Last week I caught myself saying ‘I’m not working at the moment’ in response to somebody’s question, and that made me wonder about what I think that I am doing. Yes, I’m still at home most days. Yes, I’m still trying to be gentle with myself, and I’m still recovering from burnout. Yes, I’m still not going to an office or earning a salary. But is that what work is, or what it should be? I’m not sure. So, I looked up the dictionary definition as I thought the word itself might help direct me.

Define work

I find it interesting that there is no mention of exchange for money in those definitions. And yet that’s one of the pertinent points in my head. I may need to do some reframing.

I listened to the blinkist summary of Do the Work, and it helpfully breaks work down into three options:
- work as a job (i.e. for money)
- work as a career (i.e. for progression)
- work as a calling (i.e. for vocation)

I feel like I’ve been caught up in the second of these for some years. I’ve been progressing through the standard career paths available to software developers - developer, senior developer, team leader etc. But, until I started seeing Hayley for coaching, I’d never really given much thought to anything outside of this with any seriousness.

Having uncovered my purpose I know that kindness defines my framework for all things. What that means for work as job, career or calling I don’t know yet. But I do know that I want to, and indeed have to, measure opportunities against that matrix. But does that mean that everything related to furthering that purpose - be it research, be it helping others, be it showing kindness - counts as ‘work’? I’m not sure. It takes a bit of the joy away. And that’s not ideal. So, I’ve got some further pondering to do here.

I’ve also been thinking about some of the words relating to work, and what they mean to me. Employed, Self-employed, Unemployed, Retired. Not in any legal sense, but in a looser, more wordy sense. And at the moment I think I’m somewhere between Retired and Self-employed. Self-employed because I’m self-funding. I’m owning my own time and, to some extent, the focus of my attention. So I’m employing and allowing myself the space to follow up on thoughts and topics as they come to light. And retired because, at least at the moment, I’m not following a career path. I’m not progressing in a traditional direction. I’m exploring.

So, next time somebody asks ‘Are you working again yet?’ I think the answer might be ‘What do you mean by working?’