I have a dirty little secret. I like not holding down a steady job. I'm sure it'll pass, but I'm thinking it's one of the greatest experiences I've ever had.
Oh sure, I want to go back to work, have a reason to wake up in the morning, earn a steady income, have a thousand business cards of which I'll ultimately pass out precisely . . . nine. But for right now, I'm enjoying just being.
I was like you once. I went to my dingy office to do gray work, read fuzzy memos, talk to equivocating people and research vague things. The brightest thing in my day was my computer screen.
On my way to my job I used to see local people in casual clothes who didn't seem to be heading anywhere or doing much of anything. I imagined that these people were independently wealthy, or just had the day off. They couldn't just be not working. I used to think that the only people who weren't working were homeless (believe me, in my neighborhood, it isn't hard to get that impression).
But now I am one of them. And you know what? We laugh at you behind your back.
Some of us quit, some of us were fired, and we're all "looking" for ways to earn a living. But in the meantime we read books that enrich our souls and stimulate our minds. We walk our dogs in the daylight. We lie in the grass. We make funny faces at your children to make them laugh while they're being tended to by nannies and au pairs. We sip our iced coffee slowly at outdoor cafes as we watch you run in, run out. We get enough sleep. We see the latest hot movies without waiting in any lines.
At some point, the little money we have dips dangerously low so we come to your office to answer your phones or review your documents or something else equally unchallenging. Then we go back to our daydreaming and our no-car-payment-paying lives.
If you think I'm missing out on something, you're probably right. Maybe you go to art galleries on the weekends and that's just fine with you. You don't mind attempting to peer around the crush of people to see the latest exhibit. Maybe if you like a piece, you'll drop a few hundred bucks the artist's way, and take it home with you. Thank you for doing that. Not only is the artist grateful, but so am I. You make it possible for him to give me his art free, because I'm his friend, and you don't have time to be.
Right about now, you're either full of envy or full of venom. Either I'm living the good life or I'm slothful and arrogant. Maybe you're justifying your career, your life. Or maybe that's what I'm doing. Maybe I'm trying to make myself feel better by making you feel worse. I should think about that. I will. I have the time.
Nope, I'm pretty sure that I like this gig I've got.
If you ask me, though, I might tell you, with a hint of sadness and embarrassment in my eyes, that I'm eager to start working steadily again. And at that exact moment, it's true. You'll look at me with a supportive half-smile (trying not to be patronizing) and tell me to keep my chin up.
Like anyone else, I want the security, and the feeling that I'm doing something for the universe. But then again, I might remember that I didn't feel so very secure in my job, and I certainly didn't feel I was doing anything for the universe.
I know you'll look at me with a little scorn. How could anybody not want to work and be productive, have extra money, have health care? But the funny thing is, with all this extra time on my hands, I'm learning how to be productive in other ways. I used to come home from a hard day at work and turn on the television to unwind, relax and "veg." Guess how many times I've turned on my television in the last month? Twice. Once because I read about the commercial made for cats. I figured I shouldn't deprive my kitty of the first instance of all-American consumerism reaching out to his people. And once to watch Judge Judy. Someone told me I'd like her.
She's okay, but it's way more fun making my way over to the Supreme Court to check out Ruth Bader Ginsburg, live and in person. Now that woman has chutzpah (and has better things to do than yell at someone over missing receipts).
Since I've been among the unworking, I've learned to be more creative. I know how to have fun and even eat free, or for next to nothing (but that's a secret I won't share). And I don't seem to need health care as I used to. Know why? I have no stress, no anxiety, no deadlines, no eyestrain from my computer, or carpal tunnel syndrome, no burning the candle at both ends, no extreme temperature fluctuations from sweltering, makeup-melting outside to meat-locker-frosty inside.
Don't worry, it isn't like I want you to join me. I want you to keep your job and the stock market high. I'm glad you go-getters are out there, getting to work early, earning your keep, paying your taxes and maintaining the civic infrastructure. When we good-for-nothings are hanging out on the boulevard, we like to know that we can lean against lampposts with confidence.
We appreciate you, we really do. Sometimes you inspire me to engage in a vigorous day of job hunting (reading the want ads over coffee, sending out a few resumes, browsing at a bookstore). Even before lunch, I feel as though I've accomplished a monumental task--one deserving of a little time off.
"Time off from what?" you inquire. Well, I'm not sure either. But maybe I'll go see a matinee at a bargain price, sit in the best seat in the theater, and figure it out later.