Living to Work

May 14, 2009

This past weekend one of my husband’s co-workers passed away.  He was in his 50’s, in seemingly good health and fit.  It made me think of all the professionals I know that spend 10 or more hours a day, not including their commute, in the prime of their lives (their 30’s) and the youth of their children’s lives, at an office away from their families.  Many miss important milestones hoping that some day, all their hard work will pay off and some day they will have time to relax, travel and experience fun.  Some day typically means retirement.

I have to ask…… why?  At the end of the day, the golden years often aren’t very golden.   In fact, if we are lucky enough to make it to retirement, not having been stopped by the two biggest killers in the US  heart disease or cancer, we will likely not have the energy or the money to just do what we want.    Why wait until our kids have kids to enjoy spending time with a child? 

I say work less now, pare down expenses to live on less, take time out for our children now while they are young and developing, take time to travel now while you can enjoy the experience without fear of health issues and fixed incomes weighing on your minds. 

I hate to break the bad news but you can’t bank time and experiences to be saved up and used when you are ready for them.  You either live now….or you don’t.

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Downsizing

November 2, 2008

Last week I caught up with several friends from high school, people I haven’t seen in almost twenty years! It is surreal to chat with someone whom, in your head, is still seventeen but, in reality, is a practicing attorney, an elected official, or a triage nurse at a children’s hospital. 

One friend in particular inspired me to think about my own life and the choices I make.  This friend left a fast-paced, probably well paying, law firm in a large city to move back to our home town to spend more time with family, or just have more time.  I admire the guts that move took.  It is obvious an attorney will earn far more working in a large urban firm than being partner in a firm in a town of two thousand.  It is easy to let that financial knowledge and quest to have more be the sole decider of your fate.

Let’s forget the fact that I am now old enough to have spent my formative years with people who are now either prosecuting or defending capital murder cases – and think about what my friend gained.  While he is currently working on a significant case that involves a great deal of time, he still has control over what cases he takes, how many cases he takes and where he takes them. 

Many of us that continue in the urban grind do so because of our children and their education. It is no question that many suburban or upper class urban schools have far better resources, more money and incredible parent involvement than small town schools, giving our children an “edge” in higher education.  But I wonder at the cost. My child is lucky, his mom works from home and while his dad has a demanding job, he works with a family friendly firm.  Many kids at our son’s school aren’t so lucky.  They go to outside care before school, after school and see their parents for a few hours a day so their parents can work in their, granted high paying, demanding jobs so they can send their kids to the “best” schools.

I think back to my own education.  It was lacking, to be sure.  My husband and I were not as prepared for university as some of our higher ed classmates.  But still, we both went on to be professionals.  While some of our classmates continue to toil in small jobs, many went on to become doctors, lawyers, dentists, nurses, teachers, writers, lobbyists and other professionals.  So it couldn’t have been that bad.

I think my friend may have found the modern day equivalent to Thoreau’s Walden.  I don’t know if I would do it, but he has my full admiration.  And has made me take a moment to pause and wonder…what if.

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