Recently I talked about dropping out of the rat race, and why some young people who were doing this had my sympathy. One comment that kept recurring was that they had better not try to drop back in, once they drop out. There was a kind of bitterness to this statement that caught me off guard. The commenters sounded so angry and offended by the idea that someone might want to quit.
It was as if these people commenting were so deeply entrenched within the system that they were afraid of freeloaders! Which is very funny, because it is a system that encourages freeloading! If they don’t like freeloading, they should change the system. A really good system allows people to move in and out freely without exploiting anyone.
Within a lifetime people make many different choices. Dropping out of the employment market might happen when:
- a mother chooses to stay home and raise children.
- a.writer takes time to finish a novel
- an entrepreneur tries to develop a new business
- a scientist takes time to do independent research
- someone who is burned out and tired stays home to recharge batteries
- a sick person works full time on making a recovery
- an older person has decided that he has worked enough, has enough savings to retire and so he does
- a younger person sets out to see the world before embarking on a career
- someone who cannot find a place to work in his own country goes abroad to accept employment
- a young person discouraged by a bad market decides to sit it out till a good job opportunity appears
The possibilities are endless, and in each of these cases, it is really the choice of the person in question whether they want to earn money at a job in their own country or do something else for a while. As long as no one is mooching off anyone else, they don’t need anyone else’s permission. The choice to quit can be permanent, but it also can be temporary. And yes, people can also change their minds.
A mother who thought she wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom may decide that it is really not for her. Or the children may grow up, and she then resumes her career. The writer may finish the novel and go back to work. Or he may experience writer’s block and go back to work. The entrepreneur’s business might start to show a profit, so he will begin to pay taxes again and be back in the system, or conversely, it could go badly, and he will go back to being an employee. I won’t list all the things that could happen for each example, but you get the idea. It is all right to drop out, and it is all right to drop back in. How do people decide? It’s whatever is best for them.
I’ve done it many times myself. After law school, I took a year off to write a novel, before I started my law practice. Nine years into my law practice, I decided to go back to school and get a PhD in linguistics. After that, I could not find an academic position in the US, so I went and worked in Taiwan for three years. Later, I came into some money that enabled me to quit my job in Taiwan, so I came back to US and did ape language research full time. I hoped this would lead to a career success in linguistics, but when it didn’t, I started publishing books and writing online. If tomorrow I get a great job offer, I might be back in the system. What would be wrong with that? Why shouldn’t people make changes in their life and decide what they want to do as they move along from one thing to another?
In a system that is fair, nobody would be afraid that somebody else’s life choices – to work, or not to work – would have anything to do with them. Nobody would say, well if she’s taking time off to be with the kids, she’d better not ever come back to work. Or if his scientific research does not pan out, we never want to see him teaching science 101 around here again. In a system that works, dropping in and out would be understood as normal and right and even helpful to others, as well as oneself.
I believe that when we follow our own internal urgings, it will eventually turn out the best for everyone. And if you have no idea what I mean, then you should re-read “Who are the flowers for”.
Copyright 2013, 2017 Aya Katz
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