Reflections on 2014: my 'Year of Retirement' and why I think everyone should Do Nothing for a while.

2014 was a very liberating year for me, how about you? I learned a few thing I wish everyone else would know. It went a bit like this...

At the start of the year my partner & I sold our cafe. We were exhausted & on each other's nerves. We had been working very hard for a couple of years, so, we allowed ourselves to take the year off. We threw a party and called it our 'Year of Retirement'. Much to the concern of both of our mothers, we planned to live off our savings, very simply, with no plans.

Having no plans leads to great things.
For the first time in my life I had no real plans, and it resulted in many amazing opportunities opening up to me throughout the year. In hindsight it seems obvious; having no plans allowed me to take on any good project that came my way and each thing led to another door opening. Just this was a revolution for me, because in the past I'd always been heavily overly committed to work and/or study, as well as having every year mapped out well in advance. When your life is booked out you don't get to try the spontaneous & unplanned.

The year started out a clean slate; no work, no commitments, no responsibilities. All I had to do was pay my rent & feed myself, and those things I was happy to pay for with my savings. Not long after having our 'retirement' party I volunteered my time at the local farmers market, and at a local menswear store, alongside their in-house tailor. I wrote about it here. After several months this became a paying job, and a friend said 'I thought you were supposed to be having a year off?' True, but I was only working 16 hours a week, so I had plenty of time to do other things like sewing, graphic design for friends, and get involved in local community projects. And here are some of the things I ended up doing with my year.

Me in the et la mer window!

- Artist-in-residence for the  Junction Arts Festival.
- Got involved in community group Reactivate Launceston.
- Volunteered behind the scenes of ByeBuy! - an initiative to challenge consumption habits.
- Volunteered to coordinate decorations for Fiesta on George.
- Dressed et la mer's windows for the festive season.
- Took more notice of local politics, even spoke at a council meeting.
- Artist for 10 Days on the Island, teaming up with my friend Serena.
- Without meaning to, I starting picking up graphic design jobs again.
- Many freelance alteration & dressmaking jobs came out of the woodwork, too.

Studio at Fresh window.
Taxidermy Workshop (this little guy had been bred & killed for pet food)

- Joined 8 other Launceston artists & designers to form Studio, and held our first pop-up shop.
- Started work on two big collaborative projects with friends (These are ongoing projects, I'm looking forward to the day I can finally tell you about them).
- Flew to Brisbane to learn how to taxidermy small mammals.
- And yes, there has been garden-pottering and sewing for myself.

For some this might sound like I progressively filled up my year and life, like a giant To Do list. But to me it felt like I had the whole year off pursuing my own interests, plus some thing I didn't even know I was interested in at the start of the year! I did one interesting thing and this always led on to another...

Lino Carving

Money suppresses creativity.
I surprised myself by falling back into graphic design. I had left the industry sometime ago, dismissing it as 'not my scene'.  But I've inadvertently continued to exercise my design skills, and slowly one little design job led to another, led to another, and so on. It feels nice to know people have recommended me to their friends, though what's even nicer is that I got to experience the freedom of not working for money. Yes, some were paid jobs, and some were volunteer work for community projects. But the thing they all had in common was that I wasn't relying on payment from any of them, I was doing them because I wanted to do them. And I can't tell you how liberating that is. It completely freed up my creativity. I'm not exactly sure why but when there was no pressure on me because I wasn't doing the jobs for the money, I enjoyed the work more. A lot more. I wasn't looking at the clock the whole time. And I produced better work.[Here is a good read on the negative impact of monetary rewards].

Working part-time leaves time for afternoon walks, garlic growing
and cups of tea in the garden.

Everyone should work part-time.
This negative effect of monetary incentive is one thing that has led me to believe everyone would be happier if they worked part-time.

Creative types would all benefit from having a little job on the side, which ticked over just enough money for them, but also provided enough free-time to pursue their creative interests. I know too many artists trying to 'make it' as an artist who expect to be able to make a living from their art, but end up struggling. I wish more of those people would be satisfied with a small job, however mundane, to take the pressure off making an income from their creativity. Nothing can sap you of your creative juices quicker than having to be creative for your income.

Likewise, workers at the other end of the spectrum - over-committed, time-poor people with high-stress, full-time jobs - would definitely benefit from working less. Trust me, I've been that person too, and it's not a life. I wish those people could see that if they worked less -  perhaps they would have to give up some of the luxuries all that work afforded them - but they would have more time to do the things they loved. They would become a part of their community, they would know themselves better for it. How can communities grow if the people in them don't have time to contribute to them? How can you know yourself if you don't have time for yourself ?

Allow yourself to do nothing.
If you took a year off, I bet you'd be surprised at what you end up doing. I started the year thinking I was 'people-ed out' and that I just wanted to be a hermit at home, pottering in the garden and sewing clothes for myself. This was not entirely wrong, I did do some of this, but not as much as I had thought. When left to my own devices I got involved in community projects, met lots of new people, I worked on collaborative projects and did lots of creating for others.

I realised...
I am motivated by doing things for others,
not for myself or for money.
I give up my time, knowledge & skills freely, and gladly.
I am more community minded than I knew.
I will never work a full time job again, if I can help it.
Having no hard/fast plans is conducive to the best things happening!

I'm sure several of you are thinking well that's not a 'Year of Retirement' at all, but that's the point. I was busy, I did a lot. And that's exactly who I am and it turns out that is what makes me happiest. To try new things, to get involved and help others. When I gave myself the year to do nothing, I ended up doing everything (that was meaningful to me).

Did you give yourself enough time for yourself last year? If not, I hope you do this year.  x