I am coming to realize just how liberating it is to be out of my crappy professional job situation. I realize how the ability to dictate if I work, when and where I will work, if I will work for pay, or not, brings an entirely new meaning to “work”.
During all of my 55 years, not working was always a bad thing. If you were not working, you were not contributing, not participating, not pulling your weight in our society. To this day, women who stay home to take care of the kids or a parent, or both, is looked down upon, even if ever so slightly. If you are a man you are often heralded as a hero. Yay for you! Breaking the norm, breaking convention, putting your masculinity last and your family first. If you are a woman, you are seen as overly privileged, taking the easy way out, or as someone who will probably home school your kids only to make more conservative voters and vaccine free disease machines. Or, you might be Bohemian hippies that nobody really cares about anyway. Insert sarcasm here.
If you are not working, you are mooching off the rest of the folks that are. You are probably lazy and on welfare. You are probably a beggar or you are a thief or drug addict who steals what you need. I mean, how can you possibly exist without a job??? How can you be a member of our society and not work? Not do your part? Easy, that’s how.
Don’t get me wrong, it was, in part, my history as a working person that made this vagabond life possible. The debt I do not have and the bills that are paid and the resources I have, for the most part, came about because my paychecks. Well, that and some divorce money. Thanks, Jim! I tease, but as a married and childless couple we made really good financial choices and I continue to reap the benefits. I am secure with some retirement that I am not touching, mindful of my “house money” that I hope not to touch, and relieved to have that post-divorce fund if or when I need it. My life today is supported by the money from my part-time work and what I sold before I left.
Looking back, ss soon as I was old enough to be deemed “responsible”, I started working. In those days, it was babysitting for the girls and a paper route for the boys. Hell, my first car was paid for with babysitting money. I think I had a Girl Scout badge to represent my skills. I was 16 years old when I got my first legal job. It was in a little cafè in my local downtown. The building still exists. I was to wait tables and cashier. I was also sexually harassed, though I did not really know it at the time. Later, I worked in a restaurant as the salad girl, and helped in the kitchen. That was dirty, exhausting work. I was a nanny for a spell to a horrible kid, then a nanny to a wonderfully caring family.
When I hit community college, I worked as a caretaker in an adult family home. The pattern here is that I was always a caretaker who got paid crap and who worked in less than ideal circumstances. I was also raised a hard core Catholic and that Catholic guilt that was ingrained in me made giving more than I got normal. Going above and beyond and being treated poorly were part of your penance for being born. Humphf.
Once I hit University, I stopped working and went to school full-time. My area of study was social work. Of course it was!! Again with the care taking modality, working hard for low pay and no benefits. I cared a lot and gave a lot so that was enough. Right? That went on for some years until I realized that I would never really make money or provide a safety net for my daughter at those sorts of jobs. I went back to school to get my graduate degree. I always say that I got my undergraduate degree in saving the world and my graduate degree in being in charge of it. My graduate degree put me on a path to better jobs, benefits, higher salaries, greater status. I had arrived.
Or so I thought.
The jobs would be good for a spell, anywhere from a few months to a few years, and then reality set in. The setting or the supervisor or the upper level manager would create an environment where I was demeaned, my responsibilities stripped away, autonomy ceased to exist, and all those years of education and training amounted to me just doing what I was told. Sure, I got paid more, but I am not wired that way. I just am not. I continued to work and became a very angry and miserable and bitter person. I was making good money with full benefits, but I was dying inside. I forged on as one miserable human doing what I thought I was supposed to do no matter what. Argh.
I have friends who would comment what a dream I had been given. Good pay and full benefits and I was not working to my capacity and I was not busy all day. Sounds relaxing. Sounds easy. Again, I am not wired that way. I have to be mentally engaged and challenged. I have to grow and participate and give of myself to my work. I am just that way.
These days I choose my work, whether paid or unpaid. If it sucks, I can move on and never look back. If I like it, I can sign up for more. I choose work that is physical, outside and that presents me with challenge. Sometimes, challenges far beyond what I bargained for. But, as I continue to say, I do not have to go back. There is something so incredibly freeing about having work as an option, having the choice to stay or go or do it again or drive off into the sunset. It is liberating knowing that this, too, shall pass.
These days, as I travel around and meander about, I give not one actual fuck what people think of my choices. I am technically homeless and unemployed. I am a professional vagabond. I live full-time on the road. I am happy and content and living my dream. I work without long-term investment and it suits me. I work with no or minimal responsibility. I work for minimal or no pay and I have no benefits. I happily live at the bottom of the employment food chain. Those who judge me do not know me. Those who look down upon me will never know me as those folks have no place in my space. I could care less what they think. Zero fucks given.
Work, don’t work. Raise kids, take care of parents, make lots of money or not. Live in a tent or a mansion. Do what makes you happy and it won’t matter. Trust me on this one.