A Veteran’s Story: I Don’t Want to “Work” Anymore and I’m Tired of Feeling Guilty About It
This post is a guest submission from Amaziah George, founder of State of the Territory News, writer, creative, and entrepreneur.
Every day many of us scroll through our social media in hopes that a post will inspire us, make us laugh, and give us the energy to get out of bed and on our way to our “adult” jobs. Each day is different, but a common occurrence in so many of our daily routines is the feeling that we’d rather be doing something else.
I’ve come to realize in recent weeks that I simply don’t want to work a traditional job and that realization has made me feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. Adults work for a living. Right? It’s the responsible thing to do. So why does working in 2019, even in a field I love, feel so draining?
I’m a disabled Marine Corps Veteran. I have permanent nerve damage in both of my feet, suffer from chronic pain and have a sleeping disorder that I manage using special equipment every night -- naps included. Since 2015, I have not been able to perform in traditional work environments and have been working from home to better manage my health and happiness.
After leaving the Marine Corps, I spent a year out of work doing physical therapy and recovering from my injury. At the time, I was still enrolled at a university and on my way to becoming a high school English teacher. I had a little over a year left before I began my practicum and stepped into my first classroom of students. When the world began to rapidly change in 2016, I flunked out of school hastily. In three months, I had launched an online newspaper based in the U.S. Virgin Islands to shed light on emerging local issues.
Three years later I landed an amazing job that required work that was similar to my online publication. My newspaper was doing fairly well and I was successfully managing and collaborating with a staff of four writers remotely. As good as things were going, I eventually found myself slipping into depression. I began bi-weekly therapy and tried my best to keep up with medical appointments, but as a veteran living in the U.S. Virgin Islands I was required to travel to Puerto Rico frequently for specialty care (Florida would have been the second closest option.)
In an effort to compensate for the time my health care required, my working style has had to transform. I work fewer hours and regularly took days off. My sleeping disorder required me to pause midday for naps in order to remain focused. This routine worked well for some time. My work blossomed, the publication grew.
In the beginning I tried not to feel guilty for taking time off, but that guilt grew over time. I was a high performer and I controlled my own cash flow. My work evolved from simply creating content for readers to completing special projects for clients, local activism and freelance work for newspapers I had forged alliances with. Although I worked with a team, I was still managing many of our day-to-day operations and coordinating with them remotely. Still, this non-traditional work environment allowed me some freedom to balance my life. My full-time job at this point had become a burden on my health, so I decided to resign.
After leaving a traditional work environment, I realized how difficult it had been to do simple things like having a personal life, prioritizing health care, and taking care of my home. As much as you’re promised “work-life” balance, it becomes an almost unreachable goal when you spend the majority of your days working. Now that I work in a non-traditional environment, I find myself able to do simple once-forgotten things: like daydreaming. I read, often. I take time to research topics that intrigue me. I can watch documentaries I enjoy. I’m using this time to explore all the things I forgot I loved. My sales and site traffic have tanked as a result of me pulling back on my schedule, but I feel happy.
At 27 years old, this isn’t the version of adulthood I imagined for myself. Now I have to figure out creative ways to make a living while keeping the balance I have found in recent weeks. The world hasn’t stopped rapidly changing since I noted it in 2016: with climate change, political turmoil, and a number of other conflicts are happening around me, I’ve found my time is needed is elsewhere.
If my relatives read this article, I know that I might be called “lazy.” However, I see my constant effort to research and make my passion useful int his world to be the exact opposite of that. This is work. It may not be the mundane, wearisome, workday that so many of us are used to, but it still requires the physical and mental labor with its own unique set of frustrations. It’s non-traditional, not non-existent.
This newfound balance I’ve found is helping me to realize that I don’t want to “work” anymore if it means sitting within the confines of the traditional definitions of “work.” I’m frustrated and tired of the idea of how we are “expected” to work and make a living; especially when it means that so many of us are unhappy with our work lives, even if we are doing something we find dear to our hearts.
My advice to anyone reading this is to daydream. Take a leap if you think it will make a positive difference in your life and health. The world may label “following your heart” as a lazy, 21st Century wave, but I’m on that wave if it means finding balance, feeling healthy, and being happy.
I’m pursuing my passion in life now, and I don’t ever want to feel like I’m “working” ever again.