I woke up extra early one Saturday because I heard noise outside. It was the neighbor loading up his boat for a day on the lake and some fishing. He was retired and yet still did these crazy things like loading up his boat at 4:30 in the morning on Saturdays. It was going to be one of those blistering humid days we have here in the South and seemed smart to be spending it on water. Maybe that sense of foresight is what made it possible for him to retire so early too so he could spend his time waking up his working neighbors on Saturday pre-dawn hours.
I couldn’t go back to sleep after that. Getting up to make coffee, I settled down to take care of the bills while the family still slept. I was at that point in my life where I was ready for the good times like that. The easier times where I didn’t have to worry and stress over some job that I couldn’t count on month to month. Another asshole boss who didn’t have my interests on their radar. I wanted to be able to live comfortably and spend my time doing things I cared about without so much of the other stuff. I admit I was greatly burned out from my career but that wasn’t a new sentiment. It was long overdue for a change but like most people I struggled with the career change shifts to determine what and how to make that happen so in the meantime I hushed and did my job.
Retirement for me is still a good distance off. In truth I don’t mind working and by that I mean doing something that earns an income. However, I knew my interest in corporate work with big salaries, fancy titles and more political drama than a number one rated tv series was not where my heart was anymore. I think so often we confuse living the good life with a big salary. It certainly can help don’t get me wrong but we get stuck in this thinking that the only way to achieve that is through corporate work. The easy button is to get a job and the hard part of that is not letting the job kill our soul in the process of making that money.
I thought of the path to retirement and firmly knew the money tips that never go out of style. Enjoy the free things in life I heard myself chiding in my own ear. Great advice I tell my son all the time too. Make the most of what you have and invest in quality. Stretch your dollars as much as you can. More of my motherly wisdom I hope he applies to save himself these deep thought conversations with yourself in pre-dawn weekend mornings. Perhaps he will have a better answer than what I have come up with so far on how to do work that interests and inspires you while living well.
As I sat with the monthly bills and budget, cooling coffee and these thoughts, I thought about my neighbor out on the water. By now the sun was coming up just barely and he would probably just have wrangled that big fishing boat of his off the ramp and into the cool water. Where was I putting my boat per se these days? That was easy to answer. I was stuck in another job that wasn’t going anywhere and left me frustrated, stressed and worried about security regularly. I had a boss that couldn’t remember what she had told you to do one day to the next and then questioned why you did something she asked for. It was rather normal all things considering but not the least of which was fulfilling. The bills were paid though and that was something. I guess.
It felt like settling and playing the waiting game. It felt like letting time slip away while I paid a penance for something I didn’t even know I had done. I wasn’t even able to enjoy the free things in life because of the burden it sometimes felt to carry surviving. Corporate work will do that to you. It gives you so much hope that things will be alright and you can be successful only to find you spend most of your time worry and stressed from it. Little wonder why so many find themselves where I was wondering if there was another way indeed.
In seeing the trends of people pushing back on employers about going back to the office and still more saying they didn’t want to work this way all their lives, I didn’t feel alone. The time away from the office gave us perspective to see just how much of our lives were being taken from us for the sake of paychecks. Many people were now speaking up and saying enough! The scales of work-life balance were out of whack and pushing people back to the office wasn’t going to fix that problem. Yet what was the answer? Not many of us work by choice and bills don’t dare go unpaid for very long. The free things of life are in fact not free though if we are spending all our time unable to enjoy them. Such an intricately weaved mess.
It may not be for everyone but given the alternative, striking out on your own in business seems the most viable. It offers the opportunity to break free of those binds of corporate work and build what we need to live well. The support of shopping small business is essential for this to thrive. The more of us who pursue this way of working, pushing back on major corporations and their dictatorship of our lives can only be achieved through more small businesses. It takes us individually and collectively saying what is acceptable for work and how it is done. It takes us all supporting one another in that effort to build more small businesses and keep them thriving to achieve it.
When someone is telling you they just started selling some product, look past the label and see what that really means. That person just started to invest in the ability to enjoy the free things in life by trying to reclaim their time and work-life balance in their favor. That person is trying something against the tide of how we were taught to think and do for ourselves in terms of work. We are trained to be employees, settled in and taking what is handed to us. Yet when we see someone step outside that mold and attempt to build something different it should be supported not shunned.
Enjoying the free things in life becomes a path to living naturally. It becomes our gateway to living on our terms in a comfortable life. We begin to find the enjoyment come back to what is possible and fun while having much less of the things that make us envy the neighbor enjoying pre-dawn preparations for a day well lived.
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