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.”
“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.
What a fool I was.