Failing at Freedom

Today I’m feeling… overwhelmed? Lazy? I don’t know… but I’m in a weird mental space anyway. After a great, romantic weekend in wine country (part of our 3 year wedding anniversary celebrations), I’m feeling oddly stressed and out of sorts. I think it all goes back to my need to find balance and structure, which I realized and commented about just 3 weeks in to our new life here in So Cal.

This freedom, flexibility and carefree living is all very new to me. I’ve always lived in a world of structure, targets and achievement. I am naturally organized and have always held myself to a high standard, but to be honest, a lot of my achievement academically and professionally was borne out of the ability to see my performance measured. To see myself at the top of my class. To have the best performance review. To be recognized and promoted (and often rewarded with raises and bonuses). My brain is still adjusting to this new, wonderful world where I have complete control over my time and targets and where I have no measurable way to grade myself.

In my last life (in London), everything was nicely structured. My alarm sounded at one of two times (depending on whether or not I was going to the gym). My breakfast and lunch were routine (and even measured precisely). Mark and I left home at pretty much the same time each day, catching the same train and seeing the same commuters. My work day was typically uneventful (and also, unfortunately, typically unfulfilling), allowing me to leave at the same time most days (which was a welcomed change from a much more fulfilling job that had the unfortunate side effect of often consuming my life entirely). The evenings were more flexible; I’d often decide whether to walk or take the tube home based on weather and how much preparation that night’s dinner needed. At weekends, we did our big grocery shop and would often go for a long walk. Sometimes our weekends were busier, or we were away, but they still somehow seemed structured. Having worked since I was 14 and attending school for years before and after that, this sort of predetermined routine has ruled my life for literally as long as I can remember.

Life now is… different. Fantastic, but different. My only ‘daily deliverables’ are getting Mark breakfast and lunch before he leaves each morning. Otherwise, my days and weeks are completely my own. It’s wonderful, but sort of daunting all at once. Early on, we needed household items, which gave me obvious targets. Now, with the house virtually done, what I do all day is up to me, and it’s kind of making me lazy.

Lately I find myself oscillating between productivity and analysis paralysis. In the past, my to do list would get done fairly quickly. If anything was left undone, it was because I genuinely didn’t have the time. Now… they just sort of… don’t? Small tasks are easily done, but I’m struggling to find the motivation to do much else. Organizing our filing cabinet, curating a few decorative items for Mr. O’s cubicle, and artwork for the lounge and guest room are all yet to be done weeks after first appearing on the list. While I enjoy the things I do do each day (like preparing Mark’s lunches and tidying up the apartment), I’m not feeling motivated for much else (despite them also being projects or tasks I’m interested in). I’m even having cold feelings toward the volunteer work I want to be doing,; the facility is on the complete opposite side of San Diego, and I don’t like the idea, time suck or gas consumption of driving nearly half an hour each way.

I’ve recently spent some time learning about Private Lending (ie providing short term financing to real estate investors flipping or rehabbing things like foreclosure properties). I’ll be getting involved with my first project/investment soon (assuming Hurricane Sandy doesn’t wreak too much havoc). Again, I have mixed feelings on how dedicated I want to be. Some people develop strong relationships with borrowers and structure deals with other investors rather than just investing their own money (and of course take a portion of the profit for their role in the transaction). While I think I could do well in such a position, do I really want to make a ‘business’ out of this? I was encouraged by one of my lending ‘mentors’ to set a financial goal. Most people set goals that would enable them to sit on a beach, sipping pina coladas, but I kept mine modest. My target could comfortably cover our monthly expenditures, but more significantly it was one I was fairly comfortable I could achieve with just a portion of our investable assets – ie without growing a business at all.

My diet and exercise routine is pretty out of whack, too. I’m drinking less water, despite having the same water bottle readily available that  I filled and drank several times a day at my old office. I could fairly easily make the same grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and bell pepper lunch I ate for months in London… and yet I don’t. Instead, my lunch is sometimes leftovers, sometimes a random collection of foods readily available in the cabinet, sometimes picked up while I’m out and about, sometimes not eaten at all, sometimes eaten so late I don’t really need dinner… All very random. Before our move, I also assumed I’d be swimming AND running AND doing weights pretty much every day, thanks to all my free time. Instead, I’m finding myself at the gym once, MAYBE twice a week, and walking a LOT less (our commute in London easily had me walking anywhere from 2-5 miles a day). I’m missing the endorphin rush, and I suspect my more sedentary lifestyle is part of the reason for my patchy appetite.

I’m also still adjusting to personal and (mostly perceived) societal pressures and norms. It’s very new (not to mention very odd) not having a concrete answer when people ask what I’m doing or what my (personal and professional) plans are. Housewife or semi-retired 28 year old aren’t particularly socially acceptable or common choices in the land of dual-income households, debt and overconsumption (especially if you don’t want to launch into a full monologue about your lifestyle choices and spending habits). I guess in that aspect, I’m relieved we chose to take up Mr O’s employer on their offer in San Diego. Had we moved to Colorado as originally planned, where Mark and I both would have been enjoying flexibility and semi-retirement, we’d both be facing internal and external questions right now.

Overall, I would say that I’m very happy with our move. I love the weather, I love our apartment, I love how happy Mark is about his projects at work, and I love not going into an office for 8 hours a day to do a job I didn’t believe in (especially when that office is open plan, and I was constantly exposed to the narrow mindedness, digestive issues or chatty habits of certain neighboring colleagues). However, 2 1/2 months in, I’m also struggling with how to motivate myself, structure my time or give myself a sense of achievement each day. Some days, things naturally fall into a routine… and some days I find myself in a funk, sitting on my bed at nearly 2 pm on a Monday having not eaten lunch with the week’s grocery list next to me and the realization I am meant to have a virtual date with my best friend in 2 short hours… and then I wonder where the heck my day has gone already and when I became so gosh darned lazy and unproductive.

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One comment

  1. […] I think (and write) about how unproductive and lazy I can be with this new life. And then other times, I feel like I am […]

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