All My Days

Last week, I turned down a job as an office manager/bookkeeper for a lovely nonprofit. I agonized about the decision for at least a week. Almost everything about the position checked all the boxes: great, positive people; beautiful work environment; a position where I would be supported and could learn new things; flexibility of time after several months in the role; amazing, mission-driven environmental organization. ALL the boxes except one – financially feasible. Ugh.

Yes, it’s true that working for a nonprofit generally equates with earning a lower wage rate. And, this place was paying the going rate for the position. I may have more to say on that in another post. But, what made it infeasible was its distance – 36 miles away. That means a 45 minute to one hour drive each way, in traffic, each day not to mention the cost of gas and wear and tear on my car! Because lunch was unpaid and a 40 hour work week required, the time invested would have been from 8 am to nearly 7 pm, 5 days a week. That doesn’t even factor the time you spend getting ready for work and prepping meals.

Yeah, yeah … I know. “Whine whine whine,” you’re saying. Most people live this, do this; some with longer commutes. And many, I would guess, do this with lower paying jobs. I honestly can’t wrap my head around this. How? And … why?

What, I wondered, is my time worth? At what point does paying the bills (and this pay rate wouldn’t have allowed me to break even) offset what you sacrifice in life balance? Ok. Let’s even throw “balance” out the window. What about quality of life?

But, I’ll be honest. I would have temporarily sacrificed balance, quality, time, all that, if the numbers worked out and I knew that I would eventually stop having to draw from savings to make ends meet. I wanted to work there. Everything about the place was and is amazing. But the fact of the matter is that wage rates in this country have not risen to account for cost of living in even the most basic sense. The baseline is too low to make what would’ve been an unending sacrifice. That whole can of worms is a discussion for another time. Sadly, the years it would’ve taken to reach that break-even point may have put me into my retirement years.

Many a road, you know
I’ve been walking on
All of my days
And I’ve been trying to find
What’s been in my mind
As the days keep turning into night

Making the decision to say “no, thank you” lifted a burden off my shoulders. The entire process of crunching the numbers, considering the costs versus the benefits (I was a business student,           ya know!), and struggling with the frustration brought on a large amount of anxiety. That anxiousness was on top of the everyday concern that I really do need to get a job, or make enough somehow, to stop drawing from my dwindling savings. Yet, I know I’m blessed. I have financial means to fall back on. My worry is not that great.

What about the hundreds of San Diegans I see with two-hour work commutes, each way, every day? How are they not just sitting in a cesspool of anxiety as they sit in unending traffic, knowing that their incomes just barely support their lifestyles? What about the time, an irretrievable commodity, they sacrifice away from family, friends, healthy activities, and anything else that fills their hearts? It is no wonder that people suffer from anxiety disorders now more than ever. You want numbers? “About one in five Americans cited unemployment and low wages (22 percent), and climate change and environmental issues (21 percent) as issues causing them stress. (APA, Nov. 2017)” Money and work are among the top three most common sources of stress, in fact. (I’ll add the infographic link at the bottom.)

Many a road, you know
I’ve been walking on
All of my days
And I’ve been trying to find
What’s been in my mind
As the days keep turning into night

Why do I bring this up? Because this freaks me the fuck out! I worry about the future of our nation (which, btw, is the number one most common source of stress) and the people in it. And, it’s obvious I’m not alone. This … THIS is a huge reason I’m building an organization that addresses anxiety disorders. We want to teach people how to be less anxious using nature therapy as the main modality. Nature is free and readily available. Interacting with nature chills us out and leads to creating deep connections. Those connections we have with nature and each other make us more compassionate, loving beings. I would guess compassionate bosses are more likely to pay an actual living wage (a bit of sarcasm here), therefore, less stress/anxiety, better life balance, etc. You see? There are so many ways this can go that are cyclical and beneficial.

Time really is an irretrievable commodity. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And, I made the decision last week to spend the time I would’ve been sitting in traffic to building something that will benefit everyone. It’s called Earth Connect. I hope you’ll check it out.

www.earth-connect.org

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/11/lowest-point.aspx

 

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