Not all who wander are lost – JRR Tolkien
I’ve been back at work since the beginning of the year and have enjoyed my job and the people I’ve worked with. But I have to come clean and say that I really don’t like working. And I don’t mean in the ‘work can be such hard, well, work’ kind of way; but in the sense that I find it completely pointless and unfulfilling.
Yes, I realise that survival is a pretty good point and that I need to make money to put food on the table, and blah blah yawn. This is why I still get out of bed in the morning. But meeting these basic needs isn’t really making me happy, leaving me satisfied (just ask Maslow), or providing enough motivation for me to keep doing it in the long term.
I suppose that I could try to pretend that I care about getting rich and accumulating wealth. But I’m just not finding the quest for riches a driver anymore. Sure, I like beautiful things, but I increasingly find myself wanting to create rather than consume beauty. In fact, I’m really into the idea of re- and up-cycling stuff rather than buying more new things. Not to sound like a tree-hugger, but there are only so many resources available and we should probably try to conserve some of them. Not to mention the fact that the quest to acquire just feels to me like it’s in poor taste right now. It’s a pretty different mind-set I find myself in…
For a while I thought that I was fooling myself into believing that I felt this way, and that deep down I was still the rabid consumer that I’ve always been. So I tested my theory and tried to go shopping. About 5 times. I tried my favourite stores. I tried new stores. I tried highly recommended stores and unheard of stores. I tried cheap stores and expensive stores. And each time, I would leave the shops either empty handed, or with one or two purchases that I made because I had a real need.
Not only do I not want to buy new stuff, I desperately want to get rid of the stuff I already have. As we prepare to move (more on that in a separate post), J and I are sorting through our mountains of stuff and identifying the stuff that we want to give to charity or sell. Most of the time I want to pack the essentials (like my books, laptop, a few craft supplies, and enough clothes to not become a nudist) and then call a charity store to come and collect the rest. And when I am in any retail environment I keep finding myself thinking: “Well, I could buy this – but what’s the point? It’s just one more thing that I’ll have to store, clean, and move.”
To me, it makes perfect sense that a severe reduction in my acquisitive drive means a drastic reduction in my desire to work because this has always been all that work is about for me. I have worked to make money so that I could buy shit. I’ve never been a particularly career-driven person. I’ve tried to be. I’ve pretended to be. But the truth is that I really couldn’t give a continental about climbing the corporate ladder, or gaining recognition, or any of the things that seem to be important to my career-focused brethren.
I just want to be free. I want my time to be my own. I want to travel and see places and people I’ve never seen before. I want to watch TV shows and movies. I want to spend time with my husband, son and friends. I want to try new things, like yoga. I want to be able to sit on the couch and do nothing but knit a particularly challenging pattern. I want to experiment with making my own patterns and sewing clothes and home décor. I want to take my son to the beach. I want to lay in bed all morning reading. I want to write. For some reason I want to edit other people’s writing*. (Strangely enough, I probably want to do this more than I want to write).
I know from experience that my skill level at few, if any, of these things is likely to be good enough to display to the public, let alone generate an income. So I know that they would be seen by many as failures. I really don’t care. I want to enjoy the process, not the outcome. I want to simply revel in the creation of something, with no thought given to profitability or income generation for myself or anyone else. I want to do for the sake of doing, make for the sake of making.
The fact that I feel this way doesn’t surprise me. To me, it’s totally normal. But society doesn’t seem to agree. It would seem that if you aren’t driven by money or a desire to achieve society’s narrow preconceptions of success, there is no space for you. Basically, there seem to be three options for women who want to be considered successful:
- Be the brass-balled career woman clawing her way up the corporate ladder. Extra points if you start your own business and make it successful. Become an expert within your industry. Get head-hunted a few times. Have clients that adore you. Join self-congratulating industry groups and societies. Make lots of money. Buy shit with it. Look amazing all of the time.
- Be a domestic goddess Stepford wife who cooks and cleans, has amazing sex; is interesting, witty and well read. Host wonderful dinner parties. Be a mother, preferably an earth mother who is a member of the La Leche League and a strict proponent of attachment parenting. Be involved in every school activity and charity drive. Bake cakes and cookies, and cook wholesome and nutritious meals. Shows how practical and thrifty you are and prove that you’re a better wife and home maker than everyone else. Look amazing all of the time.
- Both of the above.
I call bullshit. Surely there must be more? Something more meaningful? But in the absence of these stereotypical measures of success, I’m left wondering what I believe success to be and how I measure it for myself. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. What I Do know is that I no longer think that success is a big house*, luxury car and designer clothing. I also don’t think that it’s anything as trite or hackneyed as being the perfect wife and mother, and raising the perfect child. While having a home, a car and a happy child and marriage are important to me, these are not the yardsticks by which I measure my success.
(*While I don’t need a big house, I would like to have a sewing and craft room. Purely for practical reasons, you understand.)
Maybe I’m just in the wrong job. Actually, I’m pretty sure I am. The very thought of becoming some money-grubbing company’s PR lackey and contributing to the great need to increase sales within the infinite marketplace drains me of the will to live faster than an open airlock creates a vacuum. But I have no idea what to do with that, because I’m not really qualified to do anything else. I’m lucky enough to have some talent, experience, knowledge and skills under my belt that allow me to make a salary and help put food on the table. Which I need to do right now, because being a single income family just isn’t feasible at the moment. But again, where does this whole situation leave me? I suspect that the answer is “between a rock and a hard place”.
I know that I could find my passion and pursue it on a part time basis. I could study part time and gain a qualification so that I can eventually change careers. I could choose a hobby and wait to see where it goes and how it develops. But really, being a working mother, wife, homemaker, daughter-in-law, and occasional friend is quite a lot to have on my plate as it is.
I just don’t feel as though I can take the limited time that I have available for maintaining meaningful relationships, dedicate it to a hobby; and expect my loved ones to be ok with that. With working and running my home, I have so little free time that I barely see my friends and family. So it just isn’t realistic to put more on my plate. Maybe some women can manage to work, run a home and have a hobby that pursue with single-minded dedication, but apparently I’m not one of them. Besides, I need time to figure out what it is that I actually want to do. I don’t want to be tied to any one thing. I want the tasting menu, please. I want to experiment, see what I’m good at and what I enjoy. I want to wander life’s paths. This doesn’t mean I’m not going anywhere. It just means I don’t know where ‘there’ is right now.
So how do I turn my (largely) as-yet-unidentified passions into a job that can actually get me excited to wake up in the morning, without spreading myself too thin? Should I even try? If you know the answer, please share it. I’m dying to know.