Discretionary Fun

Digital illustration/drawings: Mood & 'TudeI get the impression that some people treat non-work times as the only times when they’re allowed to be happy. I do understand the need for income that can drive one to spend time in a job that doesn’t fulfill any other need or desire in life, and many of those are in the least-compensated positions at low-paying employers’ as it is. Been there, done that.

But I can say, too, that the greatest misery in my work life was attitudinal, and the more I did to discover and avoid the things that made me unhappy in my work, the less miserable I was. The more I sought to learn what I enjoyed in work and chose ways to magnify that, the closer I got to contentment both at and out of the workplace.

I grew more cognizant, at the same time, of not wanting to waste precious time on work that challenged my inner playfulness or threatened my general sense of joy and purpose. I was given a great gift in being able recognize the longing and accept and pursue it by choosing a much lower-paying job (on paper, at least) with a great happiness-quotient. I’ve seen, over the years, that many of us are easily misled when we try to calculate what we think we need for our daily expenses, and how much it costs us to earn that. Yes, we get those paychecks, but if the job requires, say, clothes that we wouldn’t wear other than at work, child care, transportation, professional training and memberships, and that sort of thing, how much pay on an annual or monthly or hourly basis does it really cost to go beyond paying for those, at least far enough to keep a roof overhead and food on the table as well?

Nobody knows this awful kind of math better than the working poor. I’ve been in that category more than once in my life, but have always had safeguards others lacked—like friends or relatives from whom I could rent living space more cheaply than I could even a minuscule, run-down apartment in a scary part of town—so I also know that I am luckier than most. Now, when I am married to a person who is not only able to make enough income to support both of us but is willing to do so, I am among the most privileged and fortunate of creatures, and I know that, too.

But one of the best things I learned along the way when I was living on a very slender, sometimes sporadic, income, remains valuable to this day: if I spend so much time and energy on just ‘getting by’ in life and don’t put forth equal effort to enjoy, live, and love my life along the way, all of the pennies I earn are of little value at all. And while I can’t always afford the most thrilling and glamorous ways of keeping myself amused, especially when I do need to be working at any task or job, I had better find the simpler and cheaper ways and the most reliable ones to fill my life with happiness and contentment, I know by now that surrounding myself with people I love, admire, enjoy and respect is the very best solution. And if my job doesn’t allow for that kind of happiness and contentment, then it is costing me more than it pays, in the end.

15 thoughts on “Discretionary Fun

  1. so well put. what do we trade for dollars? thanks for the reminder, especially as I begin a search for a new career, job, trade for dollars. you keep on motivating the unknown person, thanks!

    • I’m glad you’re entering the new-job market with careful thought about what you will pay as well as gain. There are all sorts of excellent reasons to work, but we’re best kept healthy and happy by thinking through how those balance with what it *costs* us and what we gain from other sources. Best of luck with your search!!

  2. I agree. I’m there now. Not exactly happy, however it’s not hell either. I don’t like overtime. Not worth my loss of time. Trying to find a happy job that helps people. All I help now is rich, crabby folks.

    • Entitlement makes people so rude and tedious! *You* are entitled *not* to have to put up with their tiresome attitudes. Hope there’s something truly rewarding and satisfying just around the corner for you!! 🙂

  3. Love the last paragraph esp. I actually couldn’t add anything to it. Between that and the pleasure you are wise to allow yourself in eating (w/ good company, at that) I get an even clearer, more wonderful picture of you, K.

  4. I have made more money than I am now, but spent more too … and, especially, spent – no thrown away – my creativity and peace of mind and spirit. Not everyone needs, wants to be rich in terms of money … just to have enough not to worry about eating or having a roof over one’s head or having healthcare or an education so that they can pursue their talents and purpose and not be wasted on a struggle to survive. XO

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