Sometimes I wonder if everything that I do, everything that we do, is worth all the trouble. I’m tired of trying so hard, I’m tired of being what I want to be, I’m tired of all the failures, all the problems, all the conflict and the confrontations. This isn’t supposed to be what it was like.
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When I quit my 9 to 5 job, I didn’t know what would come next. My plan was travel the world with my entire $20,000 savings. That was 2010. After years of soul-searching, of reading up on society, of understanding and embracing our world, I realized the 9 to 5 wasn’t for me. I wanted freedom and I found a way to make it work.
I quit my job, built up a solid blog and a social media following. I learned everything there was to know about online marketing and ultimately came to be known not just as a travel blogger, but also as a travel writer with more than a few guides under my belt. I upped my freelance writing game getting my byline in print in the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA. Now I work a handful of different jobs every week: writing, marketing, blogging, tweeting—maybe they’re all related but they’re all a bit different from one another, too.
And it works for me. I have a few regular jobs which bring me in an a regular income, more than I made working 9 to 5 in an entry-level, out-of-college publishing job. I’ve learned the ropes of digital content creation, of running a monetized blog, of travel writing and of PR and marketing. And while it works for me, I can’t help but wonder: is it all worth it?
I chose an uncommon career path because I thought it would allow me more freedom of movement, more freedom of expression. Basically: just the opportunity for MORE. But since doing this for a few years now, I’ve realized it’s all a bit of a myth. Sure, it works to a degree. I certainly have more freedoms and maybe even more opportunities than if I was working 9 to 5. But at what price? There are many challenges and problems that I didn’t expect. Ones I certainly haven’t been prepared for.
Instead of dealing with corporate bureaucracy as an employee trying to do things a little differently, I deal with all the bureaucracy of owning a business—on my own. With no one to turn to when I have a problem or a question. It’s all me, all the time. I run every aspect of my own business from the writing to the marketing to the technical side and the business side. It’s not easy (which probably makes sense or else more people would be doing it), but this new way of working—is it really worth the trouble for all the supposed freedom I get from working independently?
I get asked about one hundred different favors a week. I’m not exaggerating here. I’m counting the requests that come in through Facebook, the emails, the press releases, the tweets, the WhatsApp messages from friends and the follow-ups. All the follow-ups. Everyone wants something. All the time.
Anyone who has tried to make it as a writer, especially as a blogger, has probably faced the same. And I’m not just talking about my generation here. It’s not often that someone in a creative field gets the full amount of respect, attention or dignity that he or she might deserve.
I honestly don’t know if it’s all worth it. Maybe for some people it’s an easy choice. But I look at all that I have to do to survive, and I sometimes wonder why I do it all.
Our lives have become more segmented; our jobs too. That’s why we rent our extra bedrooms out on AirBNB, or shuttle Uber users around in our cars every weekend. Our governments have failed us. Corporations have failed us. And we’ve let them ruin not just our lives, but our society. It’s become more and more difficult to have just one job anymore. One job isn’t always enough to live on.
We’re told that we all have special skills or extra commodities, things we could monetize. We’re told there are lots of ways to make money, online and off. We’re told so many things about the way the world works. But I’m not so sure we’re better off because of it. This parody video (see below) highlights the ridiculousness of some of what we’re doing. It’s sad, really.
The video talks about privilege, but are problems are actually much deeper. We’re often told to go out and follow our dreams. Hell, I’ve probably said it myself on Twitter more than a few times. But, in reality, following your dreams, especially if it involves entrepreneurship, isn’t easy. This article on Quartz, by Aimee Groth, summarizes it nicely:
“Following your dreams is dangerous,” a 31-year-old woman who runs in social entrepreneurship circles in New York, and asked not to be named, told Quartz. “This whole bulk of the population is being seduced into thinking that they can just go out and pursue their dream anytime, but it’s not true.”
So while yes, there’s certainly a lot of hard work that goes into building something, there’s also a lot of privilege involved—a factor that is often underestimated.
I don’t always know what I’m doing. And I certainly don’t always know how I’m feeling. But I look at what we’ve got in the world today—people preaching the value of quitting your job, of leaving it all behind, of following your dreams. And I worry. I worry about those less privileged than myself who swallow this up. I worry about the state of our society. What are we doing to our world, to ourselves? Is it all worth it? I don’t have an answer. But I think we need to make sure we ask ourselves regularly. A status-check on our lives and on our futures.