Although raised in a faith that had as a guiding precept love of use, I came to learn that a lot of people, even in my own birth church, had a funky belief on working for love of benefits.
Over my life, I’ve held an array of jobs, including 25+ years in Corporate America with its steady income & what now seem like the very Cadillac of benefits. But as 2001 rolled past, an intersection of multiple traumas & tragedies marked the end of my corporate days.
By 2003, I came to realize that my career would be what I fashioned, not as a company’s employee.
Over & over, what came up was work that was as low in income as it was high in usefulness, work that mattered to me & the people I served, but unvalued by the fiscal powers that be. Friends shocked at my fall from financial grace would take me to task – – “You need to get a job with good benefits. You OWE that to yourself.”
It still shakes me, remembering the many times I heard that from people raised, as I was, with the heart & soul teaching of use over honor glory gain, who were looking out for my own good, doing their best to protect me from what they saw as an overly idealized code & canon.
My belief in doing the work before me remains inviolate, whether it fetches a pretty penny & provides gilt-edged benefits or leaves me scratching my head how to pay federal state local taxes.
FACT: I was not put in this place at this time to work for benefits. Oh, I look forward to the day when I boast a roster of Cyber Access for the Technically Timid clients, to tootling older friends out to lunch or dinner or for a beer, to putting on weekly Coloring With Sinatra & Friends sessions at local retirement communities. But I am not going to nab a job that brings in money but depletes my time & energies, offers benefits but isn’t beneficial to either my own or others basking in more full & fabulous lives.
This longtime line of thinking was jogged by hearing Alain de Botton’s TED talk, A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success. So many terrific points!
His definition of snobbery – – when a person sees a small part of who we are & uses that to come up with a complete vision of us.
That we live in a culture that pegs emotional rewards to the acquisition of things; that people don’t want that McMansion or BMW or exclusive private school for their children – they want the feelings they attach to those things.
That too many people stay focused on the next rung of their success rather than enjoying this moment in their career.
About people who seem less satisfied with who they are & instead long to be Bill or Melinda Gates; who court aspirations outside of the realm of the realistic, actually achievable.
Alain speaks about how, in a society that believes in meritocracy, where anyone can succeed by merit of their talents & hard work, not making a tidy income, not being recognized or not having decent benefits can be taken personally. What does it say of our merit if we aren’t high flyers or even decent gliders?
The gods or circumstances are no longer responsible for our lack of fortune – we are. We get to own our own successes -and- anything that is less.
I’m with St. Augustine – “It’s a sin to judge any man by his post.” Wish I’d had that on a card to hand out to people braying at me about benefits. It was weird, because, then & now, friends comment on the importance of my play time with all ages, my community building & bridging, my blogs & other writing, then they turn around & say I gotta get an income-producing job, taking me away from the very things that give me value.
Three cheers for Alain’s point that we must balance our belief in the importance of justice with awareness & appreciation that life is haphazard, that things happen that are wildly unjust – – a wretched person lives to ripe old age while a virtuous, community-service, family-loving one dies young; someone without any ambition other than his own pleasure makes a fortune through some inane idea he got during a college kegger while millions of hard workers can’t find full-time positions, their constantly changing part-time work schedules leave them unable to get a second job.
One thing is a sure thing – – I intend to know on my deathbed that I was a success at LIFE. That what I did, in every waking & sleeping hour, was for the love of use.
Meanwhile, I work toward the day when John & I give presentations at conferences & workshops, publish books & articles on the importance of play across & integrating the age spectrum; have numerous income streams & financial resources providing stable, secure funds that enable us to enjoy a rich rewarding fun life.
I believe we are created to be prosperous on every level.
And I love great benefits! I offer up thanks that my mother taught me that less expensive in the short run might be catastrophe in the long, so she never went cheap on Medicare coverage – – we’d slash our spending by eating stewed tomatoes atop peanut butter smeared whole grain toast for dinner rather than give up our Medicare Part B plus supplemental coverage.
About those friends who bleated to me about working for benefits – – several of them were knocked out of their jobs by the Meltdown of ’08, quite a few took a financial hit in investments & savings, a lot saw the value of their house plummet. Ones that held onto their jobs saw their work loads increase as companies downsized & watched as their benefits were gutted over the past ten years. Now, they ask me about how to craft their own work, how to live confidently without the structure of a traditional job, how to be their own safety net.
The #1 message I tell them is this – – do what you love that is of use. It’s a lovely thought but pretty much a fallacy that if you do what you love, the money will follow. THIS should be emblazoned across every heart – – honor glory gain might not follow, but a sense of prosperity will, a finding of who you are, of your unique place & your place in the larger world. And THAT is the greatest benefit packages we’ll ever earn!