Working for the Man Should Be a Last Resort

David Cain:

“According to my critics, even if you find your standard weekday boring, painful or unfulfilling, you ought to embrace it, simply because a third-world coal miner would kill for your benefits package. When so many have so little, attempting to escape a situation in which you can reliably feed yourself and fund a retirement could only be an act of the utmost ingratitude.

A minority of us believe the opposite is true — that escaping from an unfulfilling mainstream lifestyle isn’t a moral failing, but rather a moral imperative. It’s precisely because we have all the necessary freedoms at our fingertips (and because others don’t) that spending our lives in the stable isn’t just foolish, but wrong. To remain, voluntarily, in a life where your talents are wasted and your weekdays are obstacles is to be humble in all the wrong ways.”

I discovered this article and its author thanks to my friend Álvaro Serrano, and it resonated with me in so many ways.

When I was fired from my awful corporate stooge job, the temptation at the time to rush out and apply for other full-time desk jobs was enormous. There was a mortgage to think about and a family to support, not to mention our dreams of traveling the world together.

Thankfully I had enough support from friends and my wife, who all encouraged me to try making this writing gig work out. And here I am now, more than a year later, still putting words on the internet.

Does it make me a ton of money, you ask? That's cute. You're cute.

But! That's a tradeoff I'm perfectly willing to make, given the benefits:

  • I get to do work I actually care about, and collaborate with a group of people I respect and admire.
  • I get to spend every single day with my wife and son. Whenever I'm not writing and she's not teaching dance class we're free, as a family, to do things that used to be reserved for evenings and weekends—visiting the library, zoo, or science museum; playing at the park; going for walks or bike rides; grabbing lunch and/or coffee together; I could go on.

    I often think about how much of my son's childhood I would have missed thus far, how many experiences we wouldn't have shared as a family, had I continued doing the "normal" 9-5 job thing. It's a constant reminder that I never want to go back to that life, even if it meant making more money.

  • Despite our relatively low income, we still manage to travel two or three times a year (and more than that, if you count my wife's dance school's trips to competitions in other states). We usually even manage to squeeze in a Disney trip once a year, whether it's to one of the parks or a cruise ship. It takes a lot of careful budgeting and planning to pull off, but it's so worth it.

  • I can wear pajamas all day if I want. I might be wearing some as I type this. You'll never know.
  • Last but not least, I no longer have to wake up early every morning to commute to a job I hate.

So yeah, I agree with Mr. Cain up there: escaping the unfulfilling mainstream lifestyle (even if it wasn't of my own accord) was one of the best things that ever happened to me.