notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Working Just Enough

Years ago I went out to San Diego to attend a wedding.

I had never been to California before.

I think now – at the place I am in my life right now – I would fit in quite well.

But thirty-five years ago, it was quite a shock.

Because I met people who were enjoying themselves.

I couldn’t fathom it.

I met four women who lived together in a rather small apartment. Each worked part-time: waitressing, office work, cleaning houses.

I met a guy and his wife who were caddying at a golf course.

We all went to a Padres game (the first Major League baseball game I ever saw, and I saw a grand slam home run, by the way). All these folks came with us to the game. It was a weekday afternoon. No one I met said, “Sorry, I have to work.”

We went to Tijuana for a little shopping. We went to the beach. We went to the zoo.

No one said, “Sorry, I have to work.”

These folks didn’t have much. They were – in my mind – one shaky step ahead of bankruptcy. They all seemed to work just enough to avoid eviction. They owned a couple of changes of clothes. One or two had a car – an old car. It was a life lived in flipflops and sunglasses.

I have to admit – I was appalled.

I was working my ass off in Connecticut at a fifty-plus hour/week job. I had just finished graduate school while working full time. I had recently been promoted and working towards the next one. I had a decent apartment, no roommate, a late-model car, a closet full of clothes and shoes. I had purchased a dress for that California wedding, but wasn’t sure how dressy the wedding would be, so I bought a second dress – just in case.

One day on this trip, just before the wedding, I was making conversation with the husband of the husband/wife caddy team while he prepared a memorable and deliciously simple dinner, and I remarked at how many people worked only part-time.

“Is the job market really soft out here?” I asked.

“Not really, ” said the husband. “It’s the weather.”

“The weather?”

“Yeah. It’s just about perfect here every day. If you worked all the time, you couldn’t enjoy it.”

“But if it’s perfect every day, you could work more and you would still be pretty sure of having beautiful weather when you got a day off.”

“Ah,” he said. “But why not enjoy it more?”

How lazy was that!

How would he ever get a car?

How would he ever have a nicer apartment?

And what about the latest clothes?

And the satisfaction of a great job and money in the bank?

Where was his ambition?

Why was he living hand-to-mouth, day-to-day?

Why was he not planning for the future?

Why couldn’t he see the big picture?

What a fool he was.

But thirty-five years later –

Now I know.

Because I see the big picture.

He really was living day to day.

He really did have an ambition.

To live day to day.

To live each day.

To live.

What a fool I was.

Dandelion

The San Diego Zoo. One of the only photos from that trip. I have no photos of the people. But the giraffes were enjoying the weather.

 

 

 

57 Comments

  1. Isn’t it amazing how years later we can see what was there in front of our eyes? Nice post Nancy.

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    • Thanks Judith… back then, I was horrified by their lack of ambition…now I envy it.

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  2. I currently work way too much and regret it daily, but there was a worse time. I was working the summer after high school in order to have enough for college tuition in the fall. My girlfriend’s brother asked us on a Wednesday or Thursday, ” Hey do you guys wanna drive up to New York for a concert?” “Nah, we’ve got to work.” It was the Woodstock festival. Life passed me by again because I “had to work.” You’d think I would learn.

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    • Oh, No! Of course, that would have been me too. I graduated from high school the year of Woodstock, and I was so clueless I didn’t even know it was happening until it was over.

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  3. What a difference time and perspective can be make

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good lesson! I would never have been brave enough to do that when I was younger either. Some of us have to wait until we are older to appreciate what really matters. Husband and I retired early to have more free time and have only worked occasionally since and have never regretted it.

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    • I am loving retirement and my lack of deadlines.

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  5. As a native San Diegan – still here and loving it! – I can assure you that some of us worked (past tense… I’m happily retired now) full time. But I think in general we may be a bit more laid back and we certainly enjoy our year-round lovely weather. And, now that the kids are back in school and the tourists are gone, our “real” summer has started. Btw, our zoo looks quite a bit different now… you should come back for a visit.

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    • I think the people I met were a result of the man I was with. He was in his thirties and still drifting through life. I don’t really understand how we were together – me being such a type A – but it didn’t last long.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Barbara Sullivan

    I did that. Lived day to day, enjoying life, stopping to smell the roses, planting gardens, baking bread, raising babies and cocker spaniels. Part time jobs, lots of time off.
    Divorced in my fifties.
    Fired at sixty.
    Disabled at 62.
    Living (struggling) on much reduced social security. (All that time off!)
    Wondering what the hell was I thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s that side of it too. I think finding the right balance is difficult.

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  7. On the other hand – mudslides, forest fires, earthquakes…nothing is perfect all the time…

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    • That is surely true. But 35 years ago, San Diego looked perfect.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I had a similar experience maybe 15 or more years ago when we were near Cancun Mexico. We took a long bus ride into the center of the country to see the ruins, and I watched the villages go by, marveling that people seemed so happy with their tiny house, pig or chickens in the yard, no door, one light bulb hanging in the center of the home. I was working a stressful job at the time (when WASN’T I working a stressful job?) that I hated. I came to envy them their lifestyle.

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    • In my most recent book, the young immigrant from Italy remarks that her family was very poor, but living in the city (New Haven) is hard too – “Even the poor people in my village had a garden. Where is my garden?”

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  9. Palaces is

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  10. cj

    I would be stressed out knowing I had nothing to fall back on if I got sick or needed time off for some reason. Think I’d have to try and strike a balance between hand-to-mouth and overworked. (Ofc currently I’m living hand-to-mouth AND I’m overworked, go figure!)

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    • I think finding the right balance is elusive. I’m not really sorry I worked hard. I just wish I had worked just slightly less hard.

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  11. A great post. I fear I followed another persons agenda, and did not enjoy life nearly as much as I could have. However, I am making up for it in my retirement. Fortunately I’m still reasonably fit and well.

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    • I like to think of my retirement as retirement from deadlines. I love having the time to pursue my passion – or just do nothing.

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  12. It wasn’t until I “retired” (I actually QUIT my job, due to an unmanageable amount of stress – but since I was over 55, I was registered as being “retired”) that I realized how overworked and underappreciated I was. My life now (living in the country; husband also retired) is so much more relaxed and relate-able; I wish I’d done it years earlier (and, yes, the weather in San Diego is nearly-perfect, but wherever you are, you can adjust/adapt to the weather and learn to live a live worth living). A good reminder that pushing yourself to “succeed” isn’t really all that worthwhile. What’s important is enJOYment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is surely true. We really need much less than we think we do.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. mercyn620

    Hindsight is so revealing. But if you enjoy your lifestyle now – be grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true! I don’t think I could have changed back then. I needed all these years to understand.

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  14. I related to this blog, Nancy. As a young woman, wife, mother, teacher it never occurred to me that I should not work M-F and spend a good part of the weekend preparing for the next workweek. It’s just what we did as we knocked hard in the glass ceiling and prepared the way for a better life in the future. Now, at nearly 80, my husband and I are reaping the benefits of those years of hard work. I’m grateful for our retirement, our leisure, our health, and a lifetime of love and friendships. Yes, each day is a blessing – and those who learn that early on are fortunate indeed. It’s not about more more more. It’s about living and loving in the now. Thank you for your thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I enjoyed working hard back then – as I am sure you did in your rewarding profession. But I didn’t understand that other people may feel differently. And now I am loving retirement!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. We have a folk story in India that goes something like this.
    A young man was sleeping off the heat under a large banyan tree one afternoon. A wealthy merchant passing by, stopped, woke up the chap and said “why are you sleeping and wasting your time? At your age, I worked 18 hours a day. Look at me now, I am enjoying my life and resting all I want”.
    “But I am already resting now”, said the chap.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. HI can you like my blog… i need your help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can offer you this advice: Write about what fascinates you, and then tell people a little about what you have written. Get their interest. Don’t just asks for “likes” – give them a reason to like it. Best wishes.

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  17. gargee banerjee

    Its so beautiful,that they understood the beauty of life so early.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree!

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    • I thought they were foolish, but now I wish I had been a little more foolish myself!

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  18. bo

    Reblogged this on Bobbi's Blog.

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  19. You just summed up most of Californian Youth and Up (18+) in the workforce. I’ve never seen it this way, but you’re right. We do think of the Future; of course but, we also like to live in the now 🙂 ever have those Taco Truck Tacos? :)))

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    • I guess Balance is the key. I didn’t have enough of it then, but I’m learning. (and I don’t think there were taco trucks back then…. but I did have some wonderful Mexican food, prepared by some very relaxed people.. like the guy in my story.)

      Liked by 1 person

  20. It’s amazing how people learn when they get to a particular stage in life.
    meanwhile check this out
    commonafricangirl.com

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  21. Working is e medium not an objective

    Liked by 1 person

  22. this has inspired me, good read

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, it’s a tricky subject because it involves lifestyle choices. I would have been like you, thinking that they are crazy! One step ahead of bankruptcy? No, thanks! So, instead I shoot down the middle. I found a job that allows me to provide for my family AND gives me space to go out and play.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are right I think it is your choice and what you decide but work pays for vacation and the things you need.

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    • Finding a balance that works for you is the key to satisfaction with your profession, I think. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  24. I can understand both ways of thinking, especially if kids are involved and one must stay ambitious to save for college, etc. On the other hand, what an inspiring read for all to take in and to realize to enjoy the little things more often which can actually be the big things.

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    • Thanks. It’s true that sometimes you just have to buckle down and do what needs to be done – for your family or yourself.

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  25. Pam

    Like Margo above, I recently “retired” at age 62 from my job which had become impossibly stressful. I had planned to work 4 more years until full retirement age, and I would have if things at work had not changed. If I had been younger, I would have had to buckle down, suck it up, and endure the stress, but I had options. Our house is now paid for, I can get social security, and I have a modest retirement. I could have had more for retirement if I’d stayed, but good lord, I’ve work my ass off all of my life doing things for other people. This time I did what was right for me: I retired! I was rather shocked at myself because that was uncharacteristic of me, but enough is enough. It has been so freeing not to get up at 5:45 every morning. No more rushing around trying to beat the clock and then sitting at a desk for 8 hours doing what I’d rather not do, then back into the 5 o’clock traffic to rush home and do it all over again the next day. I’m no longer a rat in the ratrace and it’s totally freeing!!! I’m loving it!!!

    I don’t think I could have slowed down and enjoyed life more when I was younger and working. Bills have to be paid and children have to be raised. Now I’m finally in that happy place where I can relax and enjoy and do what I want to do when I want to do it. Sometimes I have plans; sometimes I just let the day unfold.

    More time, enjoyment, and peace in exchange for less money? YES! Blessed to be living and loving in the now.

    Thanks for your wonderful post! Loved all the comments, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment – which is absolutely true! We do what we need to, and I did too. But I enjoyed the pressure and craziness too for a long time. I wish I had found the balance a bit sooner than I did, but I’m there now. And like you, I’m loving it.

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  26. I think that this story is the greatest story ever. I agree

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I love this. I understand now, too. In fact, my goal is to live like that one day and move back down south. I so desperately need to stop and enjoy the weather! Lovely story!

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    • Thanks. One thing I have noticed in my retirement – I love getting up early to walk the dog, when I hated getting up when I was working. Because now I am not in a rush, and I can appreciate how lovely the mornings are.

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  28. There is that old saying about the French and European life and ‘American way of life’. Americans say: “We live to work”. The French/Euros say: “We work to live”. Now mind you in both Italia et France this could mean 3-4 hr lunch meetings at one of the best/classiest restaurants…’this is life’.

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    • Very true! I had a job years ago that included business in Paris once a year. I have had those three-hour lunches! With wine! Heavenly!

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  29. Even at my younger age, I understand living day to day, sometimes I need to be reminded, but whats the point of living for the unknown? It has to be a good balance…… This is a wonderful reminder

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    • Thanks. and yes, try for a balance. Work hard but make sure you have time to recharge your batteries (your soul, that is).

      Liked by 1 person

  30. I think I would like your California of 35 years ago. We live day to day now struggling pretty much the way you saw it. Not by choice, however, so it would be nice to be able to do it in nicer weather. 😉

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  1. Working Just Enough — notquiteold – JZ The Other Side

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