After graduating from college in May of 2018, I worked an internship full-time until December. While this job in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was technically in my field, I had majored in geography to work in tourism. I ultimately realized I didn’t want to work in GIS by the end of the year. When offered a permanent position, I decided to quit entirely. For the first time in my life, I had absolutely no plan. It felt a little rebellious, but I took a year off of work and here’s what happened.
I Still Ended Up Working
Part of the reason I knew my old job wasn’t going to work out longterm was that I spent more time on my phone than on my projects by the end. I had started this little blog and its associated Instagram account in June of that year. It didn’t take long for my brand to be on my mind constantly, so even though I planned to take a year off, I also planned on hustling to grow my brand. Technically, that’s work.
I had some savings before I took this leap, which I think is critical for anyone considering an extended leave. Despite this, I wasn’t completely opposed to making money during my year off. My goal was to stay away from full-time corporate jobs for a year, so that still left a lot of room to have a “fun job.” I went back to my seasonal office position at a boat tour company in Milwaukee and worked there part-time from March until September. I liked having a reason to get out of the house, but not having to spend all day there!
I Was Too Afraid to Spend Any Money
I was able to graduate from college with some savings because I am extremely cheap. I always have been. I didn’t purchase a single beverage during college because I always drank water; I didn’t get a single haircut, manicure, or beauty treatment, and it showed. Chronic homesickness kept me from buying plane tickets and hotel stays. Obviously, going to a school near my hometown and mainly living with my parents also helped a ton, but the little things can add up, too.
My new plan was to really invest in myself during my year off. I’d go on trips, take care of my appearance, redo my wardrobe, try out new hobbies, and eat well! Anyone with a “Type A” perfectionist personality knows that it’s pretty hard to abandon things we’ve obsessed over forever, though. Sure, spending money could help me “look better” and pursue my passions, but saving money has always been a perfection point for me. I thrive off of staying under budget. I get a little dose of my “high” every time I take something out of my cart and put it back on the shelves. That definitely didn’t change during my year off.
I Learned So Much About Blogging
Having all the time of the world to develop my online blog and brand taught me so much. I’ll go over the big picture things, but you can also read more specifics about my biggest takeaways after a year of blogging. First off, I really came to realize how much work blogging is. For me, the definition of work is something that requires constant motivation to do. Of course, it takes less motivation if you write on topics you’re passionate about, but there are still hard days.
I also switched over the course of a year from valuing quantity to quality. These days, my biggest project is actually going back and updating old blog posts! This is important to make sure people actually learn something from the content in your posts and view your website as a trusted resource. I also realized that my blog needed to be optimized for people doing web searches, not for people clicking over from Instagram. I now make sure my posts answer questions people actually ask online and are easy to find.
I Was Constantly Planning My Next Step
Did anyone else love picking out their classes in school more than actually taking them? I’ve always loved planning the things I want to accomplish more than actually doing them. Can planning be an accomplishment? With all my down time, I did a lot of planning. I made lists of jobs to apply for and even started an online MBA. I made lists of brands I wanted to pitch to for partnerships and researched places I want to move someday (this quiz from High Speed Internet finds cities in the US that are a good fit for you)!
Naturally, I didn’t accomplish as much as I put on my list, but it definitely helped me recognize and prioritize what I want out of the next few years of my life. Most notably, I am still struggling with how and when to move out of Milwaukee. A lot of factors continue to keep me here. First, my boyfriend lives here. He just bought a house that we love, has a job he feels passionate about, and has family here. My dad also lives nearby and I can go over to his house on the river for free water ski practice virtually whenever I want. When my dad sells his house or Tyler contemplates getting a new job, moving might become a more real possibility. Until then, I’m trying to embrace life where I am.
I Never Got Bored
Never? Never. I definitely wasn’t productive every day, but I didn’t binge even one Netflix show this year. With a personal brand, there is always a way to stay busy. If I didn’t feel like writing new blog posts, I’d edit old ones. If I didn’t even want to look at my blog, I’d scroll through my camera roll and edit pictures to post on Instagram. When I didn’t want to be on Instagram, I’d work on my Pinterest strategy, engage with other bloggers, send pitch emails to brands, or look for media appearance opportunities.
I also had extra time to do what I loved (besides blogging), even though I didn’t spend a lot of money. I water skied on two teams and practiced at my dad’s house whenever I could. I took day trips to explore new Wisconsin towns and state parks. I spent time with my family and friends. Just because you are struggling to hold a nine-to-five corporate job doesn’t mean you’re an all-around lazy person. Taking time off will remind you how passionate you are about so many things! In the process, you might even find a job that does that.