I’m not used to the term part-timer simply because I give 100% to everything I do. But when you do a lot of things, it is 100% to one thing at one time. I worked in Information Technology (computers as others call it) for many years in India and then moved to do the same in Singapore and then in the UK. I worked in a bank during the financial crisis and worked 16-18 hour shifts and was proud of holding the fort.
I never gave up on writing. I wrote in the mornings and nights, on trains and bus-stops and all weekends. I used to get up at 4 am in the morning when I was in a demanding and stressful relationship to ensure I get my writing done irrespective of how the day turned out to be.
Then early this year, I spent some time evaluating life. The mortgage was paid off, there is no husband or kids to look after, just me, the laundry, the dishes and what I wanted.
What did I want to do with life?
I was working regular hours, but to write I was giving up my evenings and weekends, and precious time with my nephew growing up.
I was giving up on experiencing life so that I could work and write. My life experiences with spreadsheets and conference calls weren’t going to feed my muse to write stories for children. Writing comes from inside me and inside me was underfed with richness and tired with office politics.
Could I have both? I didn’t want to be at home full-time. I’m a natural loner might end up finding my haven inside instead of exploring the world. I would need to keep my mind sharp and my day job was very good at doing that. So maybe I could step off the pedal and not worry about whether I had a powerful and high-paying job but find my work-writing-life balance.
After a lot of chats with my sister and my parents, I decided to float the idea to my bosses. My family was supportive of my plans – albeit my Dad a bit worried about leaving a permanent job.
Oddly enough and pleasantly surprising my bosses were supportive of my decision as well. My divisional manager was keen to keep me onboard and allow me the time to write. So I went in with a resignation so I could find contract jobs that would give me freedom, I came back with a part-time offer with job security and time away to write, to go into schools and pursue storytelling.
It’s been six weeks now and it has been fantastic. I was thinking if I could have done it sooner and realized not really. I had taken advantage of the first opportunity to scale back one part of my life and create a bigger pie for other things.
I have been into many libraries telling stories. I’ve done storytelling in summer fetes and community gatherings. I’ve been part of CWISL’s first ShoutWest event and I’ve been writing more.
I now work three days at the bank and have the rest of the week to write and have fun. I see more of my nephew, I have found myself a writing mentor with the Golden Egg Academy and I’ve met some interesting people going on walks discovering the heritage of London.
I’m asked if going into work for the three days is difficult. It is actually fun. I feel less guilty about going into corporate work at the cost of life or writing. I’ve wanted to do something for myself, I didn’t go out and buy a Ferrari, (in my case it would be the Fiat 500)
– but I thought about what I wanted and bargained life for what it’s worth and I have more time to spend the money I make.
In a way, I am the husband and wife at the same time in my own life- the bank employee me makes the money and the writer me, spends the money on notebooks, books, stationery, going to events and such!
I’m more productive as a writer – I’ve time for experiments, I can now write and put it away because time is not that scarce. It is still precious, but I have no plan to waste it.
Who said lounging in the park watching cloud shapes is wasting time? That’s research, that’s observation, that’s fodder for the writing. Who said walking my story by the riverside is a waste of time? It is a gift that only I could give myself.
Some people tell me I’m brave to step off the ladder, or off the treadmill or the accelerator whatever you call it. People in my position at my work are now furiously looking for the next big promotion.
But I am free from all that stress and it has liberated me at work. Not that I was one of those people led by a chief whip – I had opinions of my own and never kept it to myself. But I’ve now given myself permission just to enjoy the work. I think I now understand more the maxim that is in the Bhagavad Gita that I always believed in – “Do your duty and do not expect a benefit from it.”
My HR contact will check in with me after 3 months, and I hope I’ll be able to say “Can I stay forever part-time please?”