What You Really Feel When You Stop Going to Work Every Day

Naked. You feel buck naked.

I don't mean that as a figure of speech. You really feel like you've shed all your clothes in a public place in broad daylight. It's awkward.

The precise moment it hit me was a couple of weeks ago. I was filling up a visa form and stumbled upon the "employer details" field. For the first time in my life, I had to write "self-employed". And I immediately felt naked. I actually stopped and looked around to check if someone was watching.

Then, I played out all the scenarios in which I would dearly miss my identity card. What if I lost my passport while traveling? What if I needed to take a bank loan? What if... I don't know... what if I just got up in the morning and felt like wearing the card around my neck?

I had to remind myself that I am in this state voluntarily. For the past 11 years, I'd been working non-stop, hurtling from one job to another because, well, what else do you do?

Then, something happened. I could sense a growing yearning inside my head to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. Wellness gurus talk about slowing down your life, but they often do so in vague, posh, spiritual terms. I, on the other hand, had a very real, rugged, physical experience. After years of running after stories that would vanish if you didn't catch them at just the right time (and failing more than succeeding), after years of participating in facile debates with skin-deep knowledge, after years of driving myself up the wall because I had to prove I-don't-even-remember-now-what to the entire world, my brain was out of breath. I could see my brain clutching its knees and panting. The biggest stories in the world couldn't tempt my brain to take one more step.

It wasn't a matter of deep deliberation, or a journey of self-awareness. My brain ran out of gas. It wasn't a moving epiphany. It was messy, a bit embarrassing, like wetting your bed when you are 33. That was that.

So I moved on from the ritual of writing 10-word headlines to 3,000-word stories three times a month. I moved on from anchoring cocktail events. I moved on from the month-end pay cheque. And I moved on from "salaried professional" to "self-employed" on the visa form.

I am now writing a 60,000-word book, which too forces me to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. I have to *actually* understand things before writing what I think about them. I meet a lot of people, many of them without any agenda. Occasionally, I teach, where too I have to think very carefully before airing my views on any subject. I get my storytelling fix from a consulting gig with a new media company, but any day I don’t feel like catching up with Twitter’s Top 100, I just don’t. I watch Netflix instead.

Once in a while, I am startled by that sensation of being naked. Sometimes, the feeling that I lack cover is the result of having to deny myself an expensive Body Shop perfume or one more night out. But mostly, what startles me is how clearly I see myself.