I have an overwhelming need to document these strange times that we are living in. But, I haven’t written for a few months, so I am starting with a good old life update. I don’t really know where to start, so let’s go back to last summer when I got off the train.
I was burnt out. Let’s call a spade a spade. I was running my social media coaching and management business. I was all over the place trying to cope and grow and had lost focus on what was important, making me operate pretty inefficiently on all levels and I just felt done. I didn’t know what to do, but all I could think about was stopping. I needed to stop. This meant not having to worry about somebody else’s Instagram account at 11pm at night. I had done that for almost 10 years. And as much as I was proud of creating a career where I could work from wherever and travel and work simultaneously, what I actually had was a distinct lack of boundaries. The majority of my disagreements with Rob started because I was posting Instagram Stories for a client at 8 or 9pm. I would take my phone to the loo in restaurants and be gone 15 minutes because the signal wasn’t good in there and I needed to add a swipe up shopping link. I could have posted them earlier. I could have set my own boundaries. I could have charged extra for out of hours. I look back and I think… wow, I could have done so many things better. But I felt that if I went back – or even if I started again from the beginning, I would definitely slip back into my old habits – a lack of self motivation, paranoia over my inbox being filled with angry client feedback (which I never got by the way…), the constant feeling of never being done and never switching off. It was a cycle that I didn’t know how to break.
If you read my blog a lot, or follow my Instagram, you will know that I basically just stopped. I got off the train. I genuinely thought I needed to change my entire career and do something totally different with my life. I knew I still wanted to write, but I also knew that I needed a break. A big one. I didn’t realise how tired I was until I allowed myself to sleep properly. I stopped setting my alarm for weeks. And I slept for 10-12hrs every night. It didn’t feel like a waste. It felt necessary. I read so many books. I stopped high intensity workouts and started doing a lot of yoga. I removed so many areas of stress from my life. I went on holiday to the Dominican Republic with my mum, which to be honest can occasionally be quite stressful at times for both of us because we are quite similar and both enjoy our own alone time, but I put much less pressure on myself to perform the role of perfect daughter/holiday companion. (And now we can’t go anywhere due to lockdown, I’m already making a huge mental list of where we could go together next!) In the DR, I got up with the sun every day, I read my books, I watched my videos, I listened to my podcasts, I ordered my green juice and coffee to the room, I ate and drank what I wanted – and not just the same as her (that’s a weird one, but I’m such a people pleaser, that I have a tendency to do that and then feel sluggish later) – I went for long swims in the sea alone. I did my own thing – and it made me a better companion when I did check back in later in the day. When I got back, I continued to write. I made a decision on where I really wanted my blog to go and how I wanted to present myself to the world.
However, there was still something pressing. Income. I’d kind of just given it up by getting off the train. One thing I did do when I was away was I started to look at freelance writing jobs. I knew I could write. But somewhere in the past 10 years, I had switched from being a writer to being a “content creator” and then basically to being a social media consultant. And I suddenly felt regret at having made this switch somewhere along the road and wondered what would have happened if I had just stuck to the writing and the blog. These things happen though, right? Then I had regrets for being in Guernsey, because were we still living in London, then I would have just been able to walk into a million interviews and probably land one of them. Right?! I was looking online. I started spamming my newly created one-page CV to a million sites with little to no care – because I just needed to do it. I needed to get over the fear. I didn’t get much back – but then I wasn’t putting much effort in. Then finally I looked closer to home. It must have been around late November/early December by the time I ended up going to a recruiter in Guernsey. I had been putting it off for a long time, but what tipped me over the edge was a part-time social and content position for a small business on the island. I had to go through the recruiter to find out more about the job. I decided that I could do that and still build my blog. I decided that that would work for me. I would be able to have set working hours and guaranteed income, and then I would be able to focus on my own creative projects the rest of the time. It was ideal. I went for it.
Rediscovering My Confidence
But then somewhere along the way, I started to consider other things. I hadn’t really looked at my CV as something of great power until a professional did. My recruiter really boosted my confidence. She showed me that I had a very detailed and specific set of skills that wasn’t very common in Guernsey. My experience was huge in social media and I was clearly very good at it. This was when I started to look around at my life and my whole getting off the train movement and question it. Did I really want to give up my career? Or was it just burnout? She proposed an interview for a full time agency role as a Social Media and Content Specialist. I pushed back. Full time working for someone else in what I’d been doing for years? Where’s the freedom? Where’s the #girlboss lifestyle? Where’s the big change? How is that getting off the train? But I went along to the interview anyway with zero expectations, because I definitely didn’t want to be in an agency role. Right?!
I was just myself in the interview. I wasn’t trying too hard. I was so used to new business and client meetings, so I didn’t feel intimidated. I did try to impress – it’s in my nature to try my best, but I wasn’t nervous, because I didn’t think I wanted the role. I was just pleased to have a conversation and talk about my experience. I remember I totally overheated from wearing way too many layers and basically sat sweating my face off in the interview. That made me nervous afterwards. I was nervous that they thought I had been nervous by the way I looked! Why was I worried about that? Because I had actually walked out thinking that maybe this could be something that could work for me. I was a little bit excited. But I wasn’t sure it had gone well, because I hadn’t really analysed it. It turns out it had gone very well. I ended up getting a call back for the same day with a different director, which ended up actually being the week after by the time we organised it. I was excited. I was offered the role full-time. There was a moment or two of slight hesitation, don’t get me wrong. It was only natural. It was a big change. I did have to change my mindset to taking a full time job after having been in my solopreneur/hustle mindset for so long. But that hadn’t worked for me, had it?! And the idea of having structure to my life, a daily routine and a set income felt safer. Less stressful. Kind of exciting. I was willing to give it my all. I took the job. I am now the Social Media & Content Specialist at TPA working out of the Guernsey office.
From Home to Work and Back Home Again
Whilst negotiating and signing my contract for my new job in January, I was actually in South Africa on our regular annual trip to visit Rob’s family. It felt a little bit like one last hurrah before starting work and “joining the real world”. When I came back, I started my job in early February. I was also planning our wedding, working on the upcoming Guernsey Literary Festival and I spent a weekend in London at Life Lessons festival. I was still a little overwhelmed. I still had a couple of clients that I hadn’t wanted to abandon when I got off the train. My life felt busy, but I was adjusting. Then in early March, I went to Disneyland Paris for my best friend’s stag do (will write more!) and when I got home, I came back to a global pandemic and the start of social distancing. It was the first week of March just before France locked down, the UK locked down and then Guernsey locked down too. I had worked in the office for about a month before we were sent to work from home. That wasn’t part of the plan now, was it? But then again, was it for anyone? In any case, I didn’t have time to be concerned.
I was really busy with work from the minute that I got back to my home office (where my Christmas tree was still in place, showing how long it had been since I had spent time there). As part of my job, I was helping the Guernsey government with some social media campaigns surrounding the pandemic communications, as well as helping a lot of other clients step up their online activities given the lack of other marketing options. With many small businesses having to switch quickly to online, there is a need to step up social media content. There has also been a lot of fast-moving changes and therefore last minute decisions to make on messaging and content. It doesn’t feel like an efficient way to work, but in such unique times, it’s the only way. I’ve now been working at home for longer than I was working from the office. I’m coping surprisingly well for someone who got off the train and changed their life to get away from working from home alone to having a team and a commute and an office – and is now back home for the foreseeable future. I’m actually still enjoying the structure of the team – we are on Skype & Zoom each day. I have managed to create a good daily routine for myself and, because I am working an office job from home, I have set working hours which have in fact provided me a lot of freedom. I’m at my desk by 9am. I take a lunch break. I finish at 5pm. I sit at my desk all day working, talking to colleagues and listening a talk or a podcast. I still pop to the kitchen for a coffee or a snack throughout the day, but I go straight back to my work rather than getting distracted by other things, as I would have done before. I put the laundry or the tidying or the Youtube video viewing off until after 5pm. And that structure is working wonders for me.
Outside of work, I am pretty much thriving. And it is likely because of the structure I have with working hours. I spoke about this in my last post. I have been filling my time with exercise and other activities and as a homebody who often feels the pressure to get out and do things, I am relishing being told to stay at home and watch tv. Now, don’t get me wrong – I have my down days. And I feel for the people who are being furloughed and who are losing their jobs. I am working on being a positive influence online, but just to balance it out, know this: I have lost all freelance income. I am no longer planning a wedding and have no idea when we are getting married. The literary festival was cancelled on the same day that my wedding was. I cancelled my hen do. My best friend cancelled his wedding. Other weddings and trips have been cancelled. I have even taken a pay cut in my brand new job in an attempt to keep my position afloat. That basically means that everything that was overwhelming outside of work was gone. I’d love to have some friends round for games night and a chat over wine. I’d also love to know when I’ll next see anyone that I am related to, as we are in a different country to everyone we love. The world is changing rapidly. We don’t know what will happen next. We have to live in the moment and live in the best way that we can right now. That is what I am doing. I’m not sugarcoating it in my daily diaries over on my Instagram. I’m making the best of the situation that we have been dealt.
So what now?
I finally feel like I’ve found my own version of “new normal” in this “new normal” that we are living in. I know who I am and I have career ambitions in a way that I haven’t had before. I didn’t want to quit social media. I wanted to reevaluate my relationship with it. I can envision how my life could look in 5 years, whereas I just couldn’t do that before. I couldn’t see the path to get there. I was living in the moment in a somewhat paralysing, negative way, whereas now I’m embracing life with many of my previous stresses removed. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m a lot more hopeful.