the-world ticket in spite of the advice. I will be sure to record my verdict on such tickets when (if) I make it to my destination.

The Flying Robert

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Today is grey and gloomy in London, with spattering rain. Typical mid-summer weather! Maybe because of the rain, but probably partly because I’m leaving soon, a poem I memorized at university was running through my head today. The original is German, here’s a translation:

The Flying Robert

Escapism, you cry out to me,
What else, I reply,
with this lousy weather!
I open my umbrella
and launch myself into the winds.
From your point of view
I become smaller and smaller,
until I vanish.
I leave behind nothing
but a legend,
with which you green-eyed monsters
pester your children,
when it storms outside,
so that they do not fly away from you.

— Hans Magnus Enzensberger

“You green-eyed monsters” is a loose translation of “ihr Neidhammel” (you envious people) in the original. “Hammel” is wether in English, and if you grew up on a ranch you might recognize that word, but if not, you probably think it’s a typo for “weather” or “whether”. It means a male sheep that was castrated when it was young, the sheep-world equivalent of a steer. That may seem like an obscure word, unless you recognize it as part of “bellwether”, a word you’ve probably used.

Here’s the original:

Der fliegende Robert

Eskapismus, ruft ihr mir zu,
Was denn sonst, antworte ich,
bei diesem Sauwetter! -,
spanne den Regenschirm auf
und erhebe mich in die Lüfte.
Von euch aus gesehen,
werde ich immer kleiner und kleiner,
bis ich verschwunden bin.
Ich hinterlasse nichts weiter
als eine Legende,
mit der ihr Neidhammel,
wenn es draußen stürmt,
euern Kindern in den Ohren liegt,
damit sie euch nicht davonfliegen.

— Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Turn in your badge and gun

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Last night was my leaving do/going away party in Shoreditch, and today was my last day at work. I came in just to say goodbye and give back my ID card and BlackBerry. After two years of being on call, I wasn’t sorry to give up the BlackBerry, but after more than seven years at the company, it was a little sad to ask the guard to open the gate and let me out.

Andy and Mechelle took me to lunch with them at the Walrus and Carpenter. I ordered steak and ale pie in short pastry and mentioned that when I moved to London, I imagined I would be eating like this all the time. Andy said don’t stereotype the English. I said if I were stereotyping, I would have ordered a curry, a lager, and a punch-up.

After lunch I walked back to The Light to pick up my credit card and pay my tab from the night before (I forgot this when we wobbled out to the second venue).

Next I went to the post office and mailed my passport to the US Embassy here in London to get it renewed (that takes some faith!). I had added some new pages two years ago, but on my trip to Ireland last month, the immigration officer used up the (entire) last clean page. The website says it will take 15 days, so (fingers crossed) I will have it back before my flight leaves on September 1.

When I got home, I disabled the script that plays music to wake me up in the morning — I still don’t quite believe it, but I won’t need to get up regularly at any certain time for the next year at least.