Sarah Sheard's Thoughts and Theories

Friday, December 12, 2008

Scary scary adulthood

A friend’s child was sad that adults seem to work work work all the time with only 2 days out of seven off, and no summers off. This reminds me of myself, and more recently my son. The kids look ahead and see a life of not being able to do what they want to do because they are spending too much time doing what they have to.

I think it’s important to tell these kids, as well as adults who have never questioned the work world, that they have options. Yes, most people choose the 5-days-work routine, but not all. Some work for themselves. Many people who have high-intellectual-content jobs don’t have to work any particular day. Some people work at home almost all the time.

The bottom line is you need money to live. Most people, to get money, take “a job”, meaning someone else will pay them to do what they tell them for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

First “But”: if you can find another way to get enough money, you don’t have to have “a job.” Examples are making crafts that people will buy, building websites for people, creating video games, helping people (e.g. being an aide), making music, tutoring, visiting places to write travel books, and teaching scuba diving.

Second “But”: Many “jobs” aren’t all work, because the people who do them love to do them. Examples are a lot of engineers couldn’t think of anything they’d rather be doing than what they do. The same goes for doctors, EMTs, pilots, etc.

My daughter’s college has a saying about what the steps are for a successful college education: 1) Figure out what you love to do. 2) Learn to do it well enough that someone will pay you to do it.

Ask your children what they think they’d like to do as adults during the times they aren’t working. Hopefully they’ll be able to find a job doing that. Then work doesn’t feel like work, it feels like getting paid to do what they want to do. Some people like what they do enough that they don’t want to take a vacation!

A lot of people aren’t very creative about having free time, though. They can’t think of anything useful to do. So even if they have money, they take a job to have a) a purpose in life, b) people to talk to and share their struggles with, c) an identity to call their own: I am a employee, I represent [company] and even d) something to complain about. These are the people who want to have a 40-hour a week job.

There’s also the option of part time, if you can live on less money. If you do it right, you can spend some of your now plentiful free time doing things that make you more money as well!

A final comment is that once you’re out of school, it’s not as confining as being in school. By law children have to go to school. There is no such law for adults and work. If you aren’t doing anything illegal, you can do what you want.

My son is currently in his gap year between high school and college. He’s working 20 hours a week at a restaurant, and taking 2 community college courses. A friend of his said, “If you’re working and taking classes, that’s not a break!” I could see what she meant, but to him it *feels* like a break since he can quit his job any time he wants, and it’s entirely his choice to take the classes.

He mentioned early in the semester that one of his classes was a bit boring. “Are you going to drop it?” I asked. He gave me this totally blank stare, showing me that he had not even considered that he had a choice in the matter. Up through high school, you couldn’t drop a course, and just not going could land you or your parents in jail. Now it’s up to him! If you drop by XX date, you even get your money back!

Having that choice in the matter has made the difference between feeling imprisoned and feeling empowered. Tell the kids it’s good to be an adult!


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