Written by David Templin
I like to think of myself as a rebel.
The image of a rebel is a very positive one for me. It represents courage, spontaneity, idealism, creativity and freedom. Those are all qualities I would like to incorporate into my life. Yet, as I mature in my middle age, I realize all good things are better in moderation.
I know, that doesn’t sound very rebellious! Let me try to explain where I am coming from.
For several years I was suffering from work related anxiety. I was finding my job boring and stressful at the same time. All things work related were becoming a source of anxiety for me.
Here is a list of some of the work related things that caused me anxiety:
- Deadlines. I often felt deadlines were arbitrarily set before assessing how much work was involved. Deadlines started to represent failure. This was a constant source of anxiety for me.
- Blackberry devices. Poor RIM, they have enough troubles without me piling more on. For me however, the Blackberry represented a very unwelcome intrusion on my personal life. 24 hour accessibility was an implied expectation of the job.
- Schedules of all kinds. I found that my schedule was continuously being filled with status meetings to discuss why we were not on schedule. My suggestion of “maybe there are too many meetings” was always dismissed as an inappropriate answer.
- Administrative routine. I found myself overwhelmed with the amount of administrative reporting I was required to complete. It was dull, repetitive and it kept me from the more satisfying aspects of my job.
So, about 2 years ago I took the courageous step of taking early retirement.
It is a decision I do not regret.
I have been living a life where there are no deadlines. My Blackberry device is turned off most of the time. I have been able to live without a daily schedule. I have pretty much avoided anything that seems like routine to me.
It sounds like heaven doesn’t it? Well, almost. There are one or two things I miss.
As much as my job became an almost continuous source of anxiety for me, on occasion it did provide me with a sense of accomplishment.
I knew early on in my retirement I would need to find things to do to give me a sense of accomplishment. I have taken up a few projects with friends that have helped fill that gap without most of the frustrations and anxiety that was inherent in my job. So far, that has worked well for me.
What is new, which I find a bit surprising, I am longing for some structure.
Right now, I get up when I want, go to bed when I want and if I don’t feel like doing anything, I don’t.
I am starting to find that isn’t as rewarding as it used to be.
Out of habit, I still have my alarm go off at 7:30 in the morning. Every morning I turn off the alarm and go back to sleep. It used to be a great indulgence to the rebel within me to realize, “Ha! I don’t have to get up this early, I’m going to roll over and go back to sleep.”
It has lost some of its oomph.
I am no longer experiencing the joy of breaking free.
It has occurred to me that maybe I have too much freedom.
I am now resolved to add more structure to my life.
So here’s my problem. The things that represent structure I associate with anxiety.
Schedules, deadlines, routine all have a negative connotation. They get my back up, and I have been giving in to my inner rebel too easily and rejecting them outright. There been no real challenge, no sense of accomplishment and no feeling of breaking free.
So, I started rebelling against my rebellious nature. I am trying to embrace structure as a positive influence. The rebel in me is taking a step back.
I am establishing a new philosophy to incorporate more structure into my daily life:
- Deadlines aren’t deadlines, they are goals. “Goal” is a much friendlier word than deadline. For one thing, it doesn’t have the word “dead” in it. When I achieve a goal there is a sense of accomplishment. The more goals I have, the more accomplishment I feel.
- Establishing a schedule is an excellent way of becoming more efficient. I can make sure I have time to do the things I love doing. Realistic time-frames help me achieve my goals.
- Routines do not have to be boring. Establishing a routine with set times to do things I like, is a way to ensure I have time to get to everything. I can schedule chores, like laundry, cleaning and paying bills, but I can also schedule meditation, reading, watching TV, and free time!
I am starting to relate goals to the feeling of accomplishment rather than failure. Anxiety is being replaced with anticipation.
I am seeing schedules as a means to ensure I have enough time devoted to practical things as well as activities that I feel are fun and creative. I can schedule time for myself, and a schedule does not have to feel like an intrusion.
So what of my internal rebel?
Well, he is still there. I have recruited him in the fight against anxiety itself. I need his creativity to make sure my schedules and routines are not boring. I need his idealism to set goals that are worthwhile. And, when life comes up with a problem that does not cooperate with my carefully planned life, I can let him loose, unconstrained by any schedules until the problem is solved.
Once a rebel, always a rebel!
Cartoon credit: David Templin
He keeps busy by volunteering to help seniors and helps organize an annual dinner to feed well over a thousand less fortunate people on Christmas Eve.
His greatest joy in life is when he successfully makes people smile and laugh.