Life is funny.
In hindsight it always feels like the events that shaped your life happened in the most natural way, and it’s hard to picture any other outcome. But change only one parameter and I could still be stuck on autopilot doing what we humans do best; dreaming and procrastinating.
Takeaway for the 1-minute man: Trust your heart and act on it. Don’t wait.
I was stuck.
Not in a bad life at all which made it even harder to break loose. I was stuck in my comfortable, but static lifestyle as a well-paid UX designer in London and I was realising more and more that I wasn’t pursuing what I really wanted — being my own boss. Ruling over my own time, setting my own objectives. Leaving internal politics and performance reviews behind.
I wasn’t sure where I’d end up but it had to be done. Gotta go before it stops making sense. Realising dreams is tough enough, but creating them is arguably even harder. There will always be a bittersweet undertone when you think back on the dream that you had but lost. Lost not because you didn’t achieve it, but because you never tried and eventually genuinely lost interest in it. That’s a dream truly lost.
But then everything changed.
One event after the other took place which made me seriously question my work place. I felt neglected and treated unfairly by my manager, all while I was working unpaid overtime to meet seemingly unreachable quarterly objectives.
Having a good manager is key for your well-being at work, and in my case having a poor manager was key in making the decision to move on from an otherwise great company. For me this wasn’t about changing manager, or team, or company. It was the catalyst I’d been waiting for to take the first leap towards my dream.
London is good in that if you’re in product development and have a decent CV/portfolio it doesn’t take long to find a job. Knowing this, it wasn’t too nerve-wracking to set up my own design consultancy service and start the preparations for my leave.
I handed in my notice just before christmas and agreed to stay until the end of January for a proper handover to my colleagues. Everybody kept asking me where I was heading, to which I could only reply — I don’t know.
I honestly had no idea where I’d end up for my first gig since design contractors are usually hired with only a few weeks notice. But in my head a plan had started to crystallise.
3 months work, 1 month off-time (to travel, work on a hobby project or whatever I felt like) x 3 = A year. Repeat. That was the basic formula. And it was all possible to the new landscape I was entering as a contractor.
Three days after leaving my old company I had a new gig.
It was only four weeks long, but it was a start. The same day I finished that quick assignment the agency asked me if I wanted to extend the contract. So I did. I worked my way into June, said thank you and took two months off.
And here I am, enjoying my longest summer break since my school days. I have no clue what contract I’ll find in August when I’m coming back, and it doesn’t concern me the slightest. Now is time for reflection, personal projects and relaxation. I’m sure I’ll find something exiting and challenging in August to take me through Autumn, before it’s time for the next break.
I’m trying not to brag too much about it when I meet my friends, but this is honestly the best thing I’ve done in a long time and I can’t see any downsides to this work - and life upgrade.
I was lucky enough to get the catalyst I needed. It wasn’t pleasant at the time but it was exactly what I needed to get going. Not everyone is that lucky.
People always give you this advice. You’ve heard it, and you’ll hear it again.
Because it’s a big deal. So here it is, once again:
If you’re not happy with your life as it stands you better get your ass up and change things, because time is your most precious asset and you’re wasting it.
Yes, loss aversion is built into all of us but you should really listen to that inner voice screaming You only regret the things you didn’t do! and trust that life WILL turn out for the better.
I did it, and so can you.
Martin Sandstrom is a Brighton-based UX designer and owner of Gloriousdays Bamboo Watches. Life is full of moments. Find yours.