A few years ago I embarked on a sabbatical of sorts. I left a very corporate office job for something most people would describe as being a housewife, or even lady-of-leisure. I embraced this title for a time, but only because answering ‘Full-time Dream-Catcher’ to the inevitable ‘So, what do you do?’ question at dinner parties generally results in strangers looking at you like you’re a freak. And that is the sad state of our society.
It has been quite an adventure, with highs and lows, victories and disappointments. I found that even though I was no longer ‘working’, I still didn’t have enough hours in the day. I discovered that all those things we always say we want to do, but never have the time for, still don’t magically happen – but rather take a whole lot of hard work and dedication. But the thing I was most surprised to find, was the firing-squad of judgment, resentment and down-right nastiness I encountered from many peers, friends and even some family.
‘What do you do all day?’ ‘Don’t you think it’s time to go back to work?‘ are the kind of comments I have endured on a regular basis. For the most part I have ignored, joked or argued my way through these unpleasant encounters, but a recent, more frank version of these comments got me thinking – why is it that some people have such a hard time dealing with my current life choices?
Let’s say that you started dating a new guy. He makes you happy – happier than you’ve ever been. He is completely dedicated to you, listens, lets you choose the movie (most of the time) and even finds your strange obsession with purple spandex endearing. Now lets say I’m your friend, but from the day you met Mr. Perfect, all I ever say to you is ‘Oh my gosh, you have to get out of this relationship immediately! His career isn’t going anywhere and he has no money. Dump him!’
What kind of friend would that make me? Would I have your best interests at heart? If I were to suggest that you should date the rich maverick over the poor guy, that would make me shallow, right? Shouldn’t a man be valued for more than just his monetary status? Would you consider me a b**** if I only thought of your boyfriend as someone you could get a five carat diamond out of?
Well, this is what I’m encountering in my life right now. I’ve chosen the poor guy; an artistic, non-money-making, home-based sabbatical over a previously thriving career.
I believe there is more to life than salaries and nine to five. Yet my dream-chasing has been seen as everything from lazy to lost, and I have come to the conclusion that people who perceive it that way are not wanting the best for me.
Perception is a funny thing though – because it can be based just as easily on blind ignorance as on personal experience – the fine line between perception and misconception.
Here are the top general misconceptions I face:
“You don’t ‘work’.”
Define ‘work’. Are you saying that the only work worth doing is where you get a monthly salary? Don’t get me wrong – ‘growing-up’ in a traditional work environment was an important part of my personal development, and there may well come a time when I return to the ranks of the ‘employed’, but they are not the only ones working for a living. The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘work’ as an ‘activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result’. So yes, I work. I am working towards building a life where I get to do what I love, and make a living off of it.
“What do you do all day? I would be bored if I had to stay at home all day long.”
Being ‘bored’ is probably the saddest, most revealing state of being. The world is an enchanting place. Perhaps not everyone sees it? I wake up each morning and embrace my universe like a child prancing through vast fields with a butterfly net (after my cup of coffee, that is). My husband jokes that I’m going through a second childhood, and in a way that is true. Any parent will know that children need to be fed not only with physical food, but in mind, body and spirit too – and I have been feasting!
The first thing I did after quitting my job was to enroll myself at a piano studio – I was adamant that I wanted to be classically trained in music, something I didn’t have the opportunity to do as a child, and wanted to be able to one day teach piano too. I hadn’t yet worked out the specifics, I didn’t have a piano-teaching ‘business model’ mapped and ready to show any doubting onlooker – I just knew I had to start getting my brain and fingers moving. The learning curve was intense, but I worked at it and have advanced dramatically, ploughing through 6 grades in under 4 years. A year ago I started to work as ‘student teacher’ at my music school, and have built up my own profile of pre-grade students that I teach on a weekly basis (a highly rewarding job, might I add – more so than anything I ever did in the corporate world!).
I enrolled in a creative writing course at the University of Cape Town and started to work towards the goal of becoming an author. I fulfilled a life long dream and wrote a book, then another and I’m currently working on my third. Being aware that successful writers don’t just lie on the beach waiting for heaven to open up and deliver them a product (read Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ to understand the 10 000 hour concept of success) I wrote and wrote and write and write. Nothing glamorous or easy about it.
There has been so much more keeping me dream-catching, or staying at home, depending on your perception.I have done a sewing course, invested in taking care of my and my husbands nutrition, planted a food garden, written a children’s book, the list goes on…I am working.
Or the flipside argument: “It must be so nice being at home. You can kuier all day, drinking tea.” (usually said with so much back-handed venom, that it would take an industrial syphon to suck out all that sarcastic poison!)
It’s mostly coffee, not tea, and it’s mostly by myself with my manuscript, piano books, blogazine or craft projects. Actually, I probably kuiered more when I worked in an office than I do now.
“You are lost – no direction in your life!”
When I worked in marketing I was always consumed with the project on hand. I was purposeful about corporate success because when I do something, I do it to the fullest. But my past work is not who I am now. I am now following a very different purpose – the purpose of Living a Happy and Meaningful Existence – Whilst Wearing Fabulous Shoes. And, speaking of shoes, the ‘Dreams’ I have been chasing for the past three years are actually ‘Futures’ I have been trying on, investing in. I have been walking around the Store of Life, testing to see which ones will carry me through the next phase of my time here on this planet. I still have purpose, Great Purpose (OK, enough with the Capitol Analogies…).
“You are on the internet, like, 24-7! Clearly you have too much time on your hands.”
The internet is my ‘water-cooler’, newspaper, weather guru, encyclopedia, gardening tip giver and recipe book. And I am a sharer. I admit it – I am partial to social media and I don’t feel the need to apologize for that.
I have a friend who is on Facebook just as often as I am – she sees all, reads all, browses every photo album, but she’s not a natural sharer. She never hits ‘like’ or ‘share’ or comments on statuses like I do, and thus appears to have no FB activity what so ever (Very sneaky, my friend – you know who you are!).
“You don’t wake up to go to work, your life is a breeze.”
There are more things in the world to wake up for than ‘a job’. I wake up with Husband every day. Granted, not to go to an office like him, but to go to work on my dream.
“I am worried you are going to turn into one of ‘those’ women.”
Who exactly are ‘those’ women? And, even once identifying ‘those’ women, who gets to judge ‘those’ women? Who are you to define them? The kept? The princesses? The desperate housewives? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t found myself trapped outdoors in nothing but a bath towel any time recently, and I certainly don’t have a pool boy (I clean the Jacuzzi all by myself, yo!) The only people who should be concerned with what kind of woman I am are me and Husband. No one else. Moving on.
“Well, you don’t have a job, so what are you doing with your life?”
What are you doing with your life?
To the rest of the naysayers out there, let me leave you with one final thought. I have taken a leap of faith, trusting that I can grow my wings before I hit the bottom. Why do you feel the need to stand on your chunk of the precipice and take cheap shots at me, hoping to knock holes in my dream catching? I can only come to one conclusion. But Taylor Swift says it better than me – she has a wonderful little song, which perhaps applies:
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Time to start catching those dreams…