I quit my full-time job last week and today is my first Monday waking up with no work obligations. This last job, which I managed to stay with for almost a year, was my first traditional full-time job in over twenty-five years. Prior to this job, I’d always done my own gig — consulting, running a business, starting a non-profit. And while all of those jobs were challenging and often required me to work full-time and beyond, I never had a compulsory schedule where I had to work certain days and certain hours. So leaving this job where I was a 9–5er feels especially liberating. I feel so happy that I don’t have to log in and do the grind until I can log out.
But the list of other things I need to do has already snaked in through the space at the bottom of my office door. It’s not even 9 am and my inventory of tasks is piling up: mow the lawn, clean out the storage room in the basement, make a dentist appointment, pay the house bills, wipe the old computers so I can donate them, put away winter clothes, connect timer on the drip system, research summer programs for teens.
How do people actually keep a full-time job when there is so much to do? My mom tells a story of me at our family dinner table when I was about fourteen. “I’m never going to work full-time,” I said. Both of my parents and my step-parents worked full-time. I’m not sure where I got the idea that it was possible not to work full-time.
I’d bought into the other messages that were promoted in my youth — that boys were more capable, that adult women should always be dieting, and that most people with any gray hair also had chronic back pain. So why did I make the proclamation that I would not follow the full-time path at such an early age?
After working full-time for the last year, I am affirmed that my adolescent proclamation was wise and true. Everyone is different. There are night owls and early birds. But the majority of us are expected to work the same shifts. Some people like to work twelve-hour days and get their workweek over with. Others would rather work short days and just do a moderate amount every day.
Today, in addition to my list of jobs to do, I have challenged myself to envision my perfect job.
In my perfect job, I would make my own schedule.
In my perfect job, I’d have health insurance that actually covered my health care.
In my perfect job, I could l get all of the paperwork done before 7 am and be done with work by 3 pm when my creativity and energy start to fade.
In my perfect job, if I wanted, I could work for seven-day stretches and take four days off for a family trip.
In my perfect job, I could work at home.
In my perfect job, there would be a quiet room for nursing, napping, reading, or meditating.
In my perfect job, I would have wonderful colleagues who also crafted their perfect jobs.
In my perfect job, I would have a boss who asked me and my colleagues lots of questions about what we thought about big company decisions.
In my perfect job, we’d have a room full of arts and crafts — watercolors, embroidery thread, clay, a sewing machine, collage materials — so that anyone could take a break to get inspired or just to do some parallel play in the middle of the workday.
In my perfect job, I would have a few projects that were really easy and intuitive for me and one big project that felt really hard, like a two thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle.
In my perfect job, I could walk or bike to work and come home for lunch to walk my dog.
In my perfect job, the office would have lots of plants and a mini-fridge with bottomless green grapes and pomegranate seltzer.
In my perfect job, we’d have a weekly staff meeting where everyone felt excited to see each other, and someone new brought a different homemade bread or pastry to share each week.
In my perfect job, we’d all be trying to change the world in our own way. Everyone would get a chance to share their passions and invite others to join them at our monthly Heal the World afternoon retreat in the park by the lake.
In my perfect job if you just felt really tired someone would notice. They’d look at you and smile and say, “You look wiped. Why don’t you head home. Take some time, as much as you need, and come back when you’re ready.”
I’m looking for a new job and I’ve given myself a little time to find the perfect one. I just have a few important criteria. How hard can it be?