Earlier this week, I came home from working a day of dentistry. It was Monday, which is a day I am usually off. I was covering for a friend who went on vacation to Korea for a month. I pulled into my driveway as my neighbor was putting away the groceries. She saw me wearing my Figs scrubs (the only brand I wear for work) and cocked her head to the side. “What else do you do besides taking care of dogs?” A funny question, as the dog business is my side-hustle. But here in my neighborhood, I’m known as a dog caretaker, not a dentist. So I told her I work as a dentist and she appeared even more confused. “But if you’re a dentist, why do you bother taking care of pets?” she asked.
Now it was my turn to get a quizzical look on my face. This happens a lot in my life. A sort of disconnect between myself and others who follow the formulaic status quo. I could tell right away that she didn’t understand the point of working if it wasn’t for pay. It was also obvious that she viewed work as a job that one must do, whereas I viewed work as fun things I like to do. She is a stay-at-home mom and might be proud of the fact that she didn’t have to work. It’s also possible she was insinuating the question, “Do you not make enough as a dentist that you have to do more side-hustles?”
So I answered her as truthfully as I can.
“I take care of pets because I like to. It’s fun for me, and I fall in love with them and treat them like my kids. I started out watching just one or two here and there, but now I get requests all the time. Since I have a lot of time on my hands, I accommodate as many as I can. This way, our neighbors can go on their vacations with peaceful minds, knowing who is taking care of their pet family members.
I actually do a lot of things! They are all fun for me and give me joy. On top of taking care of pets, I am helping a bakery grow and I write a blog to help new grads, moms, and people in debt live minimalist lives in order to get closer to financial freedom. I also volunteer at the farm down the street. You should join me sometime!”
Her son came out of the house at that point. A saving grace for both of us. ‘Ah, okay’ as she backed away. I hope I didn’t freak her out. But it’s true. I can’t say at what point during the pandemic I actually became financially free – in the sense that I am not tied to my money, and I stopped working for pay alone.
Perhaps it was when I had enough FU money to quit the job that I hated. More likely it was the healing time period when I learned that I could create any position for myself. Or maybe it was after people reached out to me to help them. Did you know that I never asked to work at either of the two dental offices I currently work at? Actually, I was expecting to never work in dentistry again! I also did not apply to be a wholesale director of the bakery. In all three cases, they came to me and asked if I could help at times when they had no one.
I do my work because it entails helping others. That’s what I like to do. Not because of the money anymore. If my jobs were taken away from me today, I wouldn’t be sad, mad, upset, or worried. I would probably just shrug my shoulders and keep contributing myself to this life, keep showing up for people I’ve gotten to know. Not much would change, except maybe a pivotal shift on where I spend my energy most.
When I think about work, I don’t think of it in the traditional sense of a job. I just think of it as another day where I go and help a few people out. That’s all. I am not dependent on a specific company or career. I am only dependent on myself. I’ve focused on building myself up rather than building a career. (That’s advice I would give any college student!)
My neighbor was probably thinking to herself, “Poor gal. She has to work so hard to be able to live.” I’m over here thinking, “How do I get this neighbor out of her box to join me in this thing called life?” Hopefully we become fast friends. Bringing over banana bread might do it.
Do what you love, and call it work. Some say it can’t be done, but I’m trying my darndest to prove them wrong.