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Work, work, work. Produce, produce, produce. Well, what if I don’t want to work?
Yeah, yeah, I know. I can already hear the Boomers shouting, “Get off your lazy ass! Life’s rough, suck it up!”
First off, laziness does not exist.
Second, I’m fully aware of the fact that we live under a capitalist society and have to work within that machine in order to survive. I don’t need the reminder; it’s everywhere.
I can’t turn my head without seeing advertising of products I don’t need.
I can’t work on a creative project without the insidious, ingrained thought of, “Can I find a way to profit from this?”
(Hell, even this blog was started because I was desperate to find a way to “make a living” while doing something I love – writing.)
I’ve more or less accepted that capitalism isn’t going anywhere in the near future, and that I’m gonna have to find a way to provide for myself amidst a world in which profit is seen as more important than people.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still suck.
And I know I’m not alone in feeling like this.
We may not be able to figure out how to escape capitalism entirely, but let’s look at some ways to at least survive it.
Acknowledge the Pain
In capitalism, where profit often comes before people, we don’t always feel like we have time to stop and sit with our feelings.
But don’t let them stop you.
Feel it. It sucks. Capitalism sucks.
People are living in poverty.
There are single parents working two or more jobs just to be able to afford basic necessities.
Thousands of houses in the US alone remain unoccupied while the number of people experiencing homelessness continues to grow.
Under our current economic system, there will always be people on the bottom, struggling to make ends meet.
Mourn the way the world could be if greed weren’t a thing.
Sit with it. Cry about it. Let it all out.
Scream, “I don’t want to work! I don’t want to have to struggle to afford to live! I shouldn’t have to pay for healthcare and housing! It’s not fair!”
Because you’re right. It’s not fair. Life, as many of our parents liked to remind us, is not fair.
Ignoring the pain isn’t going to do us any good, especially if we’re facing burnout.
Give yourself space to feel that heartache and frustration.
Then, take a deep breath, wash your face, and let it go. (For a while, anyway.)
Take a Fucking Break!
People are not productivity machines.
You don’t have to be doing something constantly.
Did you know that the average office employee is productive for less than 3 hours during their 8-hour work day? Three hours!! So don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t getting shit done 24/7.
Of course, there is an accessibility issue, here.
Depending on your job or other responsibilities, it may be hard to find time for yourself.
Food service and retail employees are often told to “look busy”, even when they’re not helping customers. If the boss catches you not doing anything, they’ll find something for you to do.
Whichever rung you’re hanging by on the corporate ladder, take as much time as you can to recharge and simply exist.
Don’t let anyone interfere with your lunch break, if you have one.
Make the Most of Your Time Outside of Work
Add another 5 minutes to your morning routine for some mindfulness. Take time in the evening to relax and recover from the day.
If you have the ability to take time off work, do it! Plan a vacation, or a staycation, and don’t let yourself think about work ’til it’s over.
You deserve a break. You deserve time to yourself. Do whatever you can to take that time for self care and rejuvenation.
Revamp Your Schedule
If you work from home, or work for yourself, you probably have a lot more room to shift your schedule around to your liking. Figure out how long you need to actually be working, and work your schedule around that.
Do you want longer mornings to yourself? Shift your schedule so you don’t start work until noon. Are you a night owl? Plan your days accordingly.
As a writer, I’ve found that I work best in 30-minute blocks. It’s not that I don’t want to work on my stories–those are the things I’m most passionate about in life! It’s that I literally cannot focus for an extended period of time. Thanks, ADHD.
In playing around with my schedule, I found a way to satisfy my attention span and my need to get things done on my creative projects. I like waking up later, so I don’t start my workday until 11am. That gives me plenty of time in the morning to ease into the day.
Then, I work on one specific task for 30 minutes, then take a 30 minute break to do whatever I want. I work for another 30, and rest for another 30.
After learning that most people only get three hours of work done a day, I decided that was good enough for me, rather than pushing myself to exhaustion with forced productivity.
I do my 30-minute blocks between 11am and 5pm, and then I chill for the rest of the evening. Sometimes I still do “productive” things, like art or writing, but I am much more laid back about it.
Do What You Can
For folks whose schedules are set by their employer, all you can really do is adjust your morning and evening routines to make sure you’re taking time for yourself and feel a sense of freedom.
What are you passionate about? What could you do for hours and not notice the time going by?
Well, you might have to keep track of the time if you have other things to do, but it’s important to prioritize those moments each day to indulge in the experiences that make you feel alive.
Don’t worry about how productive your hobbies are.
Play video games. Watch TV. Go to a park and throw a ball around (or whatever it is that sporty people do).
Life is more than productivity. There is so much to enjoy out there; don’t let capitalism keep you from those experiences.
Reframe Your Mindset
If you’re someone like me, who struggles with anxiety, your job can be an especially difficult place to exist in.
I felt so much pressure to perform well, particularly in my food service jobs, that I would go home crying and think about quitting at least once a week.
Reframing my mindset about the work I was doing actually made me feel a lot more confident in those jobs.
Working vs Helping
Due to my anxiety, my work became easier when I thought of my service jobs as Helping People rather than serving a corporation that didn’t actually care about me or the customers.
I would make it my goal to make people smile, to brighten their day, even just a little. I’d hand out (genuine) compliments like that was my real job, or I’d let them tell me about how their day was going.
I don’t want to work. I want to make a difference.
At the end of the day, I want to help the world become a better place. To brighten the lives of others.
Telling myself that I was making a difference, even if only on a small scale, sometimes made it possible to endure the chaos of the service industry.
Look for a New Job
Sometimes, a positive mindset just isn’t going to make a bad job bearable.
If you’re constantly exhausted, have shitty coworkers and/or managers, or just plain don’t like what you’re doing to “make a living”, it might be time to move on.
Easier said than done, of course. Finding a new job is work in itself. Especially if you don’t have a higher education, don’t have access to transportation, have any disabilities, or are queer, trans, or a person of color. Your options may be very limited.
But you’re definitely not going to get a better job if you never try.
So, identify the type of work you think would suit you better, and apply.
Be Selective About Potential Employers
Look for opportunities with a people-oriented employer; companies or organizations that understand the importance of mental health and care more about their employees than “the bottom line”.
It can be hard to tell up front if an employer is going to be good for you or not, but there are some ways to find out.
First, look for reviews by current or former employees of the company you want to apply for. Keep an eye out for comments about the management.
Second, if you decide to apply and you get an interview, remember that you are also interviewing them.
Ask them what their stance on mental health days are. Whatever features you feel you need in order to thrive in the workplace, make sure they have them. Before (or after) the interview, if you come across another employee, ask how they like working there.
If you’re gonna have to work, you deserve to work in a place that doesn’t drain you or strip you of your humanity.
Work For Yourself
If working for The Man just won’t do it for you, look into your skillset and see if you can find a way to make money on your own.
Can you paint? Do graphic design? Write?
Are you good at photography? Interior design? Bookkeeping?
Could you be a hair stylist? A shop owner? Do you have ideas for products that can help people?
Look into self-employment options where you can set your own work hours, get to do something you’re passionate about every day, and choose to work with clients who know how to show some basic respect.
It won’t be easy, but for some, it’s the only way to truly thrive under capitalist society.
Calculate What You Need and Adjust Your Work
What kind of lifestyle do you want?
Would you be okay living with several roommates in a smaller city in order to only have to work part-time?
Or do you need space to yourself, and love the big city life?
Do you have (or plan on having) a family? Pets?
Whether you determine that you need $1,000, $5,000, or $10,000 a month in order to live the life you want, find work that honors that. Look into relocating if you have to.
…Again, this is one of those “easier said than done” things, particularly for folks with less privilege in society.
But if you’re really serious about reaching your lifestyle goals, start planning, and do what you can.
I’m rooting for you.
In a perfect world, no one would feel the need to say, “I don’t want to work.”
No one would spend hours sobbing because they’re worried they won’t be able to make it in such a harsh society.
No one would go hungry or without shelter just because they couldn’t “contribute to society” in a way that justifies their existence.
(To be clear: NO ONE needs to justify their existence.)
In a better world, we’d all be doing whatever we’re passionate about, and “work” would be a concept of the past.
But, for now? We’ve got to find ways to survive in this hellscape we call capitalism.
Remember, you’re not alone.
My idealist heart struggles sometimes in the face of all the hardships presented to us by our current economy. But I have to believe that, someday, we’ll find a way for everyone to be able to thrive.
And in the meantime? I’m doing whatever I can not to let worries of money get me down, or keep me from enjoying life.
I wish the same for you.
Still in need of some self care? Check out these affirmations for confidence, happiness, and healing.
If the worries of adult life have got you down, try getting in touch with your inner child.
How are you taking care of yourself amidst the struggles of capitalism? I’m eager to read your tips and tricks in the comments below!