It’s 6pm and we’re driving back to the city after a few days in the mountains. I watch the tired looking drivers going in the opposite direction, the corner of their mouths pointing down, their cars bumper to bumper in the rush hour traffic- I wish we had stayed in the country a bit longer. All the space, the fresh air, the orange sunset and the simple life… No rush to get anywhere.
Nature always does this to me. It makes me slow down and appreciate more what I have. It makes me have romantic dreams of moving to a cute little cottage in the mountains with views of the bush, a colourful garden and wallabies greeting us in the morning. But then I walk to the nearest village and all shops are closed on a Tuesday afternoon. There is no where to eat. We walk to a local park and my kids are attached by magpies. There is blood. I see overweight teenagers walking aimlessly around the streets with a cigarette in their hands. The country is no paradise.
As we got closer to home the traffic got heavier in all directions. It’s easy to think that just by moving to a different area we can make our lives better. But the problem I see is not so much the area, it’s the way we are living our lives, always too busy doing things without passion and for many people that includes even work.
As we waited in traffic I got thinking of the free-range humans that quit their corporate jobs and become self-employed. There is a growing number of people leaving the 9-5 working world, lured by a life of freedom and flexibility or simply by necessity as full-time permanent work becomes more scarce. Instead of jobs they have gigs. Sometimes when I get too busy with my life I feel like joining them too, with the hope that I’ll be working less hours per week.
But when I really look into it I feel this promise of freedom is no different from the romantic dream of a peaceful country life. How much freedom is there in a life without a steady stream of income, sick leave, super? How about fair pay? I’ve recently seen an advertisement for freelance writers offering to pay 3 cents per word. The pay situation with the raise of technology platforms that allow workers to easily find short-term gigs seems to be similar to many types of work. How can you have a decent income with such low rates?
You have to get several gigs at the same time to maintain a good life-style so you end up working more than you would in a 9-5 job. That defeats the purpose of leaving the corporate world in my view. I guess to become a free-range human you need to be prepared to live a life that lacks the comforts of the consumption economy.
By the time we parked the car in the garage, I was thinking that the key is always passion and purpose. If you enjoy your work your 9-5 job ins’t a drag. Or if you have other passions outside work, as long as you can find time to cultivate them, even the most mundane 9-5 job can enable your passions. I think the same principle applies if you are self-employed. If your life lacks passion you will continue to feel unfulfilled regardless of the type of work arrangements you have.