It’s been six months since I left the comfortable embrace of working in a corporate environment which I have been part of for 25 years. This felt like a good time to look back and take stock – how it’s been going and what I have learnt. So here are some AHA! moments from my journey so far.
Self Sufficiency – From being used to a solid support system at work, to have to do EVERYTHING yourself comes as a big shock. The simple act of sending a courier used to be – “print the letter, hand over to someone to mail”. Now, it has become – “print the letter, find an envelope, address the envelope, walk over to the courier lady, pay and come back home; not forgetting to save the receipt”.
Letters, invoicing, preparing presentations, maintaining your own accounts, keeping track of bills and receipts, for someone who is not known to be detail oriented, it can be quite overwhelming.
I am learning that there are a bunch of great apps and articles available to help, though. And friends who have gone through the same pain who will happily give you tips to help you.
This experience fills me with a deep sense of gratitude for all the people who helped me with these tasks over the years.
Self Worth – Quite often, finances play a big part in how we define our self-worth. I was told its absolutely essential to have a kitty in your bank that will take care of your expenses for at least 18 months when you take a decision to start off on your own. I did that, and I thought I was all set.
But the unexpected happened. I realised I was suddenly more conscious of where each Rupee was going. Rs. 45/- for a courier to Mumbai?! Really?! Do I really NEED to buy this watch?! Being used to a monthly inflow every month and not seeing that anymore comes as a shock, regardless of how well prepared you think you are. In the Kannada local lingo, a useless person is called a “waste body”. This eloquently describes how I was feeling about myself when I stopped earning, albeit for a short while.
So I got into listing our daily expenses (something we were doing when we just got married), and have been doing it for the last couple of months. That act itself gives me a feeling of control and helps me deal with the uneasiness, I guess. I’m sure this feeling will go away, but I don’t think I’m there yet.
Learning – There are so many new things to learn!
Just giving a straight and standard answer as to “What do you do?” was initially a challenge. Each time I answered the question I realized I was saying something different. It took about 4 months to figure out what TOMOE Consulting and Aparna Devagiri were all about.
And there were so many things I was doing for the first time – preparing Invoices, creating my Company’s profile, even building this website – everything was a new and exciting experience.
I am, by nature, adventurous about technology, so doing new things in this space was energizing for me. But there are other aspects – like approaching new (and unknown) clients for business – which I am still getting used to.
I have understood, though, that my business does not care about my comfort zone; that I need to take a deep breath and plunge into the new, whether I like it or not.
Doing Nothing – Working in a Company meant that my day was full of meetings, phone calls, emails, formal and informal interactions. Being on my own means that there are hours of not “doing” anything. There are literally stretches of time when there is nothing to do. After 25 years of being busy, this is really disconcerting.
Initially, I was extremely uncomfortable with these empty spaces. My execution-self was beating me up for the lack of action. Over time, I have gotten more comfortable with the thought that every day does not have to be full of things “done”, which was one of the reasons why I branched off on my own in the first place.
I have also gotten smarter about how I schedule the meetings and interactions that I have, spreading them across a week so that I have smaller slots of free time and busy times. I have also started reading and writing more seriously – this blog being one such output.
Importance of short term goals – One of the big learnings for me has been to keep short term, achievable goals. This is not something that I planned for, but am sharing based on hindsight. My son left to do his PhD about a month after I resigned. When I look at it now, the one month spent getting ready for his departure was a great segue from one chapter of my life to another. Being busy at that transitional phase definitely helped me keep my sanity in what could have become a very stressful time.
It also happened that my husband and I started a really rigorous diet at the same time. This required me to stay focused, monitor our intake, ensure proper meals for the both of us. The fact that both of us are much lighter and healthier at the end of it gives me a deep sense of achievement and satisfaction. The learning for me is to continue to have short term goals, even if they are in the personal space. After all, I am not just my work!
Well, I guess the first six months have been an interesting ride. Lots of personal learning for me and challenges galore, and a sense of gratitude that I got a chance to do something
So far so good!