Sunday, 15 January 2012

How to be free - Reject career and all its empty promises.

I’ve mentioned Tom Hodgkinson on here before.  He’s the editor of The Idler, and has written books “How to Be Idle”, “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent”.  I love the principles expressed in “How to be Free” (though not all the ideas in the book), and while I don’t agree with the term Idle I think The Idle Parent is a must-read and describes well how I was brought up and how I wish to bring up my own children.

I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring these two books, and the ideas contained in them further, in the hope that this will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

How to Be Free

Chapter 4 - Reject career and all its empty promises – FIND YOUR GIFT

Is career all it’s cracked up to be?  Or is it a constant struggle for “something better” which will always elude you, because after all, how much space is there at the top?  In order to progress in your career, somebody else can’t.  It makes every day and all your life choices about your career, about where you are going instead of enjoying where you are. 

In order to progress in your career you have to become very good at it, which invariably means that you become very specialised, and less good at all sorts of other things (or have less time for them) which means that you have to pay somebody else to do them; Which means that you need more money; Which means that you need to advance further in your career; Can you see where this is going? 

Women decide that they need to escape the oppression of domesticity (playing with your children, hanging out with your friends, being creative and doing a bit of housework?) by getting a job and getting on the career ladder, where you are certain to be oppressed – and let’s face it, mostly you still have to do the more mundane parts of domesticity as well! 

Far better to seek creative fulfilment in whichever field you enjoy (or several).  Don’t try to “climb the ladder”, just seek to do enough work that you have enough money, and make sure that you enjoy your work, and then do other things that you enjoy as well – some for money, some not.  Instead of aiming for “work-life balance”, why not make work a pleasure and life a pleasure and muddle through the both of them.  Avoid the professional label at all costs – because that restricts you to one thing. 

Find your vocation by finding out what you tend to do if you have nothing to do.  If you have a couple of months holiday, after you’ve done the things that need doing, and you are left with leisure, what do you find yourself doing?  Do you take to writing?  To music?  To the garden?  Whatever  you turn to is your vocation.  Make enjoyable work the centre of things, and not money-making or advancement.

How does this concept match up with the Ink Spots and Grass Stains life?

I completely agree with this chapter.  I started off with a “career” or profession.  I was a Primary School Teacher.  I loved the work, I loved the creativity and the children.  I even quite liked to be labelled as “a teacher”.  But there was more I wanted to do too.  I wanted to write.  So I kind of slipped off the ladder.  Then I had children and became a stay-at-home mum and everything became a lot clearer.

At the moment my focus is very definitely on my children.  They are of an age where they need a lot of attention.   Soon enough that will change.  They’ll spend more time playing independently and then will go to school.  When that happens I’ll have more time to do other things.  And based on the last couple of years, the things I do when I can are writing (this blog and other projects) and creative projects.  If I can find a way to turn those into a bit of cash then I will.  If I can’t then I’ll get another job, but always in the creative / writing / education fields I hope – enough to pay as much cash as is required, but sparing plenty of time for playing with the children, gardening, creativity, and writing.

This isn’t very fair on poor hubby.  He works extremely hard at a job he doesn’t enjoy.  Partly because he’s got used to a certain lifestyle and can’t imagine life without the security of a monthly wage or a big change to that lifestyle, and partly because he’s gone so far up the career ladder that he worries that he now couldn’t do anything else.  I think my job, again, once the children are older, is to earn enough through creative endeavours – my vocations – to show him what’s possible, and to take the earning pressure off him.  He’s hopeful.  Has more than once mentioned the day when I write my best-seller or we win the lottery.

Here’s to a creative and career free future.

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