Do you depend on your job to give you an appearance of importance when interacting with other people?
Do you experience pressure from friends, relatives, asking what it is you do, and do you feel the need to give them a justifiable response?
Do you fantasize about entrepreneurship, but worry it could go nowhere and lead to feelings of nothingness? Do you sometimes even wish you could just do nothing, but worry about feelings of inadequacy?
It’s frustrating when we begin to think that we’ve discovered what’s wrong with our life and what we need instead, only to be stopped by doubt. What is more frustrating, is when this doubt is fueled by how we feel others perceive us. But why is this the case? Why do so many look down on the jobless, or even on the struggling entrepreneur who hasn’t yet “made it”?
In the brilliantly insightful movie Office Space, the protagonist Peter realizes that if he could be freed from his soul-crushing cubicle job, his dream life would be to do nothing. When his neighbor Lawrence asks him what he would do with his life if he had a million dollars, this is what Peter confides to him.
Lawrence then says knowingly, “You don’t need a million dollars to do nothing.” Indicating that you can be broke and do nothing if you wanted to.
When we think of a person who does “nothing,” that image is often of somebody who leeches off of the rest of society, or the image is that of a homeless person. In the case of the so-called leech, there is outrage and even sometimes envy directed at the person. In the case of the homeless man, society looks down on him, as if he’s failed himself and the rest of world just by existing. But no one can take away your right to exist. You’re already here, and you can live how you want. Most people wouldn’t choose to be homeless, but my point is that ending up without a job in one situation or another doesn’t make you a failure, or any less of a person.
These are the social stigmas attached to doing nothing, but these extremes aren’t the only paths. Especially when “doing nothing” has come to encompass any profession outside of having the traditional 9-to-5.
I’ve had this fantasy building up in my mind for a while now of leaving the corporate world and starting up a flower farm. When I say it out loud it sounds a little ridiculous, but in my head it is perfect. Each day I’d roll out of bed, slip into some comfortable ratty clothes, and head out into my fields of flowers. I’d prune, plant, and cut flowers all day to sell either wholesale to florists, or vend out of a small flower stand.
I’d get to feel the sun on my back, the breeze on my face, and the dirt in my hands. Did I ever mention that I actually love dirt? I love the touch of it, the smell of it. I don’t like it in the house, or stuck to my skin at night necessarily, but when it’s outside, nourishing plants, doing what it’s meant to do, I am infatuated with it. If I had my flower farm, I’d get to spend a lot more time with cool, hearty dirt.
I’d take the winters off to travel to nice warm locales around the globe. Then, spring through fall, I would grow and sell my flowers.
If I could make enough money to live off my flowers, I wouldn’t have to work in an office anymore. I found an article online that claims flowers can be a great cash crop (assuming you figure out the marketing and selling part), and can be as profitable as $30,000 per acre (I assume per year).
With numbers like that, it starts to sound like a real profession, but it fails to fit the mold of the traditional “acceptable” job for society. When you tell people that you want to leave your stable desk job to go into the volatile agriculture business, they tell you that you’re insane.
This is a rather unfortunate tenant of our mentality. Somewhere down the line it became human nature to ensure personal safety by never taking risks. We’ve come to a point in the developed world where now all risks are perceived as negative, when in fact NOT taking risks can be the true threat to our happiness. If society is so risk-adverse that we never advise our friends and families to pursue their dreams, we risk chaining them to careers that promote their own self-destruction. In a well-intended warning of unnecessarily extreme caution in concern for their well-being, we tell a friend to remain stressed and miserable, because heaven-forbid they lose money on a silly venture, or potentially can’t find another job when all-else fails, and they have to return to corporate life. BUT if that same friend takes the advice, they miss out on the potential chance that they turn their passion into their profession, and leave that dreaded corporate world behind.
It’s pretty backwards, don’t you think?
I think that some of us listen to these doubting words of our would-be protectors because we fear that if we take the leap we’re advised against, we will no longer be respected by those who are important to us. Even worse, to worry about those random strangers’ opinions when we inevitably have to admit to them what it is we do for a living. It all brings us back to the fact that we cling to that society-approved acceptable career as a status symbol that defines us. All of this nonsense is in our heads, and in the heads of those who doubt us. As long as you can support a lifestyle that makes you happy, it doesn’t matter what you do each hour of the day, it doesn’t matter how many dollars are in your bank account, or who approves or disapproves of what you do. Tune out the noise, and listen to the voice inside you.