By Kellie Meisl
Yesterday over coffee, a dear friend, a writer with a passionate soul, listened to my weary uttering about having the ambition to "do nothing." She smiled and told me that I needed to write a story about it.
Her advice prompted my other dear friend to laugh at the thought of writing about nothing, which then got me chuckling, which came as a relief, because my state, overall, was somber.
I should clarify that my ambition to do nothing really boils down to one category, albeit a whopper-sized one: a job. There is no workplace where I can envision myself, no one I can imagine reporting to. Not wanting to work, or report to anyone at a workplace, is something I may need to rectify at some point soon.
Meanwhile, though, iIt has been a great privilege to be able to parent full-time and still get the bills paid. Life as a mom has been rich with time spent developing a strong relationship with my son. I have participated in a plethora of activities with him and I might not have been able to if I had reported to work by day and picked him up afterward. There is less money as a result, of course, but I think this time spent raising my child has been priceless.
In a way, I gave my son the childhood that I wish I had. My mom worked many long hours as a nurse and supervisor in a hospital operating room; she was usually on call even for holidays. She had to support our family. Looking back, she is not happy with the toll her job took on her mental and physical health. She has regrets. I never wanted to have any of those.
What also does not help me want to go back to work are the "war stories," pardon the expression, that I hear from my spouse, my friends, family members, strangers even, about workplaces. The thought of plunking my body down into one of them again gives me pause.
Just to give you an idea of what I am talking about, here are some of the stories:
One friend has a colleague who for some reason has come at her out of the blue, and with a vengeance, declaring her work unfit; though he is of equal ranking to her, and does not work directly with her, he has decided to make it his mission to stay on top of her business even though their supervisor has made it clear that he should apologize and stop. Did I mention she has her Ph.D.?
Another friend has had all creativity and decision making autonomy taken from her. She is a teacher of young children and has been handed a literal script, which she is required to read from while being carefully monitored, and offered firm admonishments any time she deviates from it, though she is a master teacher.
Still another friend whose job is literally to fix everyone else’s problems while juggling his own workload as well, (for a huge corporation that is cutting his benefits as I write), must hide with his laptop to get even a spare half hour of a day to get his work done. He eats lunch while working; people hunt him down and find him behind the see-through glass brick office walls. He's always on call to answer questions.
I have another close friend who is quite successful and has her masters in a health related field. But she tells me all the time, “Kellie, unless to HAVE to, don’t get a job.” She is emphatic that the life I lead is the one we all strive for. She warns me not to get sucked into the cultural norms that tell us the only valuable work is outside the home in some soulless workplace. She reminds that I have a range of jobs already, even though I don't get paid for any of them.
Some of my jobs while being "at home" (art teacher, artist, book keeper), have earned me a little money, while some have saved money (sub at my son’s private preschool). All provide my family with a certain convenience. (Chances are if you want to wear that favorite shirt it’s clean, the front door always reflects the season, transportation is never a question, a friend can always come here and will be supervised and fed, the school project will have the right materials, there will always be a clean hand towel.)
So for now I'm not in any hurry to find an out-of-the-house workplace. I know there are many people who like their work and that not all workplaces feel assaultive. I secretly pray I will find one, but I cannot see this place yet. Maybe writing this story will help me locate it.
Meanwhile, I am off to paint, a portrait of a Great Blue Heron, a Christmas gift for my husband.
Kellie Meisl is a visual artist living in Pittsfield, MA. Her work has appeared frequently on MyStoryLives. This post appeared in a longer form on her blog, called Walk. Her remarkable artwork -- inspired by both waking and night dreams -- can be viewed on her website, DreamArt.