Can I continue being “off the hook” and work part time?
Now that I’ve re-entered the workforce working about 10-15 hours a week, the question I labored over before accepting the position was whether I could remain “off the hook” and work at the same time.
When I started blogging ”off the hook” nearly five years ago, I quoted William Whyte who defined ”off the hook” as being able to return to one’s true nature, to focus on what to do with one’s (personal) life. I’ve written about this identity issue in plenty of blog posts.
Being off the hook means molding a new life with time on my hands and little structure to start. I have structured my days and nights with some new volunteer pursuits and activities and interests that I could only dream about while working full time and driving about 500 miles a week (often in traffic).
What else does it mean to be ”off the hook”?
To be ”off the hook” means many things: setting my own schedule. It means not driving to and from work, sitting in status meetings nor rushing around in a frenzy to get out the door when its still dark, cold and early in the morning. It means setting my own pace and filling the day with pursuits that are self-fulfilling and for the good of others. I still have responsibilities and obligations but it’s entirely different now.
Being ”off the hook” is setting my own schedule and having a sense of freedom. It’s doing my own thing, researching and writing and producing material, some of which contributes to a larger goal shared by others. It means not worrying about a presentation nor playing office politics. It means not putting on a face when personal matters are bothering me. (Because shit still happens in retirement. But at least I don’t have to go into the office and say everything’s fine, when it isn’t).
I can wake up when I wake up. I can go to sleep when I’m ready.
I can volunteer, try new things, I can go once and if it doesn’t feel right, I can take a break, without any repercussions. I can volunteer and cook lasagna for a family in need. I can donate time and money to causes I believe in.
But the truth is while retired I missed not working. I missed marketing and secondary research, writing, and learning new things about life sciences, resources and what others did with their lives. I missed not getting paid. I will fess up here: when my monthly college news magazine arrives in the mail, I typically first turn to the Obituaries to see what alumnae have done with their working lives, before and during their retirement, how they are remembered, what they enjoyed doing with their spouse or families, their reflections on life and purpose. I look at cause of death and age too and I’m reminded that this is my life and my time. Whatever I’m doing is not going to last for very long. I may be off the hook, but for how long? How can I make it purposeful for myself and others and our planet? Can I make a lasting impression or inspire others to do so?
So before I signed up for part time work, I decided to re-examine causes I want to contribute to: climate emergency, saving democracy, examining police misconduct. I want to build greater awareness and become a better person too, for myself and my loved ones. I want to help those who have less than myself, while being easy on myself too.
So after much deliberation, I decided to take the opportunity to re-enter the workforce. I’m using many of the skills I honed in my career, and am re-invented as one whose searching and sourcing talent for a laboratory engineering firm. I’m working remotely and on my own.
When off the hook I’m able to reflect on how grateful and fortunate I am. There are so many things that can go wrong or could go wrong, and I’ve been able to dodge them or not fall victim to them. And while I’ve made mistakes, I have been able to bounce back. I can breathe and see things more clearly now (sometimes). I know more about what really matters and what does not, and what I can do about it or not. That too is what being off the hook allows me to do. I am lucky.