I crawled into bed at 2am. For the fourth night in a row. As I set my alarm for an ungodly hour, the to do list of what awaited me in little over three hours swirled in my head. Not for the first time I wearily thought “I need out”. And then a more lucid thought shot through my sleep deprived brain…”Actually, wait…how could I make that happen?”. When my alarm went off I hadn’t slept a wink but I felt more energised than I had in a long time. I had a PLAN. A wacky, hare-brained, very un-lawyerly escape plan. Now I just needed to convince the hubby.*
I have (had) what could be described as a fairly “extreme job” (and not in an exciting, death defying, lion taming, skydiving type of way) – extreme in the far more dull sense of 80 and at times 100 hours plus a week, unpredictable workflow, relentless demands from clients all over the world and at all hours of the day, to meet ridiculously tight deadlines**…rah rah rah
Being a mergers and acquisitions lawyer in a large law firm has a certain clout to it on paper (though is a sure fire conversation killer when you introduce yourself at most BBQs ) but the reality tends to involve stumbling through each day in a highly stressed, sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated (and often hungover) fog.
And the reward for years of hard work, stress, exhaustion and responsibility? Partnership – which brings with it even more hard work, stress and exhaustion. When I was promoted to partner a few years ago, one of the wise big-wigs said “be careful what you wish for – it’s like winning a pie eating contest and the prize is more pies”. I’m not complaining – for a long time I loved pies, but now I’m getting pretty full. I need a break from pies – I need a total pie de-tox.
The trappings of life in Sydney’s inner west have tied me to a career, a salary and a lifestyle with which I have become increasingly disillusioned. After I finally slept and gave some real thought to my crazy plan, packing it all in wasn’t an easy decision – if I did something different how would I pay the massive mortgage on our (not so massive) inner west terrace house, support my three mini-hipster ratbags with their crazy schedule of inner west activities, not to mention how would I keep myself in the shoe habit to which I have become accustomed?
It struck me (about an hour into my manic escape scheming) – debt makes you do things you don’t want to. If I didn’t have debt does that mean I could do the things I actually want to do? (and do I really need that many shoes?)
So CRAZY PLAN STEP ONE: we sold our house. Boom – no more debt. (As you may know – mortgage is french for – literal translation.. death-pledge. Yep – debt til death…that’s where we were heading. Ah, no thank you). Funnily enough, the ridiculous over priced Sydney property market that is the reason we have such a huge mortgage burdening us and part of why we want to flee city-life for a while, is the very same ridiculous (and even more overpriced now than when we bought in) market that has now given us the financial freedom to take a breather.
CRAZY PLAN STEP TWO: Quit job. Eek!! I am a super nerd, uber ambitious and pretty bloody risk averse. Completely out of character for me. But it went surprisingly well – my firm has been ok about my crazy plan and has even given me a leave of absence for a year. Thanks!
So, while we sort out what to do next (cue thinking music) – CRAZY PLAN STEP THREE: we have bought a camper trailer and a 4WD, are taking the kids out of school and we’re taking a year out to travel around Australia. No schedules, no deadlines, no pressure – time to hit the road!! Let’s see where this crazy plan ends up….
* He was in on the crazy plan …almost instantly. He is pretty bloody awesome like that.
** For the record, Harvard Business Review defines “extreme jobs” as meeting at least 5 of a list of 10 similar demands…many corporate lawyers could tick 8 or 9 of the extreme job criteria on a regular basis. I know – boo hoo for highly paid lawyers right?? We tend to receive little sympathy
*** If you have seen the classic coming of age movie “Stand by me”, you will totally get this. If not you may just think this is really gross…