Tom Kerr writing on self-reliance

If I had told you when you were in first grade that someday – after sitting in school for another 15 years – you’d begin every day of your life in a traffic jam, with your brain fuming like a car exhaust…you’d have said no way.

Fast-forward to now. Does your employer promote “work/life balance” – and present it like a perk? Do they offer “wellness days” and maybe free couples’ counseling or help with alcohol addiction? Do they get ranked as a “great company to work for” because they have chair massages in the lobby?

They sure have a lot of nerve.

Who do they think they are, to claim that if you live a normal, healthy life it’s a benefit facilitated by them…and their corporate culture?

If it wasn’t for them your lifestyle would not have gotten out of sync in the first place.

It’s like how the government takes your tax dollars and then expects you to thank them for fixing potholes…after they didn’t get around to patching those holes for years. In the meantime you’ve spent hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars on busted tires, rims, and shocks. If they had given those tax dollars to you, instead of to crooked politicians, you could have run to Home Depot and bought a sack of Quikcrete – or a container of that DIY asphalt – and filled the pothole as soon as it appeared.

I’ve done that in my driveway. It took about 15 minutes and cost less than $20.

I say if they want to take credit for fixing the offending pothole they need to first take credit for the damage to your vehicle. Refund your tax dollars, plus any extra you had to spend to repair your car, truck, or SUV, with interest.

Corporations want to sell you on the idea that work/life balance initiatives are a perk of the job, after the demands they place on you at work knock your whole life out of alignment, like the front end of your car slamming over a pothole.

Your job might be the reason your teens aren’t talking to you or your marriage fell apart. Is your company going to solve that as part of your next compensation package?

I have an old Polaroid snapshot of me smiling on the way to my very first day of school…and people howl when they see it because I don’t have a cute little book bag. I’m carrying a leather briefcase. But at least back then it was just a game. When it becomes your reality – and the reality doesn’t quite match the dream – it’s time to renegotiate what you define as perks and benefits.

Why does it seem so strange, for example, to work from home? When did America start to think of that as a special perk? Yeah, it’s luxurious for sure…as long as you love your work. But, not that long ago, everyone did it …before commuting came into vogue, corporations became as powerful as nations, and starting your day in gridlock turned into an acceptable way of life.

Seriously? Did you really sign up for this? You probably did what I did and just took what was offered and were grateful. Then months turned into years…and years turned into a career…and now you try to make the most of a lifestyle you didn’t intentionally create, don’t really control, and certainly don’t live on your own terms.

I used to hate the traffic when I worked a corporate job. I knew the crummy food gobbled on the run, the chronic stress, and the depressing lack of options and opportunities to do something else were taking a toll on my health.

I developed a chronic, hacking cough no doctor could explain. Unsightly plantar warts broke out all over my hands and it was embarrassing. One doctor said it was probably stress – but didn’t offer a remedy. Another said it was an allergy – but didn’t say to what. Of course they billed me plenty for those diagnoses.

I was literally getting sick of my job and my life. I took a chance, and left it behind – downsizing to simplify my life and free-up cash to pay off my debts – and I moved to a beautiful place in the mountains. One day, a few months later, I was watching a bobcat sneak along the tree line on the edge of the creek. I was being very quiet so I didn’t spook it…then it hit me. “I don’t cough any more!”

I looked down at my hands and to my surprise all those plantar warts, which must have been stress-related, had vanished. That’s what I call a really valuable health benefits package.

Incidentally, getting stuck in traffic isn’t just stress-inducing and bad for your blood pressure. It may cause early onset dementia. Researchers just published data that showed how constant proximity to a major highway…like the one you probably live near and commute on for hours each day…increases the risk of dementia. Imagine how that is going to disrupt your work/life balance and the situation at home.

I haven’t commuted to work in more than 20 years…unless it’s to take my laptop and coffee to the riverbank. The other morning, I was walking across the yard to fetch some firewood while staring at my cell phone and almost walked right smack into a grazing deer.

She tilted her head as if to say “Hang up and watch the road!”

P.S. Discover how you can enjoy a more laidback, authentic, independent way of life in Truth & Plenty. Sign up below to have it delivered – free of charge – to your email inbox.

Image: ©iStock.com/tttuna 

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