Having a job, if you’ve a brain in your nut, isn’t much fun. It’s boring, demeaning and disconnected from your personal values. But you know this. You’re an idler. As long as there are rivers to fish or clouds to admire, you’ll never be satisfied with a life of alarm clocks, dimwit managers and machine-vended sarnies for lunch every day.
Unless you happened to catch me during a period of wanting to be a hot air balloonist, my childhood response to “what do you want to do when you grow up?” was usually “I don’t want to do anything!” Leaving your spirograph at home to go off to work every day didn’t seem like a good deal to me. And the adults would say: “We all have to do things in life we don’t want to do.”
Well, yes. We do. We sometimes have to go the toilet at inopportune moments. We have a duty to join the backs of queues instead of cutting in. We must refrain from poking our fingers into wild animal enclosures, no matter how much we might want to. But some of the unpleasant things we think are necessary are perfectly avoidable. It may even be beneficial not to do them.
We do not, for example, have to go to work if we don’t want to. If you dislike your job (as most of us do, if the surveys are accurate) you might be better of without it. There’s evidence that work kills – and if this is not true, it’s certainly boring.
You are free. You have a high degree of agency. Nobody has a right to decide your actions but you. If you liked, you could simply – without explanation – decide not to go to work tomorrow. In fact, I urge you not to. You deserve a day off even if you decide against making a life of it. If you end up regretting the decision, simply go back the next day with an excuse and an apology and your colleagues will have forgotten about it all by lunchtime. Tell them you had the squits. Didn’t they get the voicemail?
You are free. If you liked, you could push away from your desk as soon as you’ve finished reading this, walk out of the building with a mysteriously regal air and never come back. People will be intrigued.
RESPECTABLE LONDONER WALKS OUT ON PRESTIGIOUS SALES JOB, DECLINES INTERVIEW, COLLEAGUES BEWILDERED.
I may be joking slightly but you really could do that. You could even organise a flash mob with your workmates and leave the office vacant and adrift like the Mary Celeste. That would be brilliant. It might even catch on and become a trend.
If, however, you’re a more reasonable person or have moral responsibilities preventing immediate workplace abandonment, there are any number of highly respectable escape routes. Here are three:
1. Financial Independence
How much money do you think you need to retire while you’re still young? A lottery rollover? A jackpot? Four balls? There’s no need to assume such impossible numbers. By sitting down and calculating your expenses from this month until the month you’d normally expect to retire (or expire using deathclock.com) you’ll see how much you need to buy your unending freedom. It may be surprisingly modest. Once you’re over this shock, you’ll be able to plan accordingly: how to gain this sum of money as quickly as possible – by working, investing, or by replacing expenses with cost-free idle pleasures. It’s in your hands to bring the date of retirement closer.
2. Tolerable Toil
There are many ways to earn a living without resorting to the dread of full-time employment. Self-employment – never having a boss again – is perhaps an ideal. When we think of the perfect job, we’re not usually under the cosh of an idiot employer. If you’re not cut out of for self-employment, part-time work at least means being half liberated from wage slavery. Temp work has many advantages too and if you spin the story of a chain of temp jobs correctly, your CV can give the impression of a highly creative portfolio career.
3. Cottage Industry
You could learn from idle idol William Morris and set up your own working practice. It’s self-employment by another name, I suppose, but the term “cottage industry” imbues a sense of craftsmanship and personal responsibility, highlighting the romance and truth of “small is beautiful”. Cottage industry allows us to see the value of our work and, often, to benefit from the polished result.
This is just the beginning. Three perfectly respectable escapes from work. They’re so respectable that even your dimwit colleagues and cautious relatives will have heard of them, so you won’t seem like a subversive radical if you enact them. If you don’t mind being seen as a subversive radical there are, in fact, many more escapes from work. And then there are escapes from other depressing areas of modern life: escape from bureaucracy, debt, consumerism, pollution, noise, stress, lethargy. All is explained in the forthcoming idler-friendly book, Escape Everything!
About the Author
Robert Wringham is a writer and performer who lives in Glasgow and Montreal. He’s the editor of New Escapologist, a small-press magazine for working stiffs with escape on the brain. The magazine, now in its tenth issue, has seen contributions from Alain de Botton, Richard Herring, Ewan Morrison, Tom Hodgkinson, Leo Babauta, Luke Rhinehart and other prominent citizens in support of the good life.
Wringham’s first book, You Are Nothing, was published in 2012 by Go Faster Stripe and is a history of Dadaesque comedy troupe Cluub Zarathustra featuring Stewart Lee, Roger Mann and Simon Munnery. As an essayist, he’s written for the Idler, Playboy, HiLoBrow, the British Comedy Guide, Splitsider and a hundred other magazines and websites. As a humourist he writes about the minutiae of modern life, and as an “Escapologist” he writes about the larger mechanisms of the same modern life. A devastating wealth of his ridiculous stuff can be found at wringham.co.uk.
Robert is crowd-funding his book Escape Everything through Unbound, and Idler readers get a free fiver towards every pledge. To learn the secrets of escapology and pledge for your own copy, and get five pounds off, head to http://unbound.co.uk/books/escape-everything , and use the code “idlehands”.