On working and/or making a life.


Yesterday, I received a rejection letter. That is –  a letter telling me that although I was a stellar candidate, I had not got the job I interviewed for last Friday. (That interview, incidentally, took up so much brain space once it was scheduled that I haven’t been posting here, never mind the fact I have so much to share with you!)

The job was for a large organization whose mission I support wholeheartedly, it paid a 1/3 more than I am currently making, and it drew directly on the skill set that I have spent the last twenty years developing. By all rights I should be crushed right now, for this position would have once represented my “dream” job which is why my friend inside recruited me to apply for it several months ago.

But instead of feeling spurned, or self-hating when the note arrived in my inbox yesterday – I felt incredibly, unmistakably, relieved. As in, happy to see the rejection confirmed!

And why is that? Because during the interview they quite candidly told me that the expected hours of work for the next year or so would be sixty (or more) per week, with some indeterminate amount of travel. SIXTY hours per week! For the record, I currently work thirty hours per week as I reduced my schedule when I started grad school two years ago. I knew that this organization would want me to work a lot more – say, perhaps, fifty hours per week – and that would include weekends/evenings plus travel. But when an interview starts out with sixty hours per week as a minimum, you know it’s going to be that plus more.

Five years ago, those kinds of hours wouldn’t have deterred me – as I spent most of my life on the road for my union, plus worked a full time job. Back when I met Brian, I was frequently occupied for 50 or more hours per week between travel and work, which is just one of the reasons our dating progressed at a leisure pace in the beginning – I was never around! And when I was around, I was pretty exhausted from time changes and nights spent at meetings and in hotel rooms.

But this interview situation caused me to confront the fact that my life has changed since those days, and I no longer possess the drive to work for anyone or anything the way I once did. And it’s mostly not even about the fact that I have a family now (husband and teenager are able to take care of themselves!), but a lot more to do with the fact that my life is rich with activities and possibilities – all of which I would have to give up if I turned to working in all my waking hours.

And that is what I can’t imagine – having to turn away from our new piece of land and the cabin build, sewing, crochet, reading, grad school, gardening, friends, community organizing, playing music, camping, throwing fabulous parties, loving, cooking, meditating, hiking, writing, hanging with the niece and nephew, keeping house, and trying out new things all the time – in order to simply work. Work for a cause, yes. Work for an organization I support, yes. But work, nonetheless.

Which is not how I want to spend *all* my time. Some of my time, of course. I accept the necessity of work and I’m lucky to have a good and well-paid position that allows me to work less than full-time so I can pursue my *life* in the hours when I do not belong to someone else.

I don’t deride anyone who takes their main life sustenance from work, but as I grow into an exuberant middle-age, I realize that I am not a person who wants every waking hour to be spent in the employ of someone else. Nor do I have a single burning passion of my own to turn into a business. I am a generalist at life! Which means I have to do a little of everything in order to be satisfied, and it also means I pick up a lot of skills, abilities and knowledge along the way. (I used to be ashamed of my generalist nature, but no longer!)

In any case, I was relieved to get the note that said I was not wanted for 60+ hours of service per week because it meant I didn’t even get to make the decision  in the end. I was 99.9% sure I would turn it down…… but there was always a chance that .1% of me would win out…. the smidgen that still believes there is a dream job for me out there if only I’m willing to sacrifice a little bit more of myself. It is that .1% that makes me crazy, much of the time, that questions why I don’t have a clearer vocation or higher calling…..

So grateful I have a whole life of good things to counterbalance that tiny, crazy part of me!

8 thoughts on “On working and/or making a life.

  1. Amen. Four days work a week is survivable, and three days is approaching civilized. How else are we supposed to garden and can and cure and smoke and ferment and cook and eat and sleep and laugh?

  2. Ugh, wow, yes… I’m relieved *for* you! You’ve put into words my own concerns about my developing career in the trades: I’ve yet to meet a foreman or project manager who isn’t working crazy long hours. Like you, my objection to this isn’t about my family (though the practicalities of parenting an infant are obviously a concern), it’s about my quality of life!

    • Peter – I had the same thought. As much as I admire this organization I did have to wonder if they knew there was that much work – why not 1.5 positions? But that is simply not how things work these days. I suppose that might explain the unemployment levels out there!

  3. I really appreciate the comments on this post folks – too often we congratulate people for working more. But I do think it would behoove all of us to work a little bit less in order to give more time to ourselves, our families and our communities (while realizing that is not financially possible for lots of people. Such a nice point of reflection heading into the new year. xo

  4. I’ve been a proponent of the work less model so more people can work, for years. Congratulations for choosing to ‘work’ at all the things in your life that give you pleasure as well as monitary gain. I don’t believe anyone on their death bed will be shouting “God damn it, I wish I had worked more at the office !” Cheers,

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