For the past 16 months, I’ve had the luxury of working three days a week, often from home. As of Monday this week, I’m officially back in the rat race. Working part time for me means having extra time and energy to spend on things that are a priority to me. The part time dream is one that I think feels unattainable to many people, due to financial commitments that require full time work. Luckily, my tiny house has enabled me to choose part time work that I love, without financial strain.
Over the past year I have had more time to spend with my friends and family. I’ve volunteered, worked on my house, on the garden, on my music and in my community. I’ve worked to set up a meaningful and sustainable lifestyle for myself and I’ve shared my experiences in alternative living to help others do the same. Working part time has provided me with opportunities I will find hard to let go of.
Maybe you’ll wonder why then, I started back in a full time job this week? To be honest, I’m still working through that decision myself.
One thing I know is that despite wanting to slow down, to appreciate my time and health and family and the small joys in life, I am also ambitious. I’m hungry for a new challenge. Working three days a week has allowed me to throw myself into many side projects. It also allowed me to set up my lifestyle to reflect my values – something I was desperate to do and desperately hope won’t be affected by my new job. But I think it is one of the many flaws in our current system, that in order to take on a role with responsibility and to progress in your career, you’re often expected to work full time hours. I took this job because it is a chance for me to grow professionally, to learn, to stay in Gippsland and also increase my opportunities for future employment in an area I’m passionate about. For those reasons, it seemed like a sensible choice.
On the flip side, the full time ongoing aspects of the job I find confronting. Not because I’m fickle, or lack commitment or scared of hard work. But I value my limited time here on Earth. I refuse to be sucked into the notion that I have to spend my days in front of a computer doing something that doesn’t bring me joy just because that’s the way society says things should be. And I’m lucky enough in all the ways that count, to know that I have other options.
Yet, without insurance or a fixed home for the tiny, security is another reason. I know that my financial freedom has more to do with luck and privilege than skill or my hard work (not to discount the hard work of my parents and other family members). I don’t want to take that for granted and I don’t want to live in the insecure margins of society forever. I want to start planning the next steps for the tiny. This will be an ongoing and long term process, but more money certainly opens up those options considerably.
Finally, I don’t see my tiny house as a gimmick or a gamble, or as a home that is only suitable for someone who is willing to forsake modern society. I don’t think it’s extreme to commit to reducing my footprint while working full time. I don’t even think it’s unachievable. I don’t think it’s unrealistic for more people to downsize their house and their lives and still be ambitious, successful, comfortable and happy. I’ll prove it. It’s a big shift for me, moving back into this space. I see it as part of the process of questioning norms, part of the ‘journey’ if you like. Are there ways we can fuse slow, meaningful living with modern Australian society and the roles we’re expected to play? Can I hold onto the lifestyle and person I want to be while committing so much of my time and energy to this job? I guess it’s time to find out.
For anyone accustomed to working full time, these questions and reflections might seem dramatic. For me, it’s important to challenge what’s viewed as ‘progress’ or ‘success’ in our society and what we sacrifice to get there. I do know that there can be positives to full time work as well – new relationships, a sense of pride and satisfaction in your work, personal growth and learning opportunities. As I work through some of my fears and doubts I’m sure the shift will seem less monumental and I will find new and unexpected positives as well. But I also know how easily we adapt and shift our perspectives based on our situations. I don’t want to lose sight of the new ‘normal’ I have created for myself with the tiny: days filled with love, small joys, time and life.