I Quit My Job

I quit my job to focus on my health, so I'll outline here how I plan on regaining it. I had too much stress, and I didn't know how to juggle it all. Now I'm trying to reduce my stress while strengthening my coping skills.

I left my job this past Friday. I won't get into the finer details, but I needed to take this opportunity to focus on my health. I was sad to leave, but people were very encouraging. Some wished they could take the step that I took. It's not easy to take such a big risk in favour of your personal wellbeing, so I'm going to run with it while I have this chance. I'm not going to simply patch up the wounds in order to rush back to make money. I'm at the bottom of it right now, I think. I can't see things getting much worse right now, but I also never expected things to get as bad as they did. I followed the leadership of the Spirit in taking time off work back in July, and I think it saved my life. If I had gone through August while juggling work stress, I don't think I would have made it this far. Thankfully, I'm already starting to see signs of hope and recovery. I'll aim to return to work by January, God willing.

Structure has always been an integral part of my success in life. My current structure isn't working for me, so with the changing of the seasons, it seems like an appropriate time to shake things up. Moving forward, I want to wake up decently early, make a cup of coffee every morning, eat peanut butter toast for breakfast, and pull up the blinds to let in some sunshine. What I plan on removing from my routine as well is TV and video games before the evening. Even though I can just do whatever I want with all my time, I don't succeed when I burn my best energy on vegetating on the couch. I also won't be scheduling appointments before noon. I like slow mornings, and it really messes with me to rush out of the house in the morning. All that may not sound like much, but it's going to be a life saver since I've been floating for the last two months. I'll feel my feelings, ask the Five Why's to identify the source of my suffering, then move on. After what I went through in August, there's not much left that can really phase me. If the feelings are especially overwhelming, I will do some physical exercise for a quick endorphin rush, and then perhaps I'll try to use TV and games to numb the pain. After that, who knows, maybe alcohol.

Life is enjoyable again. Now I have thoughts of broken systems and how I can build something to fix them. I'm also enjoying exercise. I used to dread it while juggling full time work and such, but now I actually have fun with it. Pokewalking helps a lot, and I like recording my calories on my Apple Watch. Getting points and credit for my exercise helps. These days I get up to 12,000 steps a day, aside from the calories I burn from doing my daily exercises. It's not much compared to what people do in the gym, but I'm building momentum. I did some pushups the other day. I do a lot of stretching.

I'm trying to take a unique approach to my health this time around instead of brute-forcing it like all the previous times. My end goal is to live a healthy lifestyle instead of binging on exercise and diet for a few months at a time. Plus, instead of doing everything at once, my novel approach is to fix one area at a time. Health is multi-faceted, and my previous attempts had been to simultaneously work out extra hard, count calories, sleep better, plan meals, then beat myself up when I didn't do things right. I'm a different person now. My first order of business, for better or worse, is to get exercise back into my life. Mostly, that means walking and doing my posture workouts. It's not terribly rigorous, but something is better than nothing. My physio said to do my posture exercises every day, but that's already a tough goal. Most people who maintain an exercise regime keep it to every other day or they alternate their routines. On the other hand, I don't have a full time job anymore, which gives me ample time to do a half hour workout in between slaying my demons.

The strategy I'm taking is mostly inspired by startup culture. It's a mentality that I understand since I read a lot on the subject and I'm a natural inventor, so I'm trying to treat my body as a startup. Not like those bullshit multi-level marketing, pyramid scheme, entrepreneur, dream chasers, but that's a discussion for another day. In Calgary, the farmer's market is a tried and true testing ground for new businesses. Phil & Sebastian, Knifewear, and Choklat are a few examples that come to mind. Businesses grow organically that way, slowly but surely, not like the tech startups which aim for millions of users in their first month after launch. Often, the unseen killer of new businesses is scale. Trying to grow too fast too quickly, a lot of seemingly little problems can turn into big scary monsters. That's the problem I had in previous health kicks. Being an engineer, working with abstract ideas and imaginary numbers, operating from computers and virtual reality, I had lost connection with the physical, the human in me. Muscles don't work like fiber optics. Eyes are more than just cameras. I'm learning to treat my body as it needs in order to grow strong and be healthy, so I'm fixing problems in stages. Yes, diet and sleep are important, but I'll deal with them after I figure out an exercise routine I like.

Taking a staged approach requires iteration. I'm an experimental person, and I like to run lots of little experiments before committing to a direction. Put the feelers out, tread lightly, then commit. In turn, with each experiment, I need to ultimately knock the ball out of the park before I can move on to the next major phase. That means I'll fail horribly in the other areas of my health, which is by design. I intend to fail in my diet and in my sleep as I concentrate on my physical activity, which is counterintuitive. The ship is sinking, and I need to prioritize certain leaks and fix them once and for all before moving on to the other ones. Iteration is the unsexy hustle of innovation. It's the long and boring struggle that's shortened in the movies into the inspirational montage.

It kind of sounds like I'm declaring myself victorious before even really starting on this new venture, so let's see how my health actually turns out after this fall season. Either way, I'm excited to try a new strategy. The old me would have berated myself at this point for not trying hard enough because I'm lazy and a useless shit. Today, I'm trying a more forgiving, honest, and truthfully, a more difficult way. It's going to be scary to try something new, to give myself a break, and to wipe the tears from my eyes when I fail so I can see clearly how to move forward. I've written posts before about my health which basically amounted to a solo pep rally, but this time, I'm smart enough to be scared. There's no room for long term failure, so I have to fail fast in lots of little ways and learn fast in order to win long term.

I'm approaching the last of my sessions with Calgary CASA. I'm on the waitlist for a psychiatrist. I don't have my work benefits anymore, namely access to my Employee and Family Assistance Program's counselling services. I have to find work by January. Assuming that the floor doesn't collapse beneath me moving forward, I can get healthy by improving my physical health (exercise first, then sleep, then diet), writing blog posts every week, and then start looking for work in November. The outlook seems pretty bleak here in Calgary, and I'm not sure what it'll look like even in a few months. Alas, I'm taking my recovery in stages, so I won't worry about that right now.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le