foxglove flowers

A Beautiful World Outside the Daily Grind

I didn’t choose a life outside the daily grind. It chose me when I got laid off a month ago.

It’s crazy to think how much has changed since the day I received that detrimental news. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore and I questioned myself until I felt like I was looking at a stranger in the mirror.

Like an earthquake, my world shifted violently. Then the shaking stopped. Like someone just flipped a switch.

With the stillness came a clarity that surprised me. I decided the layoff wasn’t the end of the world. It was the beginning of a new one…a beautiful world.

I’ve become an outsider. Literally.

Back in my retail days, I used to love having the wacky schedule—screwing off when everyone else was singing the Monday Blues. It almost feels like you’re playing hooky when you’re a 9-5 outsider. The forest trails are empty, and so is your favorite cafe. The quiet seems so special and fragile, and you seize every opportunity to enjoy it.

In a way I was damn lucky to discover this unexpected freedom as summer is taking its rightful place. Had I lost my job in the damp, dreary winter, I imagine this sense of joie de vivre would be harder to find.

working from home

Truth be told, being inside an office all the time (no matter how cool they try to make it with afternoon beers and indoor basketball) doesn’t suit me.

It works for some people, so I’m not knocking it. But I prefer to change up my location, to be free. And it’s funny how being a part of the daily grind doesn’t really allow that kind of behavior.

Even the hip companies with “flexible” arrangements question you when you’re coming and going. You can be kicking ass, but still they wonder whether or not you’re really working hard enough when you take a walk outside to breathe for a minute.

I always want to be outside—it doesn’t matter where. The grimy nature of the city, with its concrete mountains and electric stars, inspires me with its energy. The pretty nature of the woods gets me too.

All this newfound awareness comes with its own hazards though. Yesterday I stopped on the trail to marvel at the gorgeous, bell-shaped flowers below. I didn’t realize they were poisonous when I was inhaling them and (she smacks her forehead) petting their sinister petals.

I found out when I was looking them up to properly name the image for this blog post. They’re called foxgloves. As lovely as they seem, they contain a bouquet of chemicals that affect the heart.

Don’t worry, I survived. It’s just another part of being an outsider—learning to navigate the perils of these exotic circumstances of my new life.

foxglove flowers

I’ve been unleashed, and despite the run-in with toxic flowers, it feels pretty amazing. As a writer, I couldn’t ask for better inspiration. I’m observing everything in a different light and it’s a lot like being born again.

Each morning I sit on my patio and listen to the birds, starting a new day of unknown possibilities with my trusty laptop, which is habitually covered in cat hair. At work I used to listen to ambient music with nature sounds to calm me down. Now I feel so privileged to savor the real deal.

The birds sing loud and clear, because there is less to compete with—less to fear.

I’ve been really connecting with birds lately. As an outsider of the daily grind, I feel like one of them. No, I’m not pretending to fly and breaking a leg in the process, or chirping in front of my neighbor’s window. I’m not that crazy…yet.

But there is less to compete with and less to fear, so each day I’m soaring in my own way.

I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch
He said to me, “you must not ask for so much”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door
She cried to me, “hey, why not ask for more?”
Oh, like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free

– Leonard Cohen, Bird on the Wire

indie books

40 thoughts on “A Beautiful World Outside the Daily Grind

  1. joey says:

    Mhm. Digitalis. Yes. Glad you weren’t petting an enormous carnivorous plant 😉
    I agree with the comment about working retail and feeling freer. I always worked weekends. I may again. Who wants to be out there trying to do stuff in the maddening crowd, when you could be busy working instead? Because you’re right, Monday morning in an office is dreary, and not like sleeping til 10, coffee on the porch, a whole day to do your stuff without that crowd.
    Having a family makes that less appealing, but still…there’s a lot to be said for working weekends.
    Personally, I’ve always liked Thursdays. There’s a bit of a hum in the air and people are getting stuff done, but not rushing around like they do on Friday 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      I know, right?! Little Shop of Horrors, anyone? 😉

      Yeah, I got back on a retail schedule when we first moved out here and it was jarring when I got back on a M-F schedule. At first I was so excited to get weekends off, then I was trail running and there were SO many people on the trail. I was, like…where is my peaceful experience out here? I was dodging people left and right.

      I like Thursdays too. We usually try to go out for a beer on Thursday evenings.

  2. diannegray says:

    Stroking poisonous flowers is something I would do, Britt 😉 It’s quite funny (only because you survived!) I love not doing the 9 -5 grind and don’t think I could ever go back to that life. If only someone would pay me to just sit on my porch and watch the birds flying across the sugar cane while I sip wine 😀

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Haha, I thought of you! I was, like, this is SO Dianne—except there would have been some monstrous bug climbing out of the flower. Fortunately we have less critters!

      If you find a benefactor that allows those wonderful behaviors, put in a good word for me, will ya? 🙂

  3. Andrea Stephenson says:

    It sounds joyful Britt. That is a beautiful path and foxgloves are one of my favourites. I have every Monday off and I love the comparative quiet of the world when everyone else is at work!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      I’ve been on that trail many times before and I’ve never noticed the foxgloves! I imagine they’ve been there before, but I was too mixed up in my own head before to notice them. They really are amazing flowers.

      Mondays off is very awesome. Good way to enjoy a less hectic start to the week.

  4. MarinaSofia says:

    Glad you are finding your own pace and way to live. Sometimes it’s difficult to get off the treadmill until we are pushed. As someone who is contemplating getting back on the treadmill again (reluctantly, but for stability and financial reasons), I can only say: enjoy the freedom and reconnection with things that matter for as long as you can.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      I understand, Marina. I’m giving myself six months with this adventure to see how it goes. I think I’ll be fine, but Portland is an expensive place to live in these days. The other option we’re looking at is to move outside of the city a ways, since I can work remotely now. Might be a good idea if I want to keep this up without stressing over the cost of living.

      Good luck with everything!

  5. Les Petits Pas de Juls says:

    I truly belive the lay-off didn’t happen out of the blue. You needed to be laid off so you could find yourself again and roam free, find yourself look at the world with your bird eyes and discover a new true happiness you might have been on the verge of.

    You words always ring true, whatever the situation you’re facing and it’s truly an inspiration to follow you, Britt.
    As I’m 25 days away from quitting my job in Paris (not for the lack of enjoyment but for the lack of living with my husband and off my backpack), I don’t deny the importance of the job but I know my true happiness is elsewhere.

    Sometimes, we need a good lay-off or quitting our job to find peace again.


    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      I agree, honey! It’s been great to reconnect with myself and have this experience. I’m thankful, as always, that Mr. H has been so supportive. Otherwise, I would have jumped right into another full-time position!

      Can’t wait for you and Raul to reunite again. I know you love your job, but that makes it even better…that you’re making this decision from a happy place. I will be following your beautiful adventures! xo

  6. Audrey Kalman says:

    I haven’t been 9-5 for many years, though sometimes I find myself longing for the predictability that I vaguely remember coming with a standard job (especially on weekends like this, when I am tied to my desk waiting for the next installment of an editing project on deadline). But for the most part, I am extremely grateful–it means I can take off for vacation with my family without extensive negotiation, I can schedule around events with my kids, etc. etc. Welcome to the world of the self-directed!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      I hear ya, Audrey! Definitely some unknowns I’m learning to work with right now. I’m trying to keep my weekends free, but that almost didn’t happen this time. When I have a slower day where I’m waiting on feedback or I’m in between projects, I’m trying to enjoy it in case I need to work into the evening.

      Gotta stay flexible!

  7. Carrie Rubin says:

    Love your positive attitude. You’re moving on from a soul-crushing event and making sweet lemonade instead. Being able to see the silver lining is one of the keys to resilience, so good on you!

  8. Casey Sheridan says:

    Beautiful flowers, but, yeah, stop petting them. 🙂

    You have a great positive attitude and I’m jealous of your freedom from the 9 to 5 grind. Maybe someday I’ll enjoy that same freedom. 🙂

    I think working on the weekends and having a couple days off during the week instead would be great. It would probably take me a bit to get myself adjusted, but I’m sure that adjustment wouldn’t take long at all.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Haha, right?! So pretty…and poisonous!

      The freedom comes with its ups and downs as well. But, I do enjoy working on my own terms and being able to get outside more. 😉

  9. cravesadventure says:

    Glad to hear you are figuring it out and finding yourself 🙂 I experienced a lay off a few years back, which lasted 6 months. I formed my own routine and enjoyed the break from the daily grind too. I am like you in that it happened during the Summer months – might have been a whole difference experience in the Winter months. Wishing You the Best – Journey On & Explore 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy!

  10. Letizia says:

    I love that you are now listening to the birds and nature in real time rather than on your headphones in the office. That, in itself, is a gift. I am not teaching this summer and I love working to my own schedule (although there are days where I have to remind myself to be disciplined and actually get some work done, “what, I’m not ten years old and I don’t have the whole summer off??”).

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Listening to real birds and nature is certainly a gift. It’s such a gorgeous time to be able to spend more of it outside. I’ve been taking my laptop outside as much as possible. I need to clean my laptop though, because I’m starting to see more sap, bug, and plant bits on it.

      I know. I want to be ten again! Life was so dang good. xo

  11. Kate Johnston says:

    Sorry about the lay-off, Britt. It’s a tough thing to go through, but it sounds like you’re handling it like a champ. I laughed out loud about the foxglove incident. I probably would have done the same thing because I can’t resist pretty things in nature. You know, like snakes. 😉

    Being a freelancer/self-employed and working my own schedule allows me that freedom you talk about. But I find it stressful in the sense that I have to find my own work. If I’m not constantly talking about my business in some way, I could be missing an opportunity. I guess there are high and low points no matter what kind of job you do. Good luck–I know everything will work out for you!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Thank you, sweet Kate! I’m starting to get into a groove with this freelancing thing. It was definitely crazy last month, with lots of self-discovery happening over a very short period of time.

      Yes, I’m trying to be careful about how much I take on, because hunting for new opportunities is a very big part of it. But, I’m really enjoying finding my own way, learning new skills, and being able to help small businesses. Very rewarding thus far!

      Those foxgloves are mighty enticing, I must say. 😉

  12. Browsing the Atlas says:

    We’re kindred spirits these days. I didn’t lose my job, but did discover that on the days I work from home I can get wifi pretty far into my backyard. So I’m out there nearly every day now. And even on the days when I do go into the office, I head home, take a walk and then relax on the deck. I’ve never been so tan! 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Nice! I’m all about the patio writing currently. It makes all the difference when I don’t want to feel all cooped up. I’m tan too! I’m like…I swear, I’m working and not just laying out reading all day. 😉

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