It was everything. I've worked furiously for this from the age of 13, when I decided I was going to be a wildlife conservationist. It had been hard work. I'd made many sacrifices, living off slim budgets, or no money at all, and having to miss out on plenty of social events. But it worked. I was finally able to say that I was a wildlife conservationist. So, why was that little voice there? Whispering that this is no longer enough?
I never really had hobbies. All my childish vocations seemed to fade away, so that by the time I was at university, I'd stopped seeing the point. I threw myself into my studies. Reading became purely academic, rather than something to enjoy just for the sake of it. I filled my 'down-time' with social activities, with the odd hungover TV day. I had a blast at University, so I certainly don't regret this.
I saw conservation as a 'vocation'. In a competitive sector, where paid jobs were slim on the ground, I knew that I needed to work hard to stand out. I willingly allowed it to consume me.
The hobbies started to creep in gradually. With no fuss. It started with yoga, which I tentatively started practising at the age of 24. This very quickly came part of my daily routine. Around the same time I decided to be vegan and cooking came into the mix. Something that I had once avoided at all costs, I was now doing for pleasure.
By the age of 26, I found myself drawn to creative hobbies once again. I purchased a sewing machine and spent hours whirring away, feeling proud of my creations. Painting came next. A once adored past-time came flooding back when my fingers held a paintbrush once more. And, finally, reading came back in full force. I am now reading just as vigorously as when I was a teenager. I'm loving every second of it.
Then, Covid happened. My world suddenly went very quiet. As I lived alone, I had plenty of time to reflect. Although I was still working full-time, my work-load was markedly lower, as so many colleagues were on furlough. I started poking around, looking for things to fill my time. I'd never had this space to breathe before.
What was the result? Well, coming out the other side of Covid, my life has drastically changed. Firstly, my partner and I were able to put our much talked about plans of a tiny home into action. We committed and are now well on our way of living in our dream home and build a life that truly suits us (you can read more about this here). Secondly, I was able to finally find real time to dedicate to this blog. Fast forward a year and I am proud of what I have created and am actually able to earn some money from this. Writing has become a real passion. I now don't know what I would do without it.
Last month, I decided to put in the scary request to reduce my working hours at the RSPB. This was a hard decision. I felt a sense of shame, that I was stepping away from something that I had worked so hard for. Something that I had thought was more than enough to sustain me for years to come. I was reluctant to tell anyone. Sensing judgment. Didn't I love my job? Why would I give up more money? But, at the age of 28, I decided that full-time work wasn't for me.
My request was approved and I will now be working 3 days a week as opposed to 5 days from October. I'm not sure this would have been possible if Covid hadn't have happened. Or at least, not this quickly. I'd given myself space to make this decision, by lowering my living costs in choosing to live in a tiny home, as opposed to an expensive rental. I'd found a new passion and new source of income with my writing. Just as importantly, I'd let myself feel what it was like to slow down and decided that this was the life I wanted. A full life, where I could live every version of me. There is no shame in that.
I sense I am not alone in this. I've overheard many a tentative conversation, as people are suddenly feeling brave enough to question how they really want to live their life. A 'typical' 9-5 may not cut it for everyone now. If this is you, then don't feel embarrassed. Proudly explore your options. You can start small. Perhaps by putting a little extra aside every month. Building a cushion for what may be next. For more inspiration, you can read all about how I have crafted an intentional life here.
Be brave, think outside the box, and I promise you, it will be worth it.