Just like Retirement and Marriage, the concept of a Career was never something I previously thought to question. But lifting the veil has revealed the true character of a Career to be a real stinker…
1. My career was really just a continuation of school, just with different sticks and carrots. I accepted that life is composed of designated work times and leisure times, with work always taking the priority and therefore the juicy bits. There is no other rational or responsible way of doing it. That stinks.
2. And that indisputable narrative says that I needed to study hard, in order to later get a job where I can work hard, in order to build a career that will lead me to success, money, freedom. This joyous state tended to lie just beyond my next career milestone. Delayed gratification – that really stinks.
3. Beyond the true necessities of living (although in my first 37 years of life, my definition of “necessary” grew surpisingly broad), money is needed for the spiritual satisfaction of leisure, through consumption (either now or in the future). So I had to earn in order to be able to enjoy myself when I wasn’t working. And it made sense to work longer and more seriously, as this ought to earn more happiness. And the harder I worked, the more I felt I deserved that happiness, and should display it. So my trajectory was an ever increasing rate of working and consuming in an attempt to achieve happiness. Man, that stinks.
4. And a career is a means to provide an identity and a level of status. In our culture we constantly reinforce this on each other. “What do you do?”…that’s always the first question, because its answer contains most of what people need to know in order to form a judgment. Worthiness comes through working, so work hard! (you want what’s best for your kids don’t you?) That all totally stinks too.
I can see how Careers are great for employers and for GDP. But for me, my family, and anyone around in 2050, I can now see that the world of industrial living is mindless, destructive madness.
So let me introduce my concept of the “anti-career”, which imagines work as one part of a liberated, purposeful life.
1. A dose of belief can freshen the first one (the one true way). I believe that there are countless more fulfilling alternatives out there, most of them impossible to see due to the cloud of chronic insecurity that I lived inside. I am finding that investigating away from the One Way street is highly revealing.
2. Stinker No.2 (delayed gratification): the anti-career will not get in the way of doing the things I love, but add to it by itself being an authentic expression, not something born of obligation or expectation. So I can enjoy every present, gratifying moment, my mind at peace.
3. Evading the earning / consuming trap of No.3 is taking a lot of effort but couldn’t be more fun. Having defined what constitutes “enough”, the anti-career will not seek to earn beyond that (although it is welcome to do so by accident). It involves erasing the deeply ingrained habit of spending money on stuff I don’t need. I become less of a resource burden, less passively and carelessly destructive. More able to find inspiration.
4. Fanning away the fumes of Stinker No.4 (work = worthiness) can be achieved by relegating work, down from its greedy position ahead of health, family, personal growth and sanity, to something that just forms part of my definition of a meaningful life, and how I make a contribution. The career owns me, sets my identity, literally defines my role. The anti-career sets me free!
My own idealistic expression of an anti-career may or may not have credibility with many people, while many others ahve been doing it for years. It cannot be denied that alternatives to the status quo exist, for everyone. If the urge for something different is there, all that stands in its way is industrial thinking, which is slowly dying anyway as it physically exhausts itself, its adherents and its planet.
To me, the idea of not having a career sounds as good as it smells.