I once quit my job for a year in my 20s. Contrary to popular belief that being jobless means that you have ruined your future, I would like to assure everyone that I am doing quite well now. In fact, I have been employed for five years since.
No, my parents did not give me pocket money during my year of being jobless. I wish they did. Of course, it helped that I didn’t have any major commitments during that year, so I was able to get through it just fine.
How I quit my job
Naturally, I did not plan to be jobless. I had read about gap years and deeply admired people who could take them, but it was just not something in Asian culture that was considered normal.
Additionally, I had only worked three years in my career at that point. It was ridiculous for me to want to take a career break at that point, or to take an unpaid sabbatical. My savings laughed at the idea, and at me for even daring to dream about it.
Yet, I did eventually take a year off, though it was not the glamourous gap year that people think about. My company then was attempting to cut costs by offering their employees a voluntary separation scheme (VSS). After I did the maths, I realised that the position I had was at risk, while taking the VSS would net me four months of my salary.
After taking into consideration my savings from three years of working, I decided to quit my job, even though I didn’t have another one lined up.
I know, what a shocking decision to make. It ran contrary to all the advice I had gotten about never quitting a job unless you have another one lined up, but I did it anyway. I consider it to be one of the bravest things I have ever done. After all, tongues wag harder in Asian society when you don’t conform to its ideals.
What happened after I quit my job without a plan
As my last day of work approached, I was not frantically sending out resumes to secure another job as soon as possible. Instead, I made the scandalous choice of resting for the next few months, to figure out what I really wanted out of life. Those few months became a year.
You see, I was also suffering from this affliction known as the “quarter-life crisis”, but not one that some would have felt during the pandemic. I was constantly questioning if this was what I wanted out of life and if there was not more out of life for me. Did I want to spend the rest of my days like this – going to an office, completing tasks I didn’t care about, and getting paid minimally for said tasks, while being expected to bring on my A-game all the time?
Therefore, I decided taking time off and living on my savings to find the answer was the best thing to do.
In hindsight, that wasn’t the worst decision I had made in life. Being an introvert, I was quite happy to stay at home, read, write, learn different skills, and contemplate what I wanted to do next. This helped with making sure my expenses were low.
Jobless and in Japan
I even managed to go and stay in Japan for three weeks, thanks to friends who hosted me without payment. If I were still employed, this wouldn’t be something I could do . Being in Japan and away from my usual life also helped fortify certain convictions I had about what I really wanted to do.
During that period of time, I didn’t tell people I was jobless. It wasn’t something you would set out to tell people, especially when you know you would be judged for it. Instead, I told people I was working freelance at home, which was true to an extent.
What I didn’t mention was that freelance work didn’t cover my living expenses at all. My savings dwindled slowly throughout the months. I was down to 3 digits in my savings account by the time I finally had another full-time job to start over.
After my jobless year
Oh, and my salary jumped a full four figures after that year of not working. I may not have gained money from that year of not working, but I gained introspection and knowledge on my own. Sometimes, that is just what you need in life for a brighter future.
In short, you only have one life. As long as you are fully responsible for it, you will know what you need best at each particular moment in your life. Don’t let others talk you out of it if it’s what you choose to do for yourself.