When you were a child, have you ever had the experience of wishing that you could spend one whole day by yourself, without your parents’ interference? You would sit around imagining all the wonderful things you could do on your own, like watch TV all day, or play in an amusement park, or eat lots of junk food. Then one day you might get what you wish for. Maybe your parents have something to attend to, and so you’re left at home for the better part of the day. You ecstatically switch on the television set, grab a bag of chips, and then a few hours later, you start thinking, “when are they coming back?”
Such experiences happen to a lot of us. You get an unexpected day off, then wish you were back at work, simply because you don’t know what to do. This is why some people don’t want to retire. They’ll be mooching around at home, meddling in the affairs of their adult offspring. If they have no friends or hobbies, they’ll basically be waiting for the day to end. It’s worse, of course, if you’re not at retirement age and just simply unemployed. You gradually deplete your monetary resources doing unproductive things that make you ashamed of yourself.
I once listened to a talk by a Singaporean duo. 1 of them was a talented manga artist and the other was a computer programmer who made a website where everyone could upload and showcase their comic creations. The computer programmer told us very sternly that no matter what we do, never quit our day job. He once tried a start-up, and to put it simply, Steve Jobs’ mantra of pursuing your passions doesn’t work out in reality. He was very cynical, but there was one point he put forward that struck true to me. When you’re a freelance worker, you end up working even harder than if you had a day job, because you are constantly doubting whether what you’re doing is enough.
That frames the horror of unemployment, not knowing what to do, and how much. Not only that, freelancers don’t always earn a lot of money. Sometimes you can pay the bills, sometimes you can’t. It’s a life framed with uncertainty. The famous people succeed and are raised by the media, only because they seem to have it all — they don’t have to endure sitting in an office facing bosses, they get to do what they like, and they also earn money from it. The reason why these examples are so prominent is because they don’t often happen. Sometimes all the struggles and the debts and the insomnia do not lead up to success.
That said, there are jobs that are so bad that it can really be spiritually uplifting to leave them, and in those cases I always recommend to go for it. The worst thing that can happen is to feel stuck in a job that makes you unhappy, because there really isn’t a lot of leisure time we have in a week to reverse it. I’ve been through loads of bad jobs (well maybe not loads, but sufficient) to know that sometimes even staying at home is emotionally healthier than continuing with it. What is important is to follow up with a concrete plan, or even just a schedule, of what to do each day. Having a rigid routine to follow sounds a little pointless, but it makes use of the time and gives you a sense of purpose. And of course, like every normal person, you can envision ways to break out of your own schedule once in a while and rebel against yourself.