The journey of understanding the 9–5 phantom space.
It had been two weeks at my new workplace. My senses started to shut down. I couldn’t hear the traffic noise, the clanking of medals hung by the window. I felt no remorse or happiness. I dug into my happy memories now and then to feel something. or anything. I felt disconnected from the world. My intuition quietened and I couldn’t sense love- these two affected me the most because they drive me. The communication process at the workplace did not align with me. As someone who thrives on collaboration and communication, the setup started to impact me physically as well.
I would return home from work and sit quietly next to my caring and supportive partner. He knew that the mind was in flight mode. Vacation ideas, brunch plans, socializing, nothing excited me anymore.
By the end of the third week, I stopped working. That day, I returned home and with a mildly heavy heart and hit the bed at 3:00 PM. After 4 hours, I was awakened by the clinking of the medals hanging by the window, half-sleep I thought to my self, “those damn medals, I need to store them in the drawer…” before I could finish that thought, I smiled. My awareness returned to my surroundings and my senses were awakened. I noticed my dusty window, the aroma of garlic bread from the restaurant down the road, then I turned on the music for the first time in three weeks.
That evening, when I hugged my husband, I could sense his heartbeat and that is how I celebrated the first day of unemployment.
“It will be fine”
“Treat it as a chance to do things you couldn’t”
“It is a sign that something better is out there for you”
These comforting affirmations were shared by friends to help me deal with the situation. However, no one told me about comprehending the 9–5 space in my mind which was earlier occupied with meetings, coffee breaks, planning, and work. Now, I would watch TV or read a few pages in an attempt to kill time. But I still felt dissatisfied because my mind was unable to comprehend this 9–5 phantom space. After getting up I would rush to make breakfast, and take shower as if I was heading out at 8:30 AM for work. I had to unlearn this schedule.
Two weeks passed and then I entered the first stage of filling the phantom space. “I have so much time .. I should be cooking, cleaning, going for walks”. So, that's what I did. I cooked every day for a week, cleaned a few unknown corners of my room and went for walks by myself. Soon I remembered that I wasn’t fond of cooking or insanely long walks. These activities were driven by should(s) and not needs and therefore, doing them to fill the 8-hour phantom space was not productive.
Slowly I progressed to the second stage which was more challenging than the first stage. The reality of not being employed had started to sink in. I was slowly figuring out my dislikes but I didn’t have a lot of meaningful tasks to pursue. Therefore, I signed up for volunteering (because I love helping people), figured out free events and workshops that might help me professionally and provide networking opportunities. I enjoyed engaging in these activities for a few months but figured that out of 20 events only 10 resonated with me. This experience taught me to filter down my engagements.
Around that time I came across The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which taught me to shift my focus on the NOW. The quote from this book, “The only thing you ever have is now” was ingrained in me and helped me progress.
The third (and current) stage: By differentiating my should from my needs and focusing on my passion, I am able to fill at least 5 hours of phantom space. In fact, I don’t consider it a phantom space anymore, it is my lifestyle. I attend fewer but seemingly relevant events, I cook when I need to but most importantly, I remain in the Now for the most part of my day. To enhance this ability and develop my intuition, I meditate, read, and write everday. An article, a story idea, two-story ideas which I later head to the Recycle Bin. I am mindful enough to not think about the pile of laundry while focussing on the task at hand. You might imagine me as the lady with salt pepper hair wearing all linens sitting on a comfortable chair but then shift your imagination to the real me- watching an episode of my favorite show on Netflix in my PJs while eating a chocolate-flavored protein bar and then taking a 45 -minute nap.
Overall, these stages have made me realize that I am not looking for a job anymore, but a career. When I am ready, the right career will find me.