It’s been a week since I started my self-chosen ‘funemployment’. As a developer I like to tell myself that the field I work in is so in need of developers that I can expect to find a job any time, but I know that a large part of that is wishful thinking, especially after you’ve reached a certain number of years of experience (and expect the salary to go with it). It’s not easy, and I am in the extremely fortunate position of knowing that there’s a place for me to go back to later when I’m done funemploying. That said, I’m not getting paid for anything right now and work is completely out of my mind. It’s an amazing feeling that I wish everyone could experience. The mental clarity is overwhelming.
I can’t help but contrast this to how I felt when I did my cycling trip last October. I thought it at the time, but in retrospect it’s blindingly obvious: I was unable to enjoy that trip properly because my mind was bogged down with stress and worries. When you’re already stressed out and you go to a situation that you think should relax you, but it doesn’t, it feels a bit like a very slow panic attack. You know you’re supposed to breathe slower and relax to stop yourself from stressing out, but your mind just won’t let you sometimes. It took until the very last day of that cycling trip for me to really regain that feeling of calmness. After entering funemployment it really hit me after the first full week and weekend of not-doing-work were over. It’s the feeling of not being in a hurry, and not worrying that time is slipping away. Elusive.
So what am I doing with my free time? Well, mainly: cycling. Albeit indoors cycling on the exercise bike most of the time, I’ve set my primary goal for this time period to be to lose weight. I’ve proven time and again that I suck at accomplishing this as a secondary goal. When I work full-time, even if I try not to think of work as my primary goal, I’m thinking about work at least 8 hours a day. Work becomes my primary goal when I work, it’s that simple. It’s the only way I can deliver good quality work and be professional. But with that generally comes stress. Not a massive amount of stress, mind you. My work situation is probably one of the best ones in the country. But I am also a peculiar individual with way too many hobbies and a desire to spend a lot of my free time on them. If after work I exercise, I have less time for my hobbies and I feel more stressed out about not having enough time. It’s a negative feedback loop; one that I am not happy about but have a very hard time avoiding.
Just cycling doesn’t take up nearly as much of my time as work did when work was my primary goal, so I’ve got a lot of time for secondary goals, without any of the stress of not having enough time, so I get to be creative and experimentful. One of the major side goals I wanted to accomplish this period was to get all my old photos on shutterstock in the hopes of making some passive income. I have over 10 years worth of travel photos. Sadly, the first 2-3 years of my collection are useless because they were shot on a crappy camera and the next 2 years after that are crappy because I had no experience taking photos and all the shots are very poorly composed or lit. Yesterday I submitted a batch of about 20 photos taken more recently, all fairly well-composed (imho of course), well lit and quite tasteful (again imho). They were all disapproved. Compositions that I chose specifically because I liked them were disapproved because of composition, photos that I liked because of the lighting were disapproved because of the lighting. Others were disapproved because of potential trademark issues, not having a release for a person in the photo who can only vaguely be spotted in a corner and is clearly not the main subject, or simply for being unsharp. Clearly, in the venn diagram of photos I’ve taken that I deem good quality, versus the photos that stockphoto can accept and thinks are good quality, there is extremely little overlap. Now that I know I’m unlikely to earn any useful income from shutterstock, I’ve scratched it off my list.
Speaking of passive income, another thing I was thinking of doing is to write some technical articles/tutorials. I’m not sure if people would be willing to pay for content like that, though, and it’d be a lot of time spent on something I wouldn’t do for fun. Maybe later.
There is one topic I always find myself coming back to for some reason: the stock market. Attempting to do some data analysis on historial stock prices and attempting to make some algorithms to predict stock values is something I’d do for fun, and something I’d go into without high expectations of great success. Yet if I did succeed somehow, it’s something that would be very easily scaled up. If you’ve got the right algorithm, all you need to do to make more money is to insert more money. Of course the quest for the right algorithm is a never-ending practically-impossible one, but that’s what makes it actually fun to play around with. I’m sure I’m likely to get discouraged as I learn more and things start getting more complicated, but for now I’m still in the absorbing-all-kinds-of-information phase, which is quite enjoyable. Plus, it’s likely to be information that will be useful to me in the future, so it’s a win-win.
I wasn’t planning on doing another cycling trip any time soon, but I have to admit that the bike is calling out to me.. maybe it will happen.