Personal development: Quit the day job


Serendipity led Gemma Rose to a bookshop and a man living his dream.

One sunny lunch time in April, I was feeling a bit down in the dumps. One of my favourite F**k It philosophy mantras is “Be open to something spectacular happening today”. I decided to take that advice, leaving the confines of my dreary office in pursuit of something spectacular. Whilst exploring Brussels’ Matongé quarter, a small, paper-clipped review posted on a shop window caught my eye: “The brand-new second hand bookshop Tulibris feels like the living room of its owner, Peter De Meersman,” read the opening sentence. My blog is called ‘Living room philosophy’. Believing that this was my spectacular (and serendipitous) occasion, I walked in and warmly greeted Peter, who was sitting at his desk, engrossed in a book.

Quitting the day job to do what we love is a fantasy for many of us, and a reality for probably very few. A lot of us don’t particularly like our day jobs.  A report published this year by the office furniture manufacturer Steelcase found that only 13% of workers around the globe are highly engaged and satisfied in their jobs. Out of 17 countries surveyed, only 5% of workers felt this way in France, and 6% in Belgium. Even if we are desperate to quit our jobs, the fear of financial insecurity impedes us. This was a fear amongst 29% of UK workers last year, when asked by the London School of Business and Finance why they had not changed careers.

After working in the private and public sectors, Peter decided to quit the day job. The decision was not on the spur of the moment, but rather one where preparation met opportunity. For over two decades, Peter had been collecting second-hand books. After being in both challenging and more routine jobs in government, he realized that he needed a break from bureaucratic life. This was all the more so as something was tugging at him. About a year and a half before leaving government, he began to check out commercial properties, out of curiosity. “I didn’t have any solid plans yet. But the thought of opening a book shop, which had been in the back of my mind for many years, was getting stronger and stronger.” In January 2015, he signed the lease for the shop. Five months later, he started his five-year sabbatical.