What I love about work

Maybe it’s my 4-day week…

Or, that my employer embodies a set of values I identify with (compassion, integrity, respect, inclusivity, realising potential); and they go to considerable lengths to live these values in a way that I’ve never seen before in my professional life…

Or maybe it’s because my day-to-day duties have me out and about in the local community supporting mental health; and though at times deeply challenging, I sometimes see a smile where otherwise there might not be one…

The “unemployed” years

Whatever it is, I feel grateful to do the work I do. Not least because I’d been “unemployed” for 4 years before I finally landed this job.

Admittedly 2 of those years were spent cycling about the world seeking and finding happiness, and another year writing a book about that journey…a big nod to my immense privilege in being able to take the time to do that.

Of course, none of that was easy going, and the fourth year in my unemployment was rough psychologically. Very rough, at times.

It helped that in my previous career I’d researched and published a lot on how unemployment influences us psychologically. It messes not only with our mental health, but also our identity.

Holding strong on purpose and meaning

It’s holding strong on having day-to-day purpose, which is what work provides for many, that helped me in the end. The period unemployed, outside the system, helped me get even clearer on what is important to me.

And now, as I sit here, I’m grateful for the experience and that I found my way through it in the end. I supposed it’s another example of living the research – something I strive to do as it ensures I can connect with others through a personal experience rather than abstract ideas.

It’s the lack of purpose that can get to a person during unemployment. Work fills our days. We appreciate feeling useful and the social aspects are important. Even if the work itself feels pretty senseless in the grand scheme of things. And that wider senselessness is common these days, because most work is focused around an economy of endless growth and acquisition. There is little time for deeper nourishment in that circus. What choice is there?

Holding firm on wanting to do something meaningful with my time sustained my unemployment for longer than it otherwise would have been. I refused to participate in that kind of economy. That’s difficult to avoid these days, and if a person can avoid it there is privilege in being able to do so. I again recognise mine.

Space to grow and nourish

To fill my days meaningfully I got into volunteering. Supporting my own wellbeing through supporting others – nothing selfish about that. The giving of time and attention to others or a project can be empowering. The volunteering felt more meaningful to me than most of the paid work otherwise on offer. And so to nourish myself I gave what I had an abundance of – my time. I continued writing, I supported friends and family, and I stayed connected.

And now I find myself working for a charity supporting community mental health. It’s been nearly a year since I started. And with that 4-day week, I’ve had space to do other things that I value. I published a book even. The pays okay (not that it’s about that – see some of my writing on why not). It covers the bills and that’s enough for a man of minimal extravagances. I prefer people over profit, gratitude over growth, and I’m sure you do too…

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