The nine to five grind has been good to us.
I almost feel like I’m betraying my online friends by saying that. So many talented writers are resisting the idea of a “real” job. So many of us have been miserable doing the nine to five grind. For many, a “real” job means a death sentence to our creativity, to our dreams.
People who choose to carve their own path in life
Just a few of the fabulous, fierce, non-compromising people I have had the pleasure of meeting online in recent months:
Evyan of Apricot Tea is uncomfortable with people’s reactions when she tells them she’s not working, but she knows in her heart that staying home is right for her and that a “real job” would make her miserable.
Layoffs at Hunter Nuttall’s workplace have finally enabled him to become a professional blogger.
Jonathan Mead bravely insists on living without a template, even when it means “embarrassment, humiliation and flat out rejection.”
Tim Brownson of The Discomfort Zone refused to remain a well-paid but miserable sales person. He is having the time of his life working as a self-employed life coach.
But for some, a real job can be a good thing
While I completely respect my friends’ choice to become self-employed, and accept that for many creative types nine to five jobs ARE in fact a death sentence, I wanted to talk a bit about the other side. To remind everyone that some people are truly happy with “real” jobs and “real” careers.
It has been my experience, and especially my husband’s since I did make a career change and then took a long break from my career when my kids were born, that a real job can be very rewarding. The “get a degree, get a job and be damn good at what you do” path can and does work.
If you choose the right career for you, then keep at it long enough and are successful enough, you have freedoms that are usually associated with being your own boss. You can get to a point where you can take long vacations, decide how long to work each day, when to start your day, and whether to work from your home or from the office.
When you not only follow the path of a degree and a career but also remember to save and invest a significant chunk of your earnings each year, and especially if you start to invest in your early twenties, the magic of compound interest means that in your late thirties and during your forties you also have the financial freedom to take risks and chances and make career changes, because you can get by without a salary for many months.
So in a way, if you “give” those 15 years to the system, you get to take back – and you’re even young enough to enjoy it.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we were just lucky to be in the Silicon Valley during the exciting dot com boom. Maybe most careers ARE miserable. After all, our jobs were never the real, mundane, boring “nine to five” ones. A Silicon Valley start-up is hardly a boring place. So that could explain why we’re not as frustrated as others are. Or maybe we’re just a couple of boring, mundane, conformists. That’s a possibility too, especially since we are both firstborns and I seem to recall reading somewhere that firstborns tend to conform rather than rebel.
Being your own boss can make you work too hard
people always talk about the “nine to five grind”, but working for yourself can create an even worse grind. Monika Mundell was unable to work for several weeks after contracting an illness that she attributes to working too hard and stressing her body too much.
She says, “I have been going at my business flat out for nearly 18 months now of which I have been fully booked for the last 10 months. I am a sucker for not saying no enough and therefore ended up taking all the work offered to me. But as it happens, I can’t go on like this and need to find a balance between my writing work, my niche sites and me. Not to mention my husband and my darling birds. The days are just not long enough to get it all done. You probably know that anyway.”
A major risk when you’re self-employed is not knowing when to stop and rest. This is a serious health risk, and the argument “it’s OK to work nonstop as long as you love what you do” is simply not true. Working in front of the computer 14 hours each day, rarely going outside, never exercising and eating junk WILL HARM YOUR HEALTH sooner or later, even if you love every minute of it.
The Bottom Line
While a nine to five job isn’t for everyone, it’s not necessarily evil. It depends a lot on the job, on the employer and on how your career advances over the years, but it IS possible to be an employee, have a fabulous career, make good money and be very happy. I suspect many of you will disagree. I’m looking forward to your comments.
Photo credit: jcoldironjr2003