As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer. If you have a story you'd like to share, but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact as at email@example.com with the subject "As Told To" for a chance for your story to be featured.
This is Evelyn Ngugi's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
Unemployed on purpose. That's what I was for a year.
I toyed with the idea of quitting my full-time job for some time, but I never pulled the trigger. I had about $20,000 saved, was single, and had no kids—meaning that my decision only affected me. I was inspired by the realization of my potential.
In May 2017, I made a note in my phone titled, SABBATICAL, which listed some of the things I would get into if I weren't working and had more time. It had things like:
Learn to grow food
Visit TX National Parks
Go to museums
Take a screenwriting class
Support local events
Make a family history book
And most importantly, learn about SPACE.
The way my life was going, I wasn't learning or doing anything new, so my break was my way of taking time to explore new things, learn new skills, and enjoy life before diving back into full-time work. And this sabbatical note let me know in what areas of my life that I was unfulfilled.
It was as good a time as any to go for it.
To be funemployed, my only goal was to quit my full-time-job, and not immediately have to look for another. So I put in my resignation, moved out of my apartment—cutting my expenses in half—and moved in with my friends. I simply wanted to be professionally and personally stress-free for a year.
In a conversation discussing this with my dad, he asked, "What do you need from me?" I remember looking him in the eyes and saying, "I need you to trust me."
And from there, my funemployment year was born.
Courtesy of Evelyn Frpm the Internets
I'm a Kenyan-American theater nerd, humor writer, and digital storyteller in Austin, Texas. You've likely seen me on the 'internets'—or YouTube to be specific. I joined that weirdo website back in 2008, and today my channel has over 16 million views and 215K subscribers. I also call everyone who entertains my shenanigans my #InternetCousin. Evelyn from Austin and Evelyn from the Internets are basically the same, mostly except Evelyn talks in the shower and EFTI talks on camera. I'm pretty quiet (not shy!) in new group settings but I cackle at all the same jokes if I'm comfortable and around my friends. Other than that, I'm a creator through and through; in all aspects.
The more I think about it, maybe not reveling in my creativity is what drove my need for a break. Maybe it was being too content. Maybe it was a combination of both, I don't know, but I needed a moment. Mostly to travel, participate in any opportunities that I couldn't participate in before, and to absolutely use every ounce of time to learn new skills and be creative again.
Our self-worth is tied to productivity. And it sucks.
Whew, so during my break, I learned quite a bit about the human psyche. Mostly that capitalism really has us all the way messed up, but I was also shocked at how much my sense of worth as a human was tied to having a job—even though my lack of job was ON PURPOSE. Our society really doesn't value rest, and my biggest lessons came in learning how to balance rest and play.
I think it's a shame that we feel we have to be afforded some form of privilege or access in order to take time off, but everyone on this earth deserves the right to a full-bodied, well-rounded life. And although we didn't make this world, we live in it, therefore having to conform in some way.
This led to me spending an entire year thinking about doing and planning the doing, but not doing the doing... if that makes sense. The year really flew by and I didn't tackle nearly as many things on my SABBATICAL bucket list as I wanted. The transition back into work life was rough, I didn't set myself up with processes and systems to make work flow, especially as a self-employed person, run smoothly.
Standing in the funemployment line was…something.
You know what, I low-key (high-key) didn't complete anything on my list. It's so interesting because I actually failed to take a true break. I spent so much time worrying about if I was being productive or taking a break "the correct way" (what?!) that I didn't feel well-rested or prepared to jump back into the swing of things. It definitely helped me understand how to set smaller goals and recognize the impact hustle culture has had on my own psyche.
Like, my favorite activity was honestly being able to go to the grocery store at 10:30am with no interruptions and cook for myself. Of all the space and freedom to do whatever I wanted, that's what my favorite activity was. *shamed* But it was because it's when I felt most settled, and not forcibly focusing on not working.
Other than that, my funemployment was a blur. I wish it was something epic like Home Alone or what my teen self wished for like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but really the entire experience was more like Portlandia.
I don't even know what that means but it's what I feel.
Don't take a year off unless you truly understand how you're going to spend your time and what you will say NO to if opportunities try to lure you back.
Thinking back, I think I should have taken maybe three months off, max. It's weird to think about but you make the most of your time when you don't have so much of it. I've learned to protect my free time, and knowing it doesn't always have to be filled.
Just because I'm free from 5-9pm, doesn't mean that's when I should slide another meeting in. Free time is ME time. It's good to have empty space.
Also, I learned the importance of little basic things that we take for granted like signing up for classes if you live alone. You need other humans to vouch for your consistent presence somewhere - it helps to know "every tuesday Evelyn left the house for her screenwriting class" - issa safety thing!
Today, Evelyn is a year wiser and a year happier. I work again—two jobs actually—and have successfully concluded my funemployment. Although my year off was not as productive as I initially hoped, I did learn considerable life lessons; ones that I probably wouldn't have stopped to smell the flowers of before.
But this year, my only goals are to collaborate more, and practice the art of having actual hobbies that aren't for external consumption or entertainment...
Ha, what a concept!
Evelyn has many projects that you can follow through Instagram, her website, or YouTube. She is also a host and writer with Say It Loud digital series.
If you have a story you'd like to share, but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact as at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "As Told To" for a chance for your story to be featured.
Featured image by Jinni J