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What does Quitting the Rat Race Mean to Me?

A few days ago I uploaded my first blog post in almost 2 years: Quitting the Rat Race. A few hours before I sat down to write, I’d had a call with a couple of senior managers where I committed to leaving my job. I’d already handed in my notice to my landlord a few weeks earlier, but giving up my job was giving up security. It was giving up income. It was much scarier.

For some reason, I felt the need to write how I felt. Maybe it was because I knew this was a big decision with consequences and I wanted to record the moment. Maybe I just needed to reassure myself that I was doing the right thing.

When I finished the post, I proof read it and a thought appeared in my head: ”there might be other people out there who feel the same way”. I submitted the link to Hacker News and then went to bed.

I was shocked the next day to see that the post had been catapulted to the front page of Hacker News and had a few hundred comments.

I immediately felt terrified.

The comments section on Hacker News can be brutal. Polarising posts about subjects that people hold strong opinions on are generally the ones that get the most engagement, so I knew there’d be a mixture of positivity and negativity in there. There was.

Some people think I’m a spoiled millenial who should just quit and shut up about it. Others think I’m a “techbro” with FU money and I’m lucky to be able to quit without a moments thought. Others advised me that the mountains are dangerous and I’d regret my decision when I was dying in a hole somewhere. Some people seemed offended that I described London so negatively.

Some people thanked me for sharing my thoughts because my post inspired them. Some people told me they’d been in my shoes and shared lessons they’d learned on their journey. Some people told me they desperately wanted to do the same thing, but couldn’t.

I’ve learned a few lessons from the last 48 hours. I’ve learned how powerful the internet truly is. To have my words read by 20,000 people in 48 hours is unfathomable. I’ve also learned how important it is to be clear with those words and phrases, and to make sure I understand what message my words will convey.

Rereading my original post, it does sound like I’m disappearing off in to the mountains to live in a cave without much of a plan. I carelessly used phrases like “the least fulfilled I’ve ever been” instead of “the least fulfilling work I’ve ever done”. This makes it sound like I’m deeply unhappy - stuck in a rut I can’t get out of without drastic action.

I’m not becoming a hermit in the mountains, and I’m not quitting work forever to live off my non-existent FU money.

To me, quitting the rat race means not having to stand in two packed trains to get to work. It means living somewhere where I have access to the things I enjoy. It means being nearer to my family and friends. It means not wasting 2 hours of my day commuting. It means being able to cycle without having to endure 15km of dangerous roads and vehicle fumes. It means making choices that maximise happiness, instead of making choices that maximise income. I’ve fallen prey to the latter in the last few years. It’s the reason I live in a place that doesn’t give me what I need, and it’s the reason I work at a job that doesn’t fulfil me.

I’m changing all of those things.

I’m moving to a much smaller city where I can walk everywhere. I lived there for 10 years when I was younger, and I loved it. I’ll be a 15 minute walk from the sea, or a 5 minute cycle. I’ll be able to go hiking in the mountains because they’re just a short drive away. I’ll be much nearer to my family, and my friends. I’m going to take a small amount of time off, but no more than a few weeks. I love software engineering, and I love building things. I’m going to try to find, or create more meaningful work. Work that will challenge me, and that I can be proud of.

Everyone has their own “rat race”. What I like/dislike is unique to me. There’s no one size that fits all, so I don’t aim to preach about a superior way of living or presume that I have “the answer”. These choices are what will work for me, and maybe some others like me.

I’d like to thank all of the people who reached out to me on Twitter. I was grateful that so many people took the time to send me a message, and I was moved by the stories people sent to me.