March 2, 2014

Living a Living vs. Making a Living. ~ Alina de Klerk




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“The world doesn’t need more ‘successful people.’ The world desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”

~ Dalai Lama

It’s all about choices…or is it really? Are we actually free to choose? Do we know when to stop wanting? Do we know the difference between needing and wanting? Do we recognize when we are in the right place?

Last week I did something that made me incredibly proud of myself, although I must admit I also considered it as a sign of an existential crisis (I’m still too young to call it a midlife crisis, although in truth that depends on how long my life is). It was some sort of awakening—more like a monster unleashed as opposed to suddenly being enlightened…or maybe it was both.

I started a new job and I quit after the first day, which was quite a sacrifice on my part because, in all honesty, I wanted to quit after the first half hour. I even contemplated running away on my lunch break. It wasn’t as spectacular as standing up suddenly, throwing papers all over the place, bashing the computer screen, kicking the printer and shouting ‘I quit!’ to the shocked mouth gaping expressions of my co-workers, but it kind of felt like that.

I swished my hair around, threw the handbag over my shoulder and walked out with a beaming smile and a huge relief, as if coming out of prison. It was the moment of acknowledging that I did and I do have a choice!

Other people might have seen it as madness considering I have been out of work for more than half a year. Throughout this time, I have gone through what I believe is the most demotivating, uncreative, unproductive, untrue-to-myself experience (and the rest of all the negative adjectives starting with deand un ) one has to go through in order to land a job in a market that is built on material adoration and everything that comes with it, including a dog-eat-dog attitude.

After this experience, when I think of job hunting I immediately revert to my disapproval of animal hunting in general. Except that in my analogy, the job hunter is the animal that’s hunted.

Yes, it helps the conservation and it’s the price paid by one animal to be killed so that many others can survive. Doesn’t that sound familiar? (This is apart from those people who truly love what they do—they’re rare specimens but they’re out there spreading love and I admire them).

I still loathe the whole process of looking for work—the idea of objectifying and selling myself as a tool that is shinier than others so that a big money making machine can use it to make more money.

In return, it gives me its incredibly prestigious name to add to my “summary of life” (a.k.a my CV and a precious bag of coins that I can then rightfully choose to distribute to other money making machines summarized as costs of living*sarcasm* ). That’s where the freedom to chose becomes questionable. Of course everyone would love to do what they dream of doing but not many succeed and I can see why.

Throughout this whole experience of trying to join the ‘making a living’ ladder, I have learned some amazing lessons:

  • I will never ever again mock or misjudge the term house frau (I came  across this term in a book recently and I simply prefer the sound of it to the word ‘housewife’; it sounds stronger and so it should).
  • I should never act on poisonous scenarios created by my brain in moments of malfunctioning.
  • I will always trust my feelings (outside the scenarios mentioned above) and make decisions accordingly.
  • I will gratefully enjoy the time, stage and place that I am in right now.

I believe that life has some pretty amazing lessons for each one of us. And the best lessons are the ones you get to experience yourself. It’s not those you hear from that person or that neighbor or your distant cousin or your friend’s friend’s husband’s sister’s best friend.

I was incredibly vexed when my passport labeled me as a housewife. How dare they reduce me to a helpless, dependent, financially supported, always in need of a letter of approval type of woman? I am an independent, strong-minded woman who cherishes my freedom. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself and others.

So the stamp on my passport with housewife written in big letters did not go down well with my current professional and life aspirations. Housewives were that group of women I did not want to belong to.

Despite this, life decided to make me be one for a while, albeit a much longer while than I was hoping. It took me a rather long time to switch from the feeling that I was disempowered to actually feeling grateful and privileged to be in this situation.

I am finally being given the chance to have a schedule that I can organize myself.

I can choose the places that I want to be, the things that I want to do, and the hours that I spend doing them. I have more time to give to others. I have more time for me. I can explore my creative side again. I can learn new things. I can explore places outside the peak hours in peace and quiet. I can expand my cooking skills, practice yoga, walk around the lake, and so on.

Photo: David Goehring on Flickr Creative CommonsBasically, I am being given the chance to rediscover and reinvent myself and do all the things that I dreamed of when I was a nine to five white collar worker.

So what was wrong with me? Why didn’t I embrace this by saying: “Yes please! I can see myself doing that and having a great time!”

It’s because my idea of an independent and strong woman was connected to working, earning my own money, having professional responsibilities, being put in charge of people that I could look after, and ticking off bullet points on lists of things to do and accomplish. I still want to do these things and one day I will (albeit in a different way) but in the meantime, I am pleading with myself to enjoy and make the most of my job-free days.

Because I was dispositioned on how I thought things should work, my brain started creating poisonous scenarios. I was stuck in a certain routine and it was hard to switch to a completely new reality. It took something away from my identity.

I created feelings of guilt when there shouldn’t have been any. I created pressure when instead I should have acknowledged the gift of being given more time to deal with my quest. I thought I had no choice, but I did have a choice. However, I forced myself to keep digging in the only direction I knew.

The thing is that if you keep doing the same things and going in the same direction, then you’ll keep getting the same results. Get out of the pattern! Do something different! Be different!

And trust your feelings! If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Move away from thinking that any job is better than no job, unless of course you have children who are starving. I realized that I don’t need a job. I want a purpose, something that will make me feel useful to others and give me great satisfaction. I want to serve those great purposes rather than the money making machines!

I must remember that there are many job opportunities outside of the box that I’d been thinking in. Maybe this is the time when I am meant to find my calling in life, or simply have a break—a good resourceful and healthy break.

And yes, I can’t help but feel guilty when my husband has a bad day at work and I know that he wants a break like mine. But I am in this situation now and it would be ungrateful not to appreciate it! It was given to me with a purpose.

After more than half a year of job hunting, I feel like I’ve been on a course of learning when to use my bow and arrow, letting go when the aim is in sight. It’s been about knowing that making a living doesn’t need to be at opposite ends with living a living. I prefer the latter and I feel much more equipped and blessed with the right resources for my hunt now!



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Editorial Assistant: Karissa Kneeland / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: flickr

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