Not Wanting a Job Doesn't Mean We Don't Want to Work

Scott Leonardi

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There’s a pretty stubborn notion surrounding the opinions of older generations regarding younger and emerging ones.

I’m not going to specifically say it’s one type of person or another, or even a certain age bracket, as there as young people who are just as clueless to the struggles of those less fortunate, but I will say that it’s a type of mentality passed down from a time when something as simple as having any work at all was seen as a major success.

In the past, being a “company man” meant that you were doing the duty of not only a valuable employee but a model citizen. What you did was “right” because it meant that you were a piece of a puzzle larger than yourself, a piece that was important and cared for, a piece that would be protected and cherished as integral to the larger mechanism that provided you a salary.

In older generations, having a job meant financial security for yourself and your family. It meant you didn’t have to live in day-to-day survival anymore. You could start to project your intentions further into the future and begin planning for things that weren’t immediately threatening to your well-being.

Having a job — and by ‘having a job’ I mean literally any sort of terrible work that still gives you a paycheck — still gave you a sense of purpose and the feeling that your existence meant something, regardless of the fact that you worked 15 hours of hard labor in a factory making a couple of bucks an hour where your safety was always on the line and your health constantly violated. Oh, you lost a hand and you’re complaining? At least you have a job!

I don’t think that older generations see that all the hard work they did try to build a society, well, worked.

I mean, we’re all still here, aren’t we? We’ve got our own slew of problems, to be sure, but for the most part, we’re living in the most luxurious time in human history, mental health and existential confusion side, of course.

After a century of technological expediency and development, younger generations don’t have to work in the same way their grandparents did simply because it’s no longer necessary. Yet, those older folks don’t seem to think about the fact that the whole point of progress is to make things easier for future generations. Why would you want your kids to struggle in the same way you did? Sure, struggles build character, but if your children are experiencing the same struggle to survive as you did, doesn’t that mean you sort of failed in a way? I thought the whole point of parenting was to have learned from your own life what prevented you from reaching your potential and stopping those same things from preventing your child from reaching theirs. I’m not a parent, so maybe I just sound naive. These things are easier said than done, I get it.

The point is that younger generations are now looking at the world with eyes that their parents and grandparents didn’t have. Our lives have become digitized beyond comprehension and we’re so hopelessly connected to everyone else on the planet that we can’t help but see the unnecessary and redundant structures of the past have no place in a world where survival is no longer determined by the strength of your body but of your mind.

There are those out there that don’t consider something work unless your physical body is aching at the end of the day from it. They understand the necessity of acting in the world and moving things around to ensure the survival and continuation of your family name, but they don’t seem to grasp the idea that that entire societal structure is supposed to be just one more step on our way to evolving society in general.

We now live in a digital age, where work has started to mean something different than it did 100 years ago.

These days, people want meaning in their work. They want to feel as if they are working for something more than mere survival.

Still, when you say to a certain type of person, “I don’t want a job,” they automatically assume that you don’t want to work. Jobs are work, so obviously you’re just lazy and want things to be free and easy, right? Actually, it’s more like we’ve been given access to the near-infinite library of humanity through technology and can finally see the potential each person holds within them to sculpt their existence in any manner they choose. With our eyes watching the endless variety of lives available to us, why would anyone be happy to remain a randomly numbered nametag? Who would choose chaffed hands and meager wages over the potential to transform yourself through sheer willpower and exposure to limitless information?

Not wanting a job just means that you don’t want to settle for less than what you’re capable of doing. It doesn’t negate the honesty of hard labor, and it certainly isn’t meant to belittle the struggle and sweat it took to build a society from nothing, quite the opposite. It should be a tribute to that labor, validation of those tears and blood that went into paving the road to the future. Being not only aware of the fact that we’re capable of more than being an employee but also living in an age where it’s entirely possible to make that a reality, means that we did it. We succeeded in building the society we were aiming for the entire time.

People smirk at those with “first-world problems”, and sure, as entertaining as it can be to poke fun at ourselves for thinking that our smartphone charger cable not reaching our bed constitutes an actual problem, the fact that even exists as a faux-problem at all means that we succeeded in elevating our society high enough to where these everyday annoyances are the worst obstacles in our daily life.

It’s not that there isn’t anything to gain from a job or hard labor, it’s just that they aren’t the only things that constitute work anymore.

It’s not that I don’t want to work, I want to work hard, actually, and I’m more than capable of doing so. But, I’d prefer to work hard at something I have a natural talent for, or that enlivens my mind, or that helps me develop as a person and brightens my spirit instead of crushes it under the weight of subordination.

We all understand the importance of working in any kind of job. It can build character and can help you understand how the world works in ways you wouldn’t have known about had you never left the house. In fact, I should make it clear that I think everyone should work a job that don’t like at least a few times in their life to get some perspective on how the real world looks from the ground up (I’m talking to you, ANYONE that has EVER talked down to someone working in the service/restaurant industry as if they’re beneath you. For you, my disdain knows no bounds). We always learn something from doing things we don’t want to do, but it doesn’t mean we should reside ourselves to allowing it to seal our fate.

These days we can choose our own destiny. We can write the book of our lives ourselves. I’m sorry if we don’t want every chapter to be titled Another Day in Paradise.

We want more. We want to mean something — we need it.

With the whole of humanity on our shoulders, it’s hard not to become so overwhelmed by decisions that we simply shut down. It’s at times like this that some of us do prefer to just be told what to do. On the other hand, some of us see it as stark evidence that no one person has all the answers or controls our lives. We see it as an opportunity to reclaim our autonomy and be the sole guiding force of our lives.

So no, I don’t want a job. I don’t want to work for someone that doesn’t have my better interests in mind. I don’t want my livelihood to rest on the whims of a stranger or faceless logo that sells the idea of trading struggle for security when it feels more like the trading potential for platitudes.

I don’t want a job, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to work.

I just don’t want to work for a living.

I want to work for a life.

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I write a lot about self-development and personal growth. I want to help people uncover their authentic selves through creative expression and in the process understand their place in the world a little better. I also enjoy writing screenplays, short stories, and poetry. All of which can be found at

Imperial Beach, CA

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