I’m ‘between jobs’ at the moment. By that I mean that I quit my last job because I didn’t like it, and I don’t yet know what my next job will be. This has been going on for almost two months now, and I’m managing to pay the bills in this ever-extending interim through a combination of seeing my few personal training clients, mowing my mum’s lawns and word processing her book which she wrote by hand, and working for my dad doing either fairly heavy manual labour or hours of mindless weeding in the garden.
With the money I make from doing this I pay my rent, power, phone and internet, put some petrol in my car and buy a bit of food. Not having any disposable income sure does simplify things: I’m financially limited by what I can do, but I do have plenty of time to think and reflect. I was talking to my brother on the phone a while ago and he was saying that his levels of stress and unhappiness with his job have risen in equal proportions alongside the increases in his salary.
Sure it’s great to have loads of money, but at what cost? What are all those dollars worth if your health or happiness or time or energy is overly compromised? I wonder if there is a critical point (which would be different for each person) at which the work/life balance is perfected. A point at which all the positive aspects of working – a feeling of contributing something of value, being part of a team or an expert in your field, having a sense of purpose, and being fairly remunerated for your time don’t detract from life outside of work – friends, family, hobbies, chores, and relaxation time.
If the work/life balance lies along a continuum, with the sweet spot somewhere in the middle, I think my brother would be pretty close to one end: he gets paid well doing something he loves, but, because of his position, can’t leave the job behind at the end of the day, to the point where it’s encroaching far too much into his personal life and compromising his happiness.
I, on the other hand, would sit at the opposite end of the continuum from my brother. I’ve got all the time in the world, but no money and no sense of purpose or direction. Work, to me, means physically travelling from home to my workplace, working with other people doing something I’m good at and enjoy and is beneficial or useful or helpful in some way, then when I’ve finished working I leave, mentally and physically, and do other stuff.
It’s the ‘doing something I’m good at and enjoy’ that’s the most important part for me. I could be working right now if my only criterion was ‘have a job’, but there are certain jobs that I’m simply not willing to do. Yeah that does make me a bit of a princess, but after all the study I’ve done, all the qualifications I hold, it would kill me inside to take a job at, say, a supermarket or a petrol station. I just can’t do it. Which brings me to where I am now: sitting on my bed in my onesie at 11:30 AM. I should be at work like all the other upstanding citizens of this country who work hard, pay their taxes, pay their bills, pay their mortgages, and pay for all the stuff they think they need.
To be honest, it is getting a bit depressing. I’m in a bit of a pickle because, on the one hand, I feel like I should be contributing more, doing more, being more, but on the other hand I really really really want to be doing something meaningful, that’s true to my values and makes me feel good about myself. So, yes, working too much can negatively affect your overall happiness, but so can working too little.
I wonder what the outcome of this will be. Will I crumble and take a hospo job even though I promised myself never again, or will I wait for something more meaningful?