Let’s talk about tradition.
Tradition is a day job. It’s sitting at a cubicle, having an org chart, working at a job that’s “okay, I guess,” and perking up every Friday evening.
Tradition is motivational posters that tell you that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life — while also never telling you just how you should accomplish that.
Tradition is a college degree that cost a lot of money, in a subject you’re good at, that strangers will tell you is useless for the next forty years of your career.
Tradition is telling yourself that a 401K, a mortgage, and a dental plan are worth being unhappy. It’s ignoring the fact that mental health is physical health, and that human beings are creative creatures that require mental stimulation as much as any other kind of sustenance.
Tradition is a framework that we tell ourselves is immutable. We treat the people who break out of it as special, the exceptions that prove the rule. And even if they’re not, we tell ourselves: not everyone can break free. There need to be some people holding normal jobs.
But do we really need all the sucky jobs?
Tradition requires participation to have power.
If the jobs we’re talking about are farmers, sanitation workers, or medical professionals, then yes, those all are entirely necessary. Jobs like plumbers, electricians, and such are capital-N Necessary as well.
But the only reason the Traditional Office Job is a standard is because we agree it should be. So if enough people truly are unhappy with how that system works, then it should be changed. It can be changed. Society is based on people agreeing “This is how it should be” or, at the very least, “This is the way that we’ll do it because I guess so.”
But a traditional job pays the bills!
Abandoning the Traditional Career Path doesn’t mean swearing a vow of poverty. Especially in the Age of the Internet, there are a lot of ways out there to make money, and it doesn’t all have to come from a single source. When I couldn’t find a single job that played to my strengths and interests, while also consistently compensating enough to pay the bills, I diversified.
I nanny because I like working with kids.
I tutor because I like teaching.
I consult because I’m fascinated with social media.
And I write because I’m excellent at it.
And yes, I give myself weekends off and work about 8 hours a day. (I also don’t wake up until 8 am most of those days.)
At present, I don’t consistently make enough from any of these to cut out all the others, and I’m fine with that. It took some time and willpower to shake off the narrative “Single Steady Job is The Only Success,” but once I did, I became amazed at how much better my life became. My finances are steady. My life is secure. And I’m happy.
Don’t discount the importance of happiness.
Mental health is physical health.
I can’t say that enough, but I’ll only say it once so I don’t screw up my SEO.
Even when I wasn’t conventionally unhappy with my old job, I always felt like I wasn’t my full self when I was there. The things I did at work could be interesting, but none of them engaged my interests.
I didn’t really realize how unhappy I had been until I was out.
I’m not going to end this with a call to action saying that if I can, then so can you. But in all honesty, it was easier than I feared it be. To be fair, I did view it as “impossible,” so I suppose anything is easier than that.
If you should take anything from this, take this:
There’s no right way to be successful. And once you address and demolish a limited and limiting mindset, the options open up. And let me just say, it’s an excellent feeling.