It's been one year since I quit my job at Google. Here's answers to the most common questions I get about how I did it and what the heck I do all day.
If you're contemplating taking time off of your day job, I really highly recommend it, or at least planning for it in your future. In Silicon Valley, the golden handcuffs make it really hard to fully quit, but many companies offer unpaid sabbaticals. After taking a sabbatical and quitting, I look back and see how valuable ME time is to re-set yourself, pursue your personal interests, and put your life in perspective beyond the tech rush.
What do you do all day?
I don't ever feel like I have downtime unless I plan it for myself. Frankly, I don't know how I fully lived life while commuting + working for 10hrs a day. I'm busy each day with life. I stretch for 20min with my morning coffee, cook breakfast, run errands, work on multiple projects (see below), make lunch, take care of the garden, edit photos and write blog posts, meet with old friends, go to the gym, read more books. Each day fills up fast.
What projects are you working on?
So many! I'm always busy!
I've gone on multiple 2-3 month roadtrips, traveling and rock climbing in a camper van with my husband. I re-designed my website multiple times from ground-up, learning front-end code. I'm developing my artistic side through photography and quilting. I'm learning handiwork/diy projects like house renovation, and am building a camper van from a cargo van. I rock climb.
Do you get bored?
No. In fact, I have to remember to schedule "weekends" or when I feel like I had an unproductive day, remind myself that it's ok.
Do you miss the free food?
No. I like reintegrating into normal society with normal tasks. I got to the point at Google where I would be annoyed when there wasn't bacon on "bacon Thursdays" at breakfast. I didn't like being a part of the Silicon Valley bubble in that regard, though the free food was a necessity given the commute and work.
Now I eat more healthily. And I take joy in making myself shaken iced coffee with honey and cream in the afternoons. It's the little things.
Do you remember what it's like to work?
Yes. I really hate this question, since it's usually in sarcastic jest. I had a minor case of PTSD for 6+ months after quitting. I remember much of it vividly. It took me that long to not feel like I was cheating life by not working Monday through Friday.
What other changes have you noticed?
There's night and day difference physically. 3 months after I quit, I looked in the mirror to a 5-year-younger me. Small wrinkles and stress marks disappeared.
My recovery from my 2nd ACL surgery, which was after I quit, is going much better and faster--and in fact, I attribute tearing my ACL graft after the first surgery to stress and cortisol levels. I never gave my body a running chance at recovery when I was so stressed at work.
I'm a much nicer person to be around. Jeremy was absorbing the brunt of it. I don't flip out at minor issues and take life much more in stride.
How do you do it financially?
Hard work, luck, and frugality. I worked dang hard pre-Google through college. I had nearly 90% of college covered under merit-based scholarships, so I didn't come out with any student debt. I was lucky to land a job at Google--their job interviews are no joke, no matter how smart you are. I'm really frugal with money. At the time I quit, I had been working for 10 years (2yrs Boeing, 8yrs Google), so I had a bunch saved.
What about health insurance?
Here's where it does help to be married. Fortunately, I'm covered under Jeremy's insurance. I have a few friends who've quit their jobs and have coverage under Obamacare.
Do you miss the social aspect?
Yes and no. There's always the cool workplace relationships you develop and workplace drama, but much of that isn't very deep. I have a strong network of friends through the climbing community.
Now, my interactions with people are deeper--I'm not half lost in my own thoughts or too exhausted to talk. I'll have lunch with friends or see people at the gym and actually connect with them, rather than staring through a fatigue curtain.
Do you feel the need for mental or technical challenges?
Yes, I have a need--I'm a project-oriented person. Right now that's fulfilled by cultivating my weaker areas like art (quilting, photography) and house renovation projects.
The biggest thing I'm learning is what balance I need in my life--or will need--going forward. The emotional stress by the end of my last year of working was huge and took a toll on my relationships, Jeremy included. I've re-based my body physically and listen to it. Before, I had no idea how stressed I was and the toll it took because I lost sight of (or never knew) what should be my norm.
Do you feel like you've "thrown away" your degree?
There's a couple ways you can view it: either you're wasting a degree by not working every day using it, OR an education and hard work gives you options, and you're exercising one of your options by taking a break from the grind.
Society drills into us that we work until we retire, making it hard to stop doing something you've been doing every day for over a decade. At first, I fell into this trap: I battle with pride and a strong desire to push myself all the time. Really, I'm taking time to refresh myself for the next phase in life, whatever that brings.
Do you miss work?
I'm leaning more toward no at the moment. I look back at the early to middle years at Google as some of the best I've had. There was a ton of work in a ton of areas that needed to be done. I'll always remember that energy and the people. Those days were awesome.
At the moment, I'm incredibly busy doing things that I never thought I'd do in my life. Multiple cross-US rock climbing road trips! Doing own house renovations! I was on such a straight path in college as an Electrical Engineer--those definitely weren't in the plan!
When / will you go back to work?
Yes, in some regard. I haven't decided if that will be working for another large company or setting out on my own with consulting. I'm not ready to make any decisions or moves. I want to experience again what I felt when learning in college and working during the early Google years.
The skills I'm developing now are shaping me into much more well-rounded person. The closer relationships I'm building, the people I've met while living on the road, balancing my need for order and understanding with creativity through quilting, being able to understand a house project and execute it with the help of YouTube/Jeremy, and devoting the time to strengthening my posterior chain post-ACL surgery, are all things that fit my needs at the moment.
It's not a walk in the park
What could be wrong with not working and having a ton of projects? It is harder than it seems to actually quit, and to be ok with not working for an extended period of time. Of all the people who've joked about my not working, I can name 3 who've done it themselves, despite the fact that most hate their jobs. It takes courage, self-confidence, and self-motivation. If you can do it, there's a ton of personal reward.
And it's even harder as a woman, for both the pressure you put on yourself, and for the societal reactions you get. More thoughts on that later.