The Joy of Not Working

While I was on maternity leave I decided I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  Most of my friends work so they weren’t available to do things with in the middle of the day and the few that didn’t work were pretty busy living their lives.  So what was I supposed to do all day? (Actually, I alternated between not knowing what do do and feeling like all I had time to do was run errands.  How do we get all those errands done when we are working full time?) A lot of the things I normally would have done weren’t possible.  For example, I couldn’t work out for the first couple of weeks after giving birth.  I couldn’t go hiking or bike riding with a two week old infant.  So when I stumbled across a book called The Joy of Not Working:  A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked- 21st Century Edition, I ordered it.  However, by accident I got How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won’t Get from Your Financial Advisor.  They both turned out to be pretty interesting.  Since then I’ve bought another copy of the retirment book and lent them to my in-laws and my 89 year old grandmother – at their request!

Ernie Zelinki‘s main point is that most of us don’t know what to do if we aren’t working.  (And to those of you who read my blog who are happily retired, I congratulate you!)  He says we get some of our basic social needs from work:

  1. Organization – What time do you wake up?  What are you supposed to do all day?
  2. Purpose – What’s your purpose in life?  What are you trying to accomplish?
  3. Community – Who do you do things with? 

The books are written in a pretty simplistic style but he has a lot of good points.  He strongly encourages people to get interests outside of work and to not be dependent on work for a sense of community and purpose.  He also gives lots of just basic good life advice like maintain your health, make good friends, etc.  In addition, he provides a few exercises and ideas for doing that.  I agreed with a lot of what he said, like making a few good friends instead of lots of casual friends, not watching tv, and participating in lots of different activities.

He also advocated working for yourself at something you enjoy rather than working for somebody else.  I’ve been listening and reading a lot of self development books and blogs and this seems to be a common theme.  Work for yourself, follow your passions, develop your interests, don’t drone on and on at your desk job.  Ernie as well as many others point out that money and/or retirement will not make you happy by themselves.  You have to have a sense of purpose, a group of friends and a set of activities you enjoy in order to be happy in life.