One of my favorite blogs is by a woman who is successful at what she does, which is create start-up companies and give career advice (Penelope Trunk). Most of her writing is on doing well in corporate careers. This topic is irrelevant for me, because one of the things I desire least in life is to have a corporate career, or any job that requires me to put forty hours a week into something I do not have a significant personal stake in.
My aversion to mainstream work and how I am making a living for myself otherwise is something I will explore through a number of posts into the future, so I will not treat it exhaustively here today.
Today I want to write about why I read a blog that seemingly has nothing for me.
First, because it allows me to understand my own values in contrast to the ones presented.
Second, because there’s more to PT than meets the eye. Her foremost concern is that people do what fits their personalities, which she advises measuring through a Myers-Briggs-type instrument (there are plenty of free ones online; I’m an INFJ – the rarest of all types [shocking]).
She writes a lot about how women with children don’t want to work full time. She cites data.
Ok, so that doesn’t fit me either, since I don’t have kids and probably never will (at least that’s how things look for now). But the idea that it’s normal and acceptable to not want to work forty hours a week on something that is not of primary importance in life – yeah, that definitely resonates.
I work more than forty hours a week. Not at a job, though. On my life. On living. On the things of primary importance. Achieving balance, finding joy, and meeting my own goals on things like being a good daughter, friend, girlfriend, pet owner, and community member. I read a lot, and think a lot, and write. I also work really, really hard on not sinking into intense anxiety or God forbid another bad depression, which has much to do with how I arrange my life.
Somewhere amidst all that life work is what I do for money. Currently, teaching and freelance editing. Both are, for now, activities that I get personal satisfaction from, and feel I have a significant personal stake in. I in no way spend anywhere near forty hours a week on my money-making activities. It’s of primary importance to me that I’m able to take off to the park in the afternoon with a blanket and a book if I feel the need. Like today.
I don’t make much money. Many of my peers from school days would laugh or sneer (at least I imagine they would, and I recognize I could be totally wrong about that).
I don’t have much in terms of retirement savings, and I’m at an age where that is, from a mainstream perspective, shocking. (Although PT maintains that retirement savings are outdated.)
I have days when I feel scared about finances and the future. But I spent many years trying to be as mainstream as was possible for me and I felt scared a lot then, too. And I also felt near constant despair.
When I made more money, I felt deprived and hopeless. Now I am experimenting with living life as I choose, at least within my capabilities to do so, and I feel like I am living in abundance.
I want to stress that I am trying to live a life that suits me, not a life that is “ideal” from any other standard. There is no one size fits all. And being able to choose what I want my life to look like is a luxury I do not take for granted. There are a number of reasons I have that luxury, a primary one being that I have decided not to have children. Because I know myself and what kind of life would make me happiest.
I’ll never make it to the top of any field. I’ll never have that kind of success. Because what that implies is basing the shape of my life and my output on comparison with others people’s and on other people’s judgements. I try to the best of my abilities not to do the former. As for the latter, it’s difficult to avoid entirely. People are gonna judge. And they have their right to. But nowhere in that right is any obligation on my part to listen or care. Although I might, if it seems appropriate or useful. But mostly I’m just going to keep on trying to live my life the way I want to.