Apparently, it’s no secret that my millennial generation is entitled. I’m sure my last blog post, had we any readers, would have caused many of them to shake their heads, stroke their chins, and mutter self-righteously about our entitled generation. How dare I complain about having a well-paying 40 hour workweek that involves intellectually rewarding work, no standing, and a comfortable air-conditioned corner office atmosphere. Have I no sense of history? Do I not know what my grandparents endured? What other women endured? How much my parents sacrificed to send me to an expensive college so that I could get that great office job? *
I do know all of that. I also know there are many people out there who would be happy with a job like mine. I don’t mean to sound insensitive. But here’s the thing: I’m not content to continue with a job for thirty-five to forty years, living that “comfortable” upper-middle class life, contributing the max to our 401Ks, spending more than 12 and a half hours away from home every week day, just so we can, one day (after we’re old and worn out and close to death), eventually retire. I don’t want to spend my life dreading getting up every day of the work week. I’d rather not count down the days until my retirement. I’m tired of getting up every morning and cursing the fact that the weekend’s so far away. I’m tired of being sad all day Sunday that the weekend is over. I don’t want to live only for the weekend; life’s too short and, as the cliché goes, I want more. What’s wrong with that?
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the solution to my ennui. In the short-term (as in this March), I’ll hopefully start teleworking two days a week (the federal government encourages teleworking; after six months on the job, teleworking one to two days a week is allowed, and almost all non-supervisory, non-managerial employees take advantage of it). That should, after a while, increase to teleworking three to four days a week. Teleworking is the most beautiful thing ever invented, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that it’s a wonderful aspect of my job. I’ll be more productive at home, won’t have to wear any dress clothes, and what with my new, increased productivity, be even more compelled to work harder. (Moreover, somehow or other, Tanner and I will hopefully work together soon. We don’t know how, exactly, but we’ll figure it out—where there’s a will, there’s always a way.)
My short-term solution may turn into my long-term solution. I have no problem going into the office one day a week—it’s just like going to class. And as I said, my work is interesting, hard, and I enjoy doing it. Even if Tanner and I are not yet working together, life will still be better under this arrangement. There will be no commuting, no 4:41 AM alarm clock; I can walk Tanner to work; we can meet for a picnic lunch downtown, and so on and so forth. If we’re able to work together, life will be even better: we can go for walks around the neighborhood when we need a break from work; we can work from bed; we can work from a coffee house; we can work from our kitchen counter, standing up. In fact, we’ll do everything I spoke about wanting to do here. It’ll be exactly like school. (Coincidentally, that’s what this is all about. I miss the freedom of school, and I’m trying to do everything I can to make work like school). Perhaps the teleworking will turn work into school, and all will be well.
But just in case teleworking isn’t the solution, or in case Tanner and I never figure out how to get a job at the same place, we’ve got another trick up our sleeves, thanks to a very odd man named Mr. Money Mustache. One of Mr. MM’s guiding principles is that, contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to gain financial independence, retire from working (for somebody else, that is), and go to work for yourself without worrying about earning money. The method? Just save three quarters of what you earn, invest it intelligently, and seven years later, you’re golden—we’ll be free to move out to an old farmhouse in the country and start raising our three goats, maybe some kids, all the while working for ourselves, at our own pace. So that’s the backup, long-term, plan. This solution, of course, presents its own set of questions: (1) are we really that lazy? (2) what will we do with our free time?; (3) what will be our purpose in life?; and (4) who does that, anyway?.
Without a doubt, those are excellent questions. Let’s start with the question that assumes one’s occupation is also one’s purpose in life. As I’ve previously discussed, my occupation as a federal employee is far from my purpose in life. So that doesn’t bother me at all.
In regards to my laziness, it’s safe to safe that my time will be just as productive as before, if not more so. The thing about working in an office is that it saps energy. It’s tiresome to get dressed up, schlep down to DC, sit down all day long, and then schlep all the way back. Saving the three hours of commuting time alone will provide tons of time to do worthwhile things like writing, doing free legal work, and spending time with my family.
Personally, instead of paying somebody else to raise our kids, for example, as most high-earning professional couples do (what with nannies, tutors, expensive day camps, ivy league daycares and preschools, and private primary and secondary schools), we’ll raise our kids ourselves. In our spare time, we’ll raise chickens, grow vegetables, spices, and herb gardens and cook our food from scratch, relying not at all on unhealthy processed foods. We’ll have more time to work out, go on walks and bike to the store, library, and church. Best of all, with no time wasted commuting, we’ll get a full eight hours of sleep at night, as doctors recommend. I don’t think this is lazy; I think it’s just healthy living.
Academically, I’ll be able to write from the freedom of my home. Second, because we won’t need the money, I’ll be free to volunteer myself out to good NGOs. Because they’re not paying me, I’ll do the work at home and email it on in. Or, maybe Tanner and I will open a free law clinic for people with legal problems. We’ll set our hours to coincide with the school year (in order to be there for any theoretical kids). Better yet (my dream job), we’ll move to a small town with a small university, and we’ll teach as adjuncts. We will set our own schedule, working in the proper, scientifically advised 90 minute blocks of time, for four to six extremely productive hours a day.
Who knows if we’ll end up doing the above-mentioned things. The larger point, though, is that being able to work for ourselves, from home, will give us the flexibility to plan our lives in more meaningful ways. Because when you’re working 8 to 4:30, or 9 to 5:30, or whatever, you just don’t have that freedom.
There are people who will find this absurd because they believe it’s mandatory to put in 35 or 40 working years. For some, that’s undoubtedly true. But it doesn’t have to be true for everyone, and I certainly am going to do my best to avoid the idea that it’s inevitable. I don’t think it’s entitled to think that my life can be better than that. In fact, I think I’m in good company, following the advice of wise, elderly people to be courageous; have fun; work less; and hang out with your kids, your family, and friends. I want to live like that, and I don’t think that’s particularly entitled. I think it’s just sensible.
*Again, that makes me sound quite callow. But I know for a fact that my parents sent me to that great expensive liberal arts college so that I would learn how to write, read, and think; the job considerations were secondary. I firmly believe that I will become even better at all of those things after I leave the workforce. I’ll also have way more time to hang out with them and the rest of my family. Fear not, parents.