Minimalism advocates that we release ourselves from the things that absorb our time without providing any value in return. These “things” can be material things, but they can also be relationships, habits, and yes, our jobs.
There is a quote on the book, “Everything That Remains” that really scared me. I do not have the page number handy (I lent the book to my sister), but Joshua spoke of how we’ve been taught , from an early age, to work ridiculously hard for a non-living entity that demands our most valuable possession – our time – in exchange of a paycheck. Our time… I had really never thought it that way. Our time on this earth is so limited, and yet I dedicate most of it to a job that I really, really, really dislike.
Of course, I’m not the only person that strongly dislikes his or her job (I’m not ready to say “hate”), but considering the significance of my single opportunity to live in this earth, shouldn’t I at least try? Shouldn’t the fact that I only have one life be enough encouragement to prompt me to make it better, to make it more meaningful? The simple answer is “yes”, but taking action is much more difficult. You see, I dislike my job, but my job offers me a steady, reliable paycheck, which I need in order to buy food and pay the mortgage. My job also offers a few weeks of paid vacation. Of course, the vacation is not enough…never, but it’s still something to consider. Also, I work for a company that contributes to my retirement account. That for sure is a good thing, right? After all I give to this company (my peace of mind, my time, my energy, my health), it’s fair for them to give me a bit of extra money for retirement. They also provide health insurance, so the amount I pay per month is relatively small compared to other people whose jobs do not provide it. I only use my health insurance once a year, so I know I am paying for a service I rarely use, but I guess it’s nice to know I have insurance, you know, for emergencies and such. So there you have it, you could say I have “good” job – good pay, good health insurance, good retirement plan, good vacation time. But is it still worth all the misery and stress? Is it worth my valuable, limited time on earth?
This is when Joshua turned into the subject of Security. He explains that we hang on to jobs that make us miserable because we believe that there is security in them, but in realty, he argues, these jobs can instill in us a great feeling of insecurity because we have more to lose. He explained that hisg paycheck made him feel less secure because he was afraid of losing the income and lifestyle he was used to.
I can see the logic in this. If you live a simple, inexpensive life, then you can get by with a simple, minimum-wage job, and if you lose that job, it’s not as terrifying because you’re already used to a small life. You don’t to freak out about not being able to buy the latest fashion, the latest phone, paying for your luxury car, paying for the all-access cable package, etc. I get it. The less you have, the less you have to worry about.
Considering that my car is paid off, that I’m not concerned with the latest fashion or latest gadget, that I do not have cable in my house, and that I am not accustomed to eating out often, I guess I could say I have relatively simple life. I can afford to take a pay cut, perhaps work for a non-profit. I could find a job that offers less pay, but much more meaning. But the questions that nags at the back of my head is this: what about the future? I know there is no guarantee I will be here tomorrow, much less that one day I’ll be old enough to retire and enjoy life. But what happens if do I get to that age?
I imagine the old me, the me that left a decent-paying corporate office job to work for a non-profit. That version of old me is happy. She is happy because she has being doing work that added value to her life and many others. She is happy because she lives a simple life. She’s in good health because in her twenties she read about minimalism, which encouraged her to build the good habit of jogging every morning. However, she worries sometimes because her rent is too expense, and although she’s in good health, she inevitably must take some medication. She invites her sister over to her house to drink coffee regularly, and sometimes her sister brings her some groceries, which she first rejects, and then kindly accepts as a gift.
Now I imagine the other version of old me. The me that stuck with her horrible job for over 30 years. That version of me is also happy. She is happy because she finally gets to retire. She has a comfortable home that she just finished paying off and for the first time has no bills, other than the internet, water, and electricity. She has enough money to travel and pay for a gym membership, where she takes a class in water aerobics. She understands the value of meaningful relationships and has enough money to go to the local coffee shop with her sister on a regular basis.
I know, I know…the future never really turns out the way we expect it. I could sit here imagining all kinds of scenarios and none will resemble my actual future; but this exercise did help me realize that perhaps I am not doing myself a disservice by staying with job. Either way, I think I will be happy. Joshua does clarify that real security is found inside of us, in the pursuit of “constant, personal growth”. Can I participate in this pursuit while participating in my horrible job? Is this what the life-work balance is all about? Am I okay as long as I don’t let my job consume me 24-7?
I am indeed taking measures to work only my 40 hours. I now realize that working in the weekends does me no good because I never catch up, so I don’t intend to work another weekend ever again. This means that I do have some time, albeit it’s only a little bit, to spend with my family and friends. I have been committed to jogging and writing every morning because it makes me happy.
Perhaps leaving one’s job is a recommendation for people that are literally obsessed with it, people whose lives and identities revolve around their job.
That’s not me, and I hope to never become that person. I know now better.