I often remind myself that unjobbing is a process, and not a destination.
It’s not somewhere I end up. It’s more like a meandering trail through a dense forest, with switchbacks, elevation changes, and occasional backtracking when I get lost. Sometimes it leads into uncharted territory, and I find myself wondering what to do next. If I can muster the courage to brave the hazards of blazing my own trail, I forge ahead.
Unjobbing can be approached as a conscious choice – a commitment to be made after realizing that life is too short to spend so much of it in a job I hate, just for the sake of earning money. It can be a decision to unlearn conventional notions about jobs, work, and leisure, in order to make room for a new way of life.
Unjobbing can also be something done out of necessity, or a need for survival, when it becomes clear that the old approaches won’t work any longer. Given the current state of our economy, many highly educated and qualified people who nonetheless can’t find conventional jobs are now finding themselves in this place, and they (we) are letting go of illusions that finding a good job will provide them with security or “financial independence.”
Or perhaps you can walk the unjobbing path like I do: through a mix of necessity and conscious choice. You can just muddle through one step at a time, pick yourself up when you stumble and fall (and you will, many times), and see where it leads.
Right now, I’m staring out into uncharted territory. Instead of feeling trepidation, however, I feel strangely and deeply at peace. Somehow I have the sense that I’ll be able to navigate the terrain ahead without a map.
Culturally speaking, I’m privileged: white, middle-class, and highly educated. Though I’ve faced some difficult and demoralizing financial struggles and endured years of minimum-wage drudgery, I’ve never known true poverty. Yet for the past few years – especially since an unwanted divorce in 2007 left me financially devastated and buried under an avalanche of grief, brokenness, rage, and despair – I have been driven by a primal kind of fear: the fear of scarcity.
For years, I have made too many of my decisions from this place of primal fear.
There are many things I’ve learned while walking this path. I’ve learned in countless ways that the greater my ability to live simply, the lower my debt, and the greater my ability to refuse consumer goods, the less need I have for conventional jobs…and the less I am forced to participate in the ecological destruction that is driven by the extractive money economy. I’ve learned that the less need I have for earning money, the less time I need to spend in “full time” paid employment, and the more freedom I have to shape my life according to my ecological values and the guidance of deeper forces. These lessons have served me well.
I’ve also learned that every single moment of my life, consciously or not, I am making decisions about how to spend my time and energy, and where and how to direct my attention. Even in the most constrained circumstances I’ve faced in life, it has become clear to me that I still have a certain element of choice, and I can exercise it to the best of my ability. In this truth lies a great source of power.
I may be broke in monetary terms, but I am not broken in spirit.
I may not have a job, but I am not “unemployed.”
In fact, I am wealthy. While I don’t have a job or much money, I do have immense wealth, for which I feel great appreciation and gratitude. I live and move about in a world of fundamental abundance, and I don’t mean this in some flighty New Age way. I mean it very straightforwardly. I have a roof over my head, food in my cupboards, and no immediate threat of homelessness. I live in a beautiful city that I adore.
But there’s much, much more.
I am wealthy in time. Ah, what a great luxury time is! I can go about my daily tasks in an unhurried, mindful manner. I can wake up without an alarm clock. I can enjoy my tea rituals at leisure. I can work when my body is most inclined to do so, rather than at the behest of my employer.
I am wealthy in leisure. I firmly believe that true leisure is much more than an absence of job-related constraints on my time, and much more than “vegging out” with the aid of passive sources of entertainment. Real leisure – the kind that restores me at a bone-deep level – contains a significant active and creative dimension as well. Gradually, I am learning something difficult: how to allow myself to do nothing at all without shame or guilt.
Sometimes, a funny thing happens when I do this: words come to me. Writing gushes out of me in torrents. (It isn’t always good writing, mind you; that part comes later, after the editing and proofreading stage.)
I am wealthy in relationships. I have a wonderful and nourishing web of relationships: blood relatives with whom I am very close, friendships I cherish, acquaintances I like and with whom I share common interests, and correspondents with whom I enjoy exchanging ideas.
I am wealthy in education and skills. Advanced reading comprehension and writing skills, three baccalaureate-level university degrees, research skills, critical thinking, autodidactic abilities, a lifelong bookworm’s passion for reading and learning – all of these are gifts, and I do not take any of them for granted.
I am wealthy in time alone and ability to enjoy solitude. As an introvert and loner, regular and copious time alone is essential for me; I would be but a shadow of my real self without it. Divorce-related grief robbed me of the ability to enjoy my time alone for quite some time. Being abandoned by a loved one taught me a lot about the difference between loneliness and solitude, as well as the complex (and paradoxical!) relationship between intimacy and solitude. Once again, at long last, I have been gifted with the capacity to take deep nourishment from solitude.
And that’s just a start. I could go on and on!
With this kind of abundance and freedom in my life, I needn’t be driven by the kind of artificial scarcity perpetuated by the money system.
While it’s true that I will continue to need to use money as a means to an end – my utility bills can’t currently be paid with barter arrangements or work-trades, after all – I know in my bones that I don’t need to believe the stories that say I must live in fear of scarcity any longer.
So here is my vow.
I hereby commit myself to walk the sacred path of radical unjobbing. I will continue to deeply question and unlearn the fundamental assumptions of the job culture, and use my gifts in the service of helping others to do the same. I will continue to critically examine any beliefs, attitudes, stories, habits, and systemic factors that keep me mired in the muck of artificial scarcity.
Henceforth, I shall live as much of my life as possible within the abundance of the gift culture.
Thank you, and Hail to the Powers That Be.