The mountain and the passion

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.







The dreaded gift has arrived: R2-D2



The 8-year-old had an enormous smile on his face when I picked him up at school on Thursday. He had a surprise in his backpack, the book club had delivered his order: build your own R2-D2. Ten hours to assemble, said the brochure. I don’t know what possessed me to agree to this purchase. At the time I thought it was a great idea–a creative project for the school holiday when I’ll be working from home. Judging by his mental skill and manual ability in putting his Lego toys together I thought, sure, piece of cake. But later it’s been borne upon me that this project involves building a 30cm cardboard robot with paper, scissors and glue. And Led lights! They must mean ten hours of skilled adult work.

For the last two weeks this child has been talking about his exciting school holiday project and as much as I enjoy seeing his enthusiasm I must confess I can’t share the same excitement. On the night we got home with the kit I had a taster of what this project will be like. Thomas sneakily opened the box in his bedroom but in a few minutes rushed downstairs in tears: “this R2-D2 will never work”. He only had a go at the first element… Oh God, I can anticipate how I’m going to spend my two days of annual leave: detaching and trimming paper shapes from 12 A4 sheets and trying to figure out where they go. I gave Thomas a hug and ensured I was going to help him build R2-D2 but he had to wait for the holiday to begin. I could feel his sticky fingers entangled in my hair… I never liked Star Wars and I get the feeling I’m going to like it even less…

But then later that night I went to bed and Thomas as drawing his own Star Wars comic book and he read it to me. He was one of the characters and he fought the droids and robots with lightsabers and passion. It was way past his bed time but his eyes still sparkled with energy and adventure. He said he’d continue the battle in his dreams.

I’m starting to change my mind about the holiday project. I now think it’ll be quite fun to build R2-D2 with Thomas – so long as The Force gives me patience.