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Working Holiday

The interesting side has less people.
Could you treat work as a travel destination?

I was raised to understand a career to be something built, milestone by milestone, reflected in a growing Rolodex and resume. In fact, I tend to ignore networks and culture.
I invest myself personally in work but unlike my ideal worker, have no trouble burning bridges. I push back when asked to learn things relevant only to the organisation. I conflate personal territory with the team's.

I entered IT in the mid '90s because it meant that I would be more likely to have access to, if not control over, the workplace internet. I balked at any attempt to fetter the internet and spent much company time circumventing those restrictions because I believe that only with control over my environment can my technical adroitness innovate for the organisation. The risk-off culture following the dot-com crash so strangled IT freedom and advancement that there was no reason to stay. Now that performance scrutiny has crept in under the guise of accountability, I am even more glad to be out. With private internet so accessible, there is even less incentive to spend time at work.

Given my upbringing, it is no surprise I feel terribly guilty for failing to construct a professional brand. In fact, if and when I re-enter the workforce, I will likely have to start over. Just as I did with careers in Law, education, and a second stint in IT. The thought of my fortress career being in reality a series of sand castles to be washed away by capricious tides thus pains me. But why should it, when it is the combined actuality of life as is and my innate approach to it?

What if I have been subconsciously treating work as a travel destination instead? That quite fits. I holiday widely, and consistently gravitate towards maximising novelty, autonomy, and budget. I go to great lengths to avoid commitment or expense. Although I have made a few life-long friends, I generally don't keep in touch with colleagues and fellow travelers. I like what I like and I go apeshit on TripAdvisor when it is refused.

And here's the important part: I have little inclination to re-visit places, and even less inclination to re-visit crowded tourist traps.

Immigration at Amsterdam's Schiphol was a Victoria's Secret of a blonde who beamed as she welcomed me to the Netherlands. Heathrow's was an Indian Yoda who perused my passport under her bifocals before scowling, “For why you are come to London?” I intend to visit neither place again, and if people were to tell me that because I saw Europe several times as a backpacker I should work towards seeing it as a business traveler, I would consider that absurd.

Back to job-hunting, why should I re-experience the waiting, traveling, and other humiliating trials if there is little chance I will be delighted? Especially since the corporate world has become more Heathrow than Schiphol. To some, strict gatekeepers are a sign of a place's exclusivity. To me, they are simply a turn-off. Until work can again readily provide something as novel as the internet, it loses out in the cost-benefit for my tourism dollars. Jobless-stan is more hospitable than Employmentica for the moment.

That is not to say that avoiding employment is easy. Just like a true life of adventure, it requires boldness, sacrifice, endurance, and luck. A flexible perspective is also important, and this piece is as much an exercise of outlook as it is a communication.

It may also finish off any remaining bridges I set alight and bar others forever. So be it. We can't always be meek pilgrims, practising the local 'pleases' and 'thank yous' from our audio-guidebooks during take-off. Sometimes we must be the alien louts the beach disgorges into holding cells.

Am I using delusion to justify selfishness? I prefer to think of it as re-framing perspective to quash guilt. I should not feel bad for abandoning the organisational ladder when continuing to struggle would be akin to disputing an overstayed visa in a hostile country. I need not be hooked in by peers' tales of politics and promotions in the same way I have little time for Instagram shots of tiny meals in distant yet ubiquitous chain hotels.

Employment: It was a nice place to visit, but I'm glad I don't live there.


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