08 April 2011

The Delicate Balance Between Happiness and Survival

I started this post yesterday while I was at work. It had a different title and I was only going to speak to the fact that I'd done my first dawn patrol session of the season.

But I spent much of yesterday realizing that I just can't do "it". As much as we need the money, or so I thought, I need my life back and my child needs his mom back. The bottom line is that none of us is happy with me working this job. It's not just that this is the worst job I've ever had. And that it is. My absence from the house has upset the balance of our little world. I'm not happy. The kid's not happy. Hell, I know even the dog is a little put out by the fact that I'm gone all day. This is when I start feeling torn, pulled in all directions. The money is good, yes. The quality of life for all of us as a result? Not so much.

Therein lies the rub. Do you stay because doing so will ensure your survival, at least in terms of getting food on the table and the bills paid? Or do you go, knowing that happiness is something money can't buy? The more I think about it, the more I see all of this clearly. When I'm barely employed, my family is basically happy. My child loves having me at his disposal (for food, love and, most important, emotional support). I love being barely employed. I can do my thing--mom, surfer, unpaid writer, skater, ne'er-do-well and gad about the ocean. And my thing makes me happy.

Is happiness enough of a reason to go against all that we're taught as Americans about how we're supposed to live our lives? You're supposed to go to work, striving ever harder to make as much money as you can. And all of those bright and shiny things we dangle in front of your faces? Your hard earned dollars are supposed to go toward the conspicuous consumption of those things. But I'm not a conspicuous consumer. I don't have a giant TV, a new car, an iPhone, expensive clothes or even expensive tastes. I'm not interested in getting ahead of the next guy or gal. I don't see it as a race to the top because, really, what is everyone racing to the top of?

In trying to come to terms with the decision I'm making about this job, I now see that I'm doing what's best. It's not what's financially best, but it's what will keep us all smiling in spite of worries about paying the bills. Right now, I can pay the bills, but I am in misery five days a week. I want to be stronger. I'd like to think I'm strong enough to withstand the misery. Sadly (which is something my kid says all of the time and it's hysterical to hear that nonchalantly coming out of his mouth as he discusses his day), I am weak when it comes to making money. I feel no pull towards the dollar. Perhaps that makes me a Communist or a rasta--I was going to say "hippie", but "rasta" seemed a better choice.

We will not starve. That is certain. I can't say what the future holds in terms of our abilities to pay other bills, but I'd bet we'll muddle through just like we did before I took this job.

Before I go, I'm going to post this for posterity. I put it on a private blog that I share with some other surfers. I'm going to post it here for me. I will look at it whenever I need a reminder of why I quit. These reviews, about my current place of employment, came from glassdoor.com:

"No parking on site.
Salary is very low compared to comparable positions at other companies.
A lot of time is wasted on finding who to blame instead of fixing the issue."

"Management is disorganized, rude, disrespectful, overly-demanding, and does not recognize a job well done. Operations systems are from the stone-age. Training does not exist. Worst of all, they screwed up my tax forms, making me have to pay instead of receiving my expected refund. When I called corporate to figure out what happened, they had the nerve to tell me it was my fault and that I need to take it up with my tax preparer! I cannot stress this enough; DO NOT WORK FOR XXXX!!!!"

"very low pay, company don't recognize you for your hard work; they only see your success through your manager, poor communication within company, constantly messing up your pay check, constant last minute update and they expect you to participate, will not give employee a pay raise "because they comp. is in a pay raise freeze" BS! been like that for the last 3yrs! rarely promote from within, hire management from outside but has poor training so your sales associate has to "help train" new manager in."

"I made a big mistake by leaving my job at a good company thinking XXXX would be a good opportunity.
Real life Devil Wears Prada management style is shocking.
Extremely disorganized; the company lacks resources and structure you would expect a big fashion brand like XXXX would have.
To top it off, the location is in Vernon- a very industrial area next to a slaughter house.
There is no parking on site so you have to wait for a shuttle or walk to your car (which is scary at night).
For the most part morale at company is very low.
Turn over is extremely high."

"WARNING FOLKS: GET YOUR PENS OUT and take notes. One thing you need to be aware of on day one... is THE EXECUTIVE OFFICE (need I say more). In my 20+ plus years in business, I have never seen a company sooooo dysfunctional, and soooo poorly managed, it's absolutely pathetic. It starts out at the top and never gets better. And the word here is "denial" but I'm not sure what's worse... the politics and ego stroking that goes on or those who allow it to occur in the first place. In any case, the bathrooms are disgusting and parking situation is nothing short of inspirational. While Vernon can be a tough place to work at times, and doesn't really cater to a 9-5 white collar office crowd, it's has some great hole in the wall eateries, though. I think the most disappointing (besides not paying it's damn bills) aspect of my short lived career at XXXX is this: Management really doesn't care about their employees or what happens day to day, how you feel or what kind of example it sets for itself. And as long as you know this, you've probably already started looking for your next job..."

After reading those, I was just glad I never invested much energy in this place. I was just there for a paycheck. And even that paycheck wasn't enough to keep me there. The one thing I did love about the place was many of the people I worked with or near; I will truly miss them. Good luck to all of those who stay there. You're going to need it!

Now if I can just get my email to work, as I sit here at my desk, I can send the note to HR telling them I'd like today to be my last day. (Yes, it's the final day of the pay period. That's how I roll!)


At 4/8/11, 12:34 PM, Blogger harmless neighborhood eccentric said...

You are my hero!

At 4/8/11, 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Up until recently I was employed by a company whose dysfunction and disrespect of employees was probably at least as bad as what you describe. It took me three and a half years to work up the courage to leave. In my "spare" time at that hell hole, I would read your blog and feel so envious of your freedom and time to surf and write what you wanted. Ironically, I read here that you took the editorial job just about the time I quit. I wondered how you would fare. I'm so much happier, and I'm betting you will be too. Although I have no idea what I will do next, I know it won't be sitting under florescent lights and suffering fools.

At 4/8/11, 4:59 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

Sounds like you made the right (and sane) choice. Trust that you're not alone in feeling this way. I have to admit that I'm way more of a wage slave than I'd like to be, and as a result I live a long way from the ocean. In order to keep a glimmer of stoke in my life, I build boards in my garage and then ride them like 1x per year... Good on ya for having the courage to follow your bliss.

At 4/9/11, 2:22 AM, Blogger MF said...

Completely unsurprised. Yes, life is miserable if you are hungry or stressed about paying the mortgage, but what's the point of being being miserable with money?

At 4/9/11, 3:50 AM, Anonymous Josh Aggars said...

Good on you!! Don't be a slave to money if its not your calling. There's so much more to life. I used to be in a really well paid job and ended up in a huge period of depression because I felt I'd sold my soul. I couldn't live with myself so I left. Ever since I've struggled to earn a decent wage but I tell you I've never been happier.

If you've got the love of your son and freedom of the soul (damn even I sound like a hippie now!) then that is more important than money. So long as you can afford food and rent there's little more you need.

I do not regret for a second leaving my job and I hope you'll feel the same about yours. Life is not a rehearsal. Enjoy it!

At 4/9/11, 6:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can say is who needs morning coffee when you can read the Surfsisters's blog! Thank you for being one of the brave ones who takes that first awkward step towards what is right in life! Trying to do what is right for you and your family is difficult to so many others who see a turn away from the corporate ladder as a ding in your reflection! Anyone who gets close enough to the ladder sees it for what it really is. While they may appear shiny and polished on the outside inside they are nervous and torn. I have seen it again and again in so many different circles when the one strays from the group of "civility" and they can only see you as one of the sad ones! Hardly I say! Each day is no doubt precious and should be treasured whether you are alone or are with a family. There are certain values in life that must be taught like staying out of debt, avoiding insane mortgages, and building a savings on the side. Somewhere out there is a job or a place for you that will click. I think this is how a lot of small businesses get started.

The solitude in life exists in the quiet free world where money has no reign. That solitude has always been the ocean and I can say that as far back as I can remember from my childhood. The things that matter most in our lives should never be associated with a price tag. Thank you for your inspired post this morning. I wish you the best of luck on your new journey. I will close with this famous quote:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
— Mark Twain

At 4/9/11, 2:46 PM, Blogger Surfing Grandma of OC said...

Ha.. I was once told. THE reason I do not have any money, was because I did not care enough about it. I would not say I dont "care" about it..Just not and never will be high on my priority list!! SOUNDS like you feel the same way! Yet I work at a place where the mighty dollar is what drives this place and the gossip and who has what.. sometimes is like nails on a chalkboard to me.BUT at least most of the peeps who work here are pretty genuine and not all of the people I associate with are in that category of materialistic gossips. SO that helps..keeps me here till what I really want to do comes along.. AND I have no idea what that is. I wish I could just focus on my surfing skills..BUT not a reality for me at the time. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU! GOOD JOB MY FRIEND! ... I bet you feel so liberated right now.. Stuff and things you need will come. YOUR sanity,and your family is way more important! I am sure Soul Brother #1 and #2 feel the same way! That is what matters most!

At 4/11/11, 5:41 PM, Blogger Jan said...

Hi Surfsister, I always love your blog but this entry and the Mark Twains quote in Rad Surfing Moms comment has changed my life today! My decision is made. My procrastination is over. Synchronicity! Thankyou. Goodluck to both of us. Jan

At 4/12/11, 10:14 AM, Blogger C-Dub said...

Great post SS. I too have struggled with those exact feelings. I am currently faced with the same choice. Work is slow, no money coming in. Thank goodness for my Wife having a good job with health care but the guilt of not eing able to provide is killing me. Maybe this is defferent for Men?

I will most likely become a "wage Slave" and a non surfer...I will think of you often then, riding a few for those that can not anymore.....

At 4/12/11, 10:23 AM, Blogger Surfsister said...

You know, before I had a child, I had difficulty staying at jobs, but I could usually hang on for a year or two. The presence of a child in the house meant the choice was even more difficult since I had to think about how the decision would ultimately affect him. Now that I'm home, it's obvious that all he wants is his mom's presence, both literally and figuratively. Money will now become a serious issue once again. Happiness will not. It's going to be tough. I know this. But as long as this kid is deliriously happy (and he is now that his mom is back) and well-adjusted, that's what matters most in my life right now.

At 4/12/11, 5:08 PM, Blogger goofykook said...

Time for a session, Sister. I'm still searching for work, and have been enjoying my unpaid sabbatical. On the other hand, the bucket is getting empty and I have to put something in it soon. I'm screening all possible jobs against "can surf dawn patrol," and "can have dinner with family." Maybe those bars, which seem pretty reasonable, will prove too high for corporate America. We have chemo this week, but I'll ping you when things are smooth.

At 4/12/11, 5:13 PM, Blogger Surfsister said...

Oh, yes!! We need a session soon! Let me know when you want to paddle out! Be well!

At 5/25/11, 7:41 AM, Blogger El Meezy said...


Long time lurker, first time commenter. First off, thank you for your congratulations to me on jamboards (I'm El Meezy over there too)concerning the birth of my second child which was almost two months ago.

I've enjoyed your blog because it reminds and keeps me connected to my time in LA. By the way Sister, if you think the water gets cold out there? Try New England.

I digress.

Your above post struck a chord as I have always wrestled with the work time vs play time conundrum and generally found that the balance in my life in that regard needs to improve. It's the reason that I've been pondering entering the teaching field. More time with my sons and hopefully more time in the water coupled with the notion of doing something truly worthwhile.

In any case, it's never easy making these decisions and it's cool that you did. You need to stop making me jealous with all those board purchases, though.

All the best.

Daniel aka El Meezy

At 5/25/11, 4:37 PM, Blogger Surfsister said...

Thanks for finally commenting, El Meezy! And you and I both know that I will never stop with the board purchases. Thankfully, I do sell boards as I buy others. The only problem now is that my quiver is great and I don't want to part with anything. I just want to add to it. In fact, I have yet another pig coming very soon. And I still want a Pendoflex.

I'm now underemployed and as happy as I can be. Right now I work twice a week. I go for an interview tomorrow for a job that I would work from home. I no longer want a full-time job unless it comes with the title of "Mommy". My child will only be young for a relatively short period. I want my quality time to go to him, not to some company that just needs me to help it make money. The money, in the grand scheme of things, is almost useless in my life. I need enough to pay the bills. What I want, really, is to be free. I've now officially chosen to opt out of the American Dream. And . . . I'm fine with that decision.


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