In the first part of this blog series, I wrote about how I had quit my office job and how I intended to escape to Montreal on a ‘mini-retirement’ with my girlfriend. Since then, we’ve enjoyed Montreal as planned but have also spent additional time in England, Scotland and Holland, hatching various schemes, some of which are already underway.
Five months later, I’ve taken a day job again. I’m working part-time as a contract librarian in Newcastle, England. Don’t squint so suspiciously though: this isn’t a tail-between-the-legs return to employment after a wild period of faux-rebellion. It’s a hobby.
A part-time endeavor, my new day job takes place in a pleasant library building and provides access to all the books I can eat. At £10 an hour, the paydirt is miniscule but money isn’t exactly a problem thanks to the frugality, mobility and small-entrepreneurship ethics I’ve served over the last couple of years. I don’t know how long the hobby job will hold my interests. A month? Three months? We shall see.
A day job is far more bearable if its thought of as a hobby. It’s also fun to let your bosses know about this outlook: they have little hold over you as long as you consider their employment a trifle, and this effect is multiplied considerably if you and the managers are on the same page.
I used to make the mistake of telling my office-based self that “this isn’t the real me” and “I can shine when the whistle blows” but this line of thinking is a trap. It’s far better to acknowledge that the job is a very real part of the person you are, whether you’re in favour of that or not. If you’re not in favour of it, escape to a better job or escape full stop.
Treat your job as you would treat cross-stitch or stamp collecting: an enthusiastically-pursued folly that you only do in your spare time.
Strangers over eggs
To the Escapologist, mobility is probably the most important thing in the world. To this end, I’ve not taken a permanent residence in Newcastle, instead opting to stay in a guesthouse. If I take a fancy to gallivanting around the Hebrides or the States, I could do so tomorrow.
Financially, the guesthouse option is approximately the same as renting an apartment (the per-night rent is higher than it would be in your own apartment but you don’t have to pay council tax or utility bills and a lot of your food is catered for) but there are untold conveniences. There’s no paperwork to start with: I’ve not had to dice with a letting agent or a landlord or the council. I simply show up and sleep. My bedroom is serviced by a cleaner, my breakfast is made for me, there’s digital television should I want to watch it (though I tend to eschew this) and the wireless Internet connection is fast and free. Best of all, if I want to leave – if I take a mind to travel – I am not committed to stay even another day. Mobility is freedom.
The only thing I had been dreading about the guesthouse arrangement was the necessity of making smalltalk with strangers over breakfast. Breakfast takes place in a communal dining room and I have never been a lark. It transpires, however, that breakfast with strangers is highly illuminating: not only do I meet people from all over the planet (a lady from Vancouver Island yesterday and a girl from Germany the day before, the exotic accents alone adding something to my day) but I have met genuinely interesting people and have learned things.
Today I met a former librarian from the north of England who has reinvented himself as musician and YouTube sensation, Will Fly. A fellow Escapologist in a way. A few days ago, I met a woman who told me to mix my Marmite with strawberry jam. An horrific suggestion, I thought, but on trying it I was pleasantly surprised. I’d only been out of bed for twenty minutes and I had discovered a new delicacy.
Speaking of which, the guesthouse breakfast menu has also introduced me to the magic of the Staffordshire Oatcake, a crepe-like thing and regional breakfast marvel.
I don’t know what the allegory is to this breakfasty anecdote. Start your own breakfast club, perhaps? Don’t shrink away from living communally? I think what really makes these breakfasts excellent is the high turnover of guests: it wouldn’t be as enlightening if I met the same people each morning. If there’s an allegory, I suppose it’s to stay in a guesthouse from time to time and if you’re enjoying a temporary hobby job like I am, you might want to consider a long-stay in a guesthouse. This is more specific and less metaphorical than the advice I’d normally impart but I’d recommend giving this a shot.
So that’s the world around my hobby job. At the forefront, however, there are books to write and to commission for a New Escapologist spin-off books imprint, not to mention Issue Three of New Escapologist itself. As ever, get in touch, if you would like to be involved in these capers.
I hope others can take comfort in reading about my unusual worklife. As I mentioned in Part 1 of ‘An Escapologist’s Diary’, the worst case scenario of giving it all up is that you’ll fail to escape permanently and have to pick up where you left off. But even if you do that, you’ll have enjoyed some freedom and will have stories to tell in the pub.