Work =/= Happiness

June 23, 2009  |  Personal

There’s a few things I think I will never truly understand about Americans, despite being one of them myself.  One of those things is the way we equate working more with having a better life.  Frankly, that isn’t always the case.

Last night Marc’s mother (who is actually French, but has some rather American attitudes sometimes) asked me about how my job search is going.  I told her that I had discovered several dog-walking organizations that are looking for walkers, and that the pay was very good.  The jobs are 4-6 hours a day, M-F, and pay in a range of $16-18/hr.  For me, that’s perfect, as it allows me to have my weekends free for reenactments, allows me to have my evenings free for other activities (or even a second part-time job), and yet still pays me the same amount (or more) than I’d get if I were working a more “normal” job.  ESL teaching here is generally about 30 hours a week but only pays about $10/hr, surprisingly (at least at the level I’m qualified to teach), and retail generally pays even less.  I love walking, I love animals, and I love having a lot of freedom, so for me, this is a good job, especially since some of the companies even offer benefits.

Her words?

“Well, that would only be temporary, right?”


Sure, if something in either of my two skill areas (teaching and photography) that pays similarly, I will gladly “trade up”.  But really, with Marc making what he does, and with us splitting expenses, I don’t need to find a high-paying job.  My happiness is rather directly tied into the amount of freedom (or at least perceived freedom) that I have in my life, and I see nothing wrong with that.  Why would I want to teach 30 hours a week for peanuts when I can walk dogs for 20 hours a week for a reasonable wage and earn the same amount of money and still have time to pursue my photography and writing?  I really hate the fact that Americans tend to view anyone who is not working 40+ hours a week, striving to get to the top as fast as possible, as a lazy lugabout.  Now sure, expenses need to be paid, and some money needs to be saved, but I am just not the type of person who really has much of a drive for money.  When faced with the option of working more or living on less, I have traditionally just chosen to live on less.  Because really, what’s more important: a new pair of shoes or internal happiness?


  1. I think it’s not only the idea that working hard = happiness (which I don’t think is a mainstream American idea, but certainly a value that many Americans hold). It’s also that working hard gets you future rewards … working hard in high school for college, and then for a good starting job, and then for a better job, and then for a promotion, and then for retirement … But anyway, in future conversations with people about this, I’ll bet that this issue will come up; that is, that a part-time dogwalker doesn’t have a lot of room for advancement. Amazingly enough, neither does being a foreign language teacher!

    Also, I’m so jealous. I would love to play with dogs all day. But soon I will have a at-home dog to play with all evening!

  2. I get that about nannying. For a while, I thought about going back to teaching… until I remembered that I love nannying and teaching preschool was the biggest hassle in the entire world as it quickly devolved into crowd control. Bleh.

    The only thing that makes nannying difficult for me – and I’d have the same problem with dog-walking – is health insurance. Otherwise, it makes way more sense than sitting in a cubicle so that in five years I can get promoted to a bigger cubicle.

    • Yeah. One or two of the companies offer benefits, and I’m hoping that I can get a job with one of those.

      And yeah, some folks have been giving me the “well, how can you advance in that?” shtick. Well, let’s see – I could eventually stop working for a company that hires dog walkers and run my own company, I could use the contacts to start a pet photography business (which is something I have considered before), etc. I’m convinced that part of the problem is that most folks can’t think outside the box – the only “advancement” they can fathom is a bigger office and more money.

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