I haven’t had paid employment for 2 ½ years. It’s not as grave as it may seem – stepping away was necessary if I wanted to have a chance of being happy. And so I took a leap.I got beyond my fears and saved enough so that I could do what I needed to do. I am lucky to have had that opportunity.
Besides it is not like I haven’t been working. I’d say, I have been working harder than ever. Yet the kind of work I’ve been doing these last years didn’t get paid. It was far too valuable for that. And it was totally worth it. In stepping away from a life where being a productive worker was the main thing that seemed to matter, I got to understanding what really mattered.
Can’t step away forever?
However, my time out of paid employment was a little longer than I had expected. Then, after spending all winter writing a book about the journey, I had intended to find paid work. Perhaps, I was thinking, I’d get me a stable living situation too. That was the plan. If only. This all seems very unlikely now.
It might be several months or even several years before I find myself getting paid work again. And even if I did get a job, would I not be taking away work from someone else who probably needs it more right now? I do have some savings – enough, for now. I don’t need much. At least I have a roof over my head – a friend has welcomed me into their small home to get through the lockdown.
Those difficult days
I get my days when I feel crippled by the uncertainty of what lies ahead. I get moments when there is a wobbly feeling in my legs and my stomach feels like it is dropping right through my body. It was worse at the start of this pandemic, but it has gotten better. Not only does it seem easier to request emotional support from friends and family than ever before, but I remind myself that it is completely OK to feel anxious.
Emotions are healthy – they signal something – not that there is something innately wrong with us, but that there is something happening to us. For far too long we’ve fixated on it being only the former – that whatever we are feeling is something to do exclusively with us, that we are the problem, and that the system we have created has nothing to do with it. That’s been a fine recipe for unhappiness.
Time for hope – let’s build back better
Anxious thoughts aside, I do feel happy and purposeful on most days. The work I did whilst I stepped away renewed within me something that I thought I had lost. Life feels full now in a way that would be difficult to lose. Though, I would like to be part of a society that hadn’t worn me out in the first place. Where I had a little more time for myself and the people I care about.
I wish it were that way for more people. Where things were fairer and just, the pace of life was a little slower, and the skies cleaner. A society where we look after one another. Sometimes I wonder if some seeds are getting sown in what we’re collectively experiencing right now. We certainly have a golden opportunity to build back better.
With no paid employment in sight, and eager to contribute, I am doing all I can towards creating such a society. It is the best use of me. Maybe it is the best use of anyone because, as we’ve all long known, we do need something better. Less them, more us. Less separation, more togetherness.
Alongside writing and reaching out in support of others these past weeks I’ve also started attending online talks – something I would never have done before – and there is an interesting talk this Thursday 7th May 16.00 (BST) “After Corona: How to Build Back Better to a Wellbeing Economy”