You Don’t Have to Go to Work

You don’t have to go to work.
You don’t have to take a boring job, or a frustrating job, or a soul-crushing job.
You don’t need a job at all.

You can read a book, you can ride a bike.
You can wander the world, you can stay put.
You can listen and think and talk and dream.

There are a few things you must do.
You must find meaning, purpose, belonging.
You must feel usefulโ€”and be of genuine use.

You must find your unique way of serving the world.
You must accept challenge, fear, discomfort.
You must do good work.

But doing good work is not the same as going to work.
Serving the world is not being someone’s servant.
Being useful is not being used.

You can choose your challenge, choose your fear, choose your discomfort.
You must choose, in fact.
Otherwise they will be chosen for you.

You have no way of providing everything you need.
Even in the simplest, purest, most untainted societyโ€”you could not do this.
You need us, and we need you.

So you must get goodโ€”at something, anything.
And you must be goodโ€”so we can trust you.
That’s all you have to do.

Get good, be good.
Serve your tiny slice of the world.
Embrace a form of discomfort that others reject.

Find ways to be useful that don’t drive you mad.
If you go mad, you can’t do good work.
If you go mad, it’s hard to be good.

Flee every place that drives you mad.
You can stay and try to reform it.
Or you can vote with your feet.

It starts in school.
If school helps you get good, and be goodโ€”then good.
If not, fly away.

School, like work, is a package deal.
Certain discomforts bundled with certain advantages.
When the deal is good, take the deal.

It can be hard to know when the deal is bad.
Money, grades, status, credentialsโ€”social signals muddy the water.
You’ll know when you start dying.

Take this literally.
Your health declines, your thoughts turn dark.
You don’t know why you get up each day.

Stop right there!
Don’t go to school!
Don’t go to work!

Even if you “must” go, you can stop going, inside.
You can do the minimum required to get by.
You can hatch your plan, plot your escape.

Cut costs, save money, buy time.
Begin with weekends, evenings, early mornings.
Eventually you can buy weeks, months, years.

Use this time to run experiments, to be the mad scientist of your own life.
Explore other sources of belonging, purpose, contribution.
Discover your usefulness, your service, your goodness.

Young people: this means self-directed learning, volunteering, entrepreneurship, creative projects.
Old people: this means self-directed learning, volunteering, entrepreneurship, creative projects.
Why should it be any different?

Each is a little experiment in meaning-making, discomfort-embracing.
Each asks: What is essential? What is good? What can I add?
What is worth doing in my brief time here?

Most experiments fail.
Run enough, and eventually one will work.
This becomes your path through the world.

Instead of accepting the package deal,
Assemble a constellation of experiments.
This is what success looks like.

Success is waking without fear of the day to come.
Success is exhilarating stress, happy exhaustion.
Success is finding yourself by losing yourself.

Success is making someone else’s day better than it otherwise would have been.
Success is contributing to the human project.
Success is being missed if you don’t show up.

Success is feeling spaciousness, having options.
Success is being in control without minding the destination.
Success is doing little that you must, and much because you choose.

A poor person can be more successful than a rich person.
A bad student can be more successful than a star student.
The unemployed can be more successful than the employed.

You don’t have to go to school.
You don’t have to go to work.
You do have to find your way.

And you will.

Written in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Cross-published on Facebook and Notes on Adventure.

Further thoughts about leaving school, here.


Download this poem as a long-form graphic (white on black / black on white) in the style of the Holstee Manifesto.


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