For the past week, I’ve been reading Ernie Zelinski’s book The Joy of Not Working. The title says it all, I thought. But does the concept of finding joy in not working really need further clarification? For a lot of people, apparently, it does.
Unfortunately, according to Zelinski, most working folks just don’t know what to do with ourselves when we’re not working. Our work-life balances are weighted so heavily on the work side, that we don’t know how to enjoy our leisure time, if we even allow ourselves to have any. For many, the prospect of being unemployed or retiring is terrifying. Some of us are so afraid to be alone with our own thoughts, it seems, that we just keep running on the treadmill to escape them. We’re sick, we’re exhausted, we’re bored, and we’re boring.
Instead of using our rare leisure time wisely, we waste it on “passive leisure” activities to distract us from our misery: watching TV, hanging out in bars, and wandering around shopping malls. So many of the things we think we want — bigger homes, new clothes, the latest electronic gadgets, expensive cars, etc. — are dictated by the media, our “friends” and relatives, and most of all, the people who are going to profit from selling us all of these things. So we keep chasing the money. To buy the things. To fill the empty holes in our boring lives, in our souls. Is this living?
I know, however, that there are plenty of people out there who are tired of the “live to work” mentality that has ruled our culture for so long. The tide is turning. Change is in the air; I can smell it, like springtime. Forget about trying to keep up with the Kardashians. We want time to think. Time to live well-rounded lives. We don’t want to be overworked zombies anymore. And we don’t need to clutter up our homes with more shit from Walmart either!
Do you feel like your work-life balance needs an adjustment? Then take a few days off from work, or even a week or two if you can, and dedicate yourself to reclaiming your time and your life. I mean it! Take the time to really think about the things that are important to you. Meditate on it. Don’t be afraid to dream. Think BIG. Forget about what everyone else says you should want or need or have or be. What kind of life do you want? How much money, how much stuff, do you really need? How do you define happiness, and what’s it worth to you? Come up with a plan, and implement it like your life depends on it, because it does.
Zelinski actually recommends making a list of at least 300 “Get-A-Life” activities, and offers his own list of 300 for inspiration. So climb a mountain if you want to. Quit your job. Write a book. Get a better job. Walk in the woods. Start your own business. Learn to play an instrument or speak a new language. Volunteer. Take a road trip. Work for free. Buy a hammock. Take a class. Clean out your closets. Chew your food. Play with your dog. Plant a tree.
Then after you’ve made your own list, and crossed off a few things, sip a glass of wine (or other beverage of your choice) on the front porch in the early evening and watch all your stressed-out neighbors race by on the way home from their miserable all-consuming jobs. Poor bastards.
We all have so much potential. Don’t waste it all on work. We are so much better than that, and we deserve so much more than that. Let other people run in the rat race. Smile and wave and cheer them on from your front porch, glass of wine in hand. We know better. The fast track is so yesterday!