Dream Job and Life Energy

“This is a dream job,” she said. My husband was interviewing her for a post at his organization. dream job

He explained to her that at this workplace, family is a priority so she can set her work hours, leave whenever she has to leave to attend to her family.  She has a two year old daughter and this point especially appealed to her. Work is largely unsupervised and self-directed. She had the chance to confirm this with the other staff members and see the casual work environment with no dress code.

“Aren’t you going to ask me about my strengths and weaknesses?” she asked. My husband was not interested in that. Instead, he talked about the organization’s core values and the woman seemed to be a good fit. She was unhappy at her current job and was looking for a change.

A few days later, she turned down the job because her husband believed she was selling herself short with the compensation. The fact that she can (and is encouraged to) prioritize her family and enjoy a certain level of freedom at work wasn’t valuable enough to make up for a smaller salary.

For four years since my daughter was born, I haven’t had a regular job. I would teach an English class here and there, take on writing projects, and give occasional workshops. For four years, my daughter hung out with me, and so did my son for the first two years of his life, and I brought them everywhere I went. Four years later, I felt that my daughter was ready and eager for the  structure and socialization only a school setting can provide. (In Japan, daycares have programs pretty much like preschools and kindergartens; so I use the terms interchangeably.). There is a public daycare near where we live with a huge play yard and a swimming pool. Every Thursday morning, they open their gates to the public and we would always go there and play. My daughter would watch the other kids with envy, wanting to join their program. The only way she could qualify is if I went back to work.

And so I did. I work three times a week packing spices, teas, and herbs for an organic company. I probably have the most fragrant job in the world. Going to work is like an aromatherapy session.  My favorite stuff to pack are the teas: mango spice tea, orange spice tea, cinnamon spice tea, darjeeling, and earl grey. I feel as relaxed as if I was sipping a cup of tea. It is simple manual work that doesn’t require complex thinking. When I get into the rhythm of packing, I zone out into a meditative state. I get paid the minimum hourly wage of a part-time worker and I think I have a really really good deal going for me.

Here are some of the things I love about my job:

  • I have zero commuting costs. It takes me less than a minute to get to my workplace by walking and I’m never late for work. I don’t need to put my kids in too early in school or get them back too late, which means that I still get to spend a lot of time with them and I don’t need to pay extra for extended daycare hours.
  • I can go home for lunch which means that I don’t spend extra on food — I essentially eat what I would eat if I were at home and not working. During my lunch hour, I can also hang up a load of laundry. In a household with two small kids and one still using washable diapers, it makes a difference to be able to do this.
  • I don’t have to buy special clothes or shoes or accessories for work. I basically go to work in my most comfortable outfit. At work, I don the apron, hair net and mask provided.
  • I am on my feet all day and move a lot which is just wonderful for my lower back and keeping my core engaged.
  • I have a lot of time to think and scheme and plan while packing. As soon as I step out of  my work, I’m eager to launch into my projects.
  • I can take leave whenever I need to and take on additional shifts. I am not irreplaceable since my job is a job anyone can do and I don’t feel bad if I have to leave.
  • I do not take home work, literally or psycho-emotionally. As soon as I step out of the packing room, I have forgotten about work. Nor do I have to prepare for work, except for maybe a mug of coffee that I take with me.  It is a zero stress job.
  • I like the products I’m packing. I like the company I work for. I like the people I work with.

Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin wrote a bestselling book in 1992 Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence. They arrived at this definition for money: Money is something that we choose to trade our life energy for. By life energy, they mean the allotment of time we have here in earth. When we go to our jobs, we are essentially trading our life energy, our limited time, for money.  How much are we trading our life energy for? Or put another way, how much money are we making for the amount of time we work?

Someone might say, well, I work 40 hours a week and make $320 per week so that’s $8 an hour. But it is actually not that simple. There are a lot of other hidden time and monetary expenditures associated with our jobs that we ought to factor in to arrive at our real hourly wage. There are the obvious expenditures; for instance, the time and monetary expenditures of commuting to work. For people who work in Tokyo, an average commuting time of 1 and a half hour one way is usual. So while the company may pay for train fares, that’s still 3 hours a day that needs to be factored into the equation. Then there are the clothing costs — would we wear high heel shoes, suits, or make up if it weren’t the office norm? Then there are the various forms of extra costs in meals — whether it be eating out for lunch or after work with colleagues, or more expensive take-out food for the family dinner because we didn’t have time to cook (or pay someone to do this), or the latte we treat ourselves to because we deserve a break. The less obvious time and monetary expenditures include the things we do to decompress and escape from the stress of work. More work-related costs subtracted from the weekly wage divided by more hours on work and work-related activities results in a much lower hourly wage. An $8 an hour wage may actually become only $4 after factoring everything in. This has implications on spending. A $40 pair of shoes that would have needed 5 hours of work now actually needs 10 hours of work (according to real wages) to pay for it — but that’s for another story.

It’s not all about the money. Years ago, my husband worked one day a week officiating weddings. With just one day’s work, he earns as much as most people do working an entire week or more. The money was surely good but it was not at all a satisfying or rewarding job. There was no room for creativity, innovation, greater accomplishment or fulfillment. He is easily earning much much less right now for the amount of time he puts in.

I wouldn’t say that what I have right now is a dream job but I do appreciate the many good things that come with it. How much are we willing to receive for the kind of work we really want?

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2 responses to “Dream Job and Life Energy

  1. Hi Sheriyn, Claudia sent me this. I remember what it was like when my kids were younger. I think work is pay, but it’s also how rewarding and challenging the work is. I went to a conference recently, and there was a study on NNS women teaching English in Japan, and it was very interesting.

    Kayo Ozawa

    • Thank you for your comment Kayo. There is definitely an aspect to work that fulfills a human need for challenge and accomplishment. It is when we sacrifice certain priorities for a higher wage that’s problematic, I think. I hope you are well! 🙂

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