Perhaps I thought there would be some sort of revelation after a two week work hiatus. Perhaps I thought that, after 14 days plus a few extra, I’d flip up my laptop screen and my fingers would play puppets to the words streaming out of me. Yet here I sit, the copses of the Cotswolds evaporating beyond me as the train chortles back to real life - to strategies, plans and questions - with no better understanding of what I want to do than that I started with a couple weeks back.
For the record, I haven’t been in the Cotswolds for two weeks. Despite routinely insisting that I am ~ the most cleverest of persons ~ to Keiran and my family, I hadn’t set myself up on a pained-author-esque countryside retreat, hoping I’d construct my magnum opus from the corners of secluded tearooms and fields punctuated by lovely coos. No, I’d booked a two-night mini-break because I wanted to get pissed on prosecco whilst boiling from the waist down in an outside hot tub. Priorities, right?
Chance played a hand, too. When I decided to take two weeks off it hadn’t been planned; it came after a teary Insta-story session in a beautiful London hotel room, in which all of my tiredness, frustration and apathy came to a head. After multiple FaceTime calls and a long night spent by myself, taking a breather felt like the right thing to do. I needed to refocus and find a way of better managing my time, most importantly so I could get back to writing again. My posts have been staggered and substantially less regular than they used to be, and, amongst other reasons, a big part of that has been my inability to find the right words. It’s not that I don’t have the ideas or the threads of the thoughts that I want to follow, it’s just that I get a couple of lines in and my head is so filled with noise that I can’t hear what I want to say next.
I thought having a break would change that, but - shock horror - the world doesn’t stop turning just because you decide to step off. I had prior commitments that I was obliged to see through, blog posts I wanted to write ahead of my hotly-anticipated comeback (just my Mum, then?), and images I wanted to enjoy creating, rather than feeling too time-poor and pressure-heavy. I wanted to take photographs of other people (something I love and want to do more of), read a book and lay down a lot on the various surfaces throughout my home. I wanted to return, ascending over the setting sun in a haze of purple smoke, flanked by exotic birds and rising, glowing, to the celestial sound of choir-song.
A few of these things happened, and a few didn’t. As I’m now creaking into the Suffolk countryside on a Greater Anglia train from the 1970s, I’ll let you guess which.
Life continued to be busy. I had an influx of paid work (Sod’s Law), friends, family and general life shit to contend with, and whilst things were admittedly - and delightfully - less frantic, the time still passed me by in what feels like no more than a click of the fingers. I’d idealised what ‘time off’ would look like, picturing an ever-expanding Sunday morning when in reality, it was more like a Friday afternoon - I still needed to get shit done, but I could do it a little slower. And just because you slow down the execution of work, doesn’t mean you stop thinking about it. Not for long, anyway. There’s always another deadline or an unexpected annoying email or the perpetual jostling of money matters.
That’s not to say that time off hasn’t helped. It certainly has. The other day I slept for 12 hours - 12 hours!! - and despite a few random bouts of being under the weather, I feel more well-rested, closer to being emotionally rebalanced and less irate. I’ve seen new friends, old friends, got pissed a lot and been on two mini-breaks to the countryside. I’ve eaten multiple ice-creams, chocolate and fruity. I’ve even made a spreadsheet of holiday clothes for Italy in just under a month, so I can make sure I’m super-organised when it comes to packing. This level of preparedness is utterly unheard of for me, so the time and space - even if it wasn’t the time and space I had imagined it to be - made a difference.
And yet I’m still unsure. I still don’t feel like I had enough time to reflect. And I probably didn’t; eventually I had to force myself to turn off the email notifications on my phone, because it was second nature to open them as soon as they appeared, and in doing so, plunge myself back into the mindset of work. I still had to keep the ship sailing, and so, in a way, all I really did was take my foot of the gas. Less acceleration, more cruise control.
That taught me something, nevertheless. If I’ve come out of a two week break feeling no more decisive than when I went in - no more resolute in what it is that I want to do and no surer of the direction I’m heading in - then it’s glaringly obvious that the “balance” I thought I had before was actually an overbearing weight. I wasn’t managing my workload in a way that left me satisfied, let alone happy, and I ended up living for the weekends and dreading Monday-Friday (yes, you can dislike your job even if you’re a blogger with all of the accompanying perks - I don’t feel guilty admitting that). It was too much, and that moment in the hotel room where I suddenly felt like I wasn’t capable was my mind’s way of calling bullshit. Time out. U lying, girl.
Here it is: my work is my work, but it isn’t my identity. It’s just one facet of what continues to make me an ever-evolving, ever-changing human being. If at some point what I’m doing no longer motivates me to look deeper and think freer and be happier, then I can find something else which does. It’s something I knew before and not quite the revelation that I’d hoped it would be, but if nothing else, I can thank my hiatus for making it clearer.
Soooooo…what now? Like an awkward second-date goodbye, we're both kinda rocking on our tip-toes here, aren't we? Well, lean in and give me a snog girl, because for now, I’m staying. Yes, I still don’t have a clue what I want, and yes, my head is still a little too FDGFGERTKENRNO!!!!! for my liking, but I’ve got a few things I’d like to share and I figured we can just see how it goes. Kinda like (best) friends, but with benefits.
This post was sponsored by Desenio. It’s been almost a year since we moved into our house. Typing that out...