Permission to stop doing the thing
that horrible, horrible thing
life: examined is an invitation to get curious—a collection of ideas, and thoughts about living a creative, intentional life—written from my perch in Portugal.
—> Thank you for your support
Hello, dear reader.
If you're new, here—welcome. If you've been reading life: examined for a while, thank you.
Let’s talk about work. Regarding my career, I look back on my past employment with fondness.
Ha! No, I don't.
With a few exceptions, I couldn't stand those jobs. I'm sure there were moments of okay-ness, but memories of working for others can be summed up in one word: yuck.
I was in my early twenties when I first saw this movie.
The scenes of the futuristic factory workers mesmerized me, and I credit this film, in part, with my fledgling criticism of capitalism. Maybe that’s why I never liked my job-jobs. Working for myself is the only way. I’m at my best when I’m not part of a rigid hierarchy.
I was never a futuristic factory worker; my jobs were reasonably tame. A smidge of sexual harassment here; a bit of overtime non-payment there. You know, the usual.
Oddly, I was good at most of my jobs. It's weird to be proficient at something you don't like doing. Is there a word for that? Rob, anything? :)
But this isn't about being pulverized and demoralized, a mere cog in the capitalist machine. No, it's about giving yourself permission to stop doing things you don't want to do, whether for work or for fun.
I realize it's a privileged position to quit doing a job you hate, but for those who can, I highly recommend it. Sadly, many people can't, so it's almost criminal when those who can don't.
You can stop doing things that make you feel awful.
It's okay to quit compromising your ethics—even if others don't understand (What—you don't want to go to the kegger on Friday?!). You don't need to attend every boring small-talk event.
You don't need anyone's permission to say no—usually—but sometimes you need a good friend who gets you to step in and play the role of your permission slip.
Someone who'll say, "hell yes, you don't need to do that horrible thing!"
Even if that horrible thing is a thing you're supposed to do. Or that you should want to do.
You Are No Fun
Suppose you're an outlier in predilections and lifestyle.
If so, then you're probably used to being questioned for your choices, whether directly or passive-aggressively via arched brow and withering side-eye.
Perhaps you're used to people asking you why you don't want to do so-called fun things.
Maybe you're afraid of being judged for not loving horror films or for not wanting to spend your finite time crisping your skin on the beach mid-summer.
Be vigilant—the lovers of the things you don't like will go to great lengths to tell you why you're missing out and cajole you into giving it a try just this once.
If you're spending a lot of time around people who don't like your eccentricities or your terrible taste in fashion, then you need to change the people you hang out with quicker than you can change out of a pair of floral pedal pushers.
Running Out of Time
Without being all Henny-Penny, the sky is falling about it (even though it is), we are running out of time.
Young or old, we're all just leasing life.
You get the time you get, and that's it. The tricky thing is most of us don't know when the lease is up, so we continue to do stuff that doesn't matter or feel right, just to get along and not make waves.
Not that I advocate swimming against the tide all the time, it is exhausting, but if you grouse about something you do every year (holidays, anyone?), then consider just not doing it. Likely, we are not the single most crucial element to a party or family gathering unless the festivities are in our honor.
Yes, you risk alienating people you don't particularly want to be around, but is that really so awful?
So, let's all practice saying no to things we don't want to do.
Of course, there’s paying taxes, and death, which we all must do (the death part, for sure), but that leaves latitude to quit the things that aren't enhancing our lives.
Let's Make a List!
Grab a sheet of paper and a writing implement. Number the page from 1 to 10.
Now, without overthinking it, start writing down the things you don't want to do—regardless of the peer or parental/partner pressure you'll experience. That doesn't mean you'll say no every time, but knowing how you want to spend your time is essential to living a self-directed and authentic life.
To get you started here's part of my won't do/don't wanna list:
I won't go to stadium concerts or music festivals (too many people and all that tacky fast fashion festival garb—nope, no tolerance for those shenanigans).
I won't do anything formal. I don't enjoy dressing up. I don't have the clothes for it. Can't be bothered. Maybe if I get a tuxedo…
I won't watch sporting events—live or televised. Okay, you might be able to drag me to a women's football/soccer game, especially if there are just a few people in attendance—and you don't expect me to eat hotdogs. Maybe.
I don't go to big parties, raves, or <insert event where large groups of people gather, get drunk, and listen to the worst of house music played at a volume that blows out the speakers>. See first bullet point.
I don't participate in events that have names like booze cruise or party bike. Or any supposedly fun event that draws frat boys and the women who love them. Do you see a theme here?
Does this cast me as an outsider perched on the weirdo edge of society? Yes, it does. I'm no fun. I'm a party pooper, and I don't care. And maybe you are, too.
If you're dull like me, let me know and maybe we can grab a coffee or tea. We can stow our phones and chat about anything other than our jobs. Now that sounds fun to me!
What would you put on your don't wanna list? What are you willing to stop doing that you've begrudgingly done for too damn long?
Tell me in the comments section, below.
JUST ONE GOOD LINK
And in the same vein as my essay, I offer you this (despite his numerous typos)…
Tom Hodgkinson’s latest Letter from the Editor for a contrarian take on travel, something many people enjoy (or claim to enjoy):
We have a mad Dickensian urge to bustle about, despite all the logical arguments against pointless activity.
The Problem with Travel via The Idler.
Thank you Rich, @beingbonnie1, Elaine, Catherine Joy, and Bill for supporting life: examined through Buy Me a Coffee. Your generosity in part affords me the time to write this letter to you each week(ish).
Whether a coffee, a comment, a like, or a share—I’m grateful to have you along for the ride.
Until next time —> stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and thank you for reading life: examined!
One great thing I heard recently was this:
"No" is a full sentence. So it is fine to just say NO and not have to explain or justify or apologise for why you said it.
Excellent post, Shanna. Practically everyone I know back in the States has the "work for the man" mentality. I, too detested most of my jobs (even if I was good at some of them). The mindset to earn a paycheck and live the American Dream is for many, a fantasy. I tried for years to fit into that mindset, but I was never any good at it and people wondered what was wrong with me.
My husband and I stopped trying to please family and friends decades ago. So, minimal participation (when we wanted to) at holiday gatherings (have a bottle of our finest stress, please), and other events where I honestly don't think anyone would have noticed if we were there.
Some people have chosen to "punish" us for not fitting into their box. That's okay. We're happier now in our new country, and have found many like-minded people that we now call friends.
We're retired now (sort of) and enjoying the freedom to work when we want and at what we enjoy while living in and exploring Portugal. I've never felt more liberated and regret that I didn't do this sooner.