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‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where—’ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’
As most of you will probably know, that exchange is from Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, often summarised as ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.’
While it appears that today’s modern society has many “lost souls” not knowing where they’re going or where they want to get to, when it comes to that never-ending search for fulfilment, from a work perspective, I’m fairly sure where I don’t want to go. It’s a start, I guess.
That is, allowing for the fact that we’re in a highly interconnected world where being fully independent is nigh on impossible, I don’t want to work for people but rather work with them.
In a predominantly wage economy with an increasingly interfering state, this freelance/self-employed as-independent-as-can-be option is more difficult to achieve, particularly in higher-income countries it could be argued.
So, if for survival reasons I had to become a company employee again, I’d need to be as close to the top as possible. Just making up the numbers has never satisfied me. I don’t tend to be a great follower.
Thus, knowing that much, one needs to frame one’s life accordingly. In many ways, a 14-month company-employee stint aside, I’ve been able to maintain a fair amount of employment independence in the more than nine years I’ve been based in Colombia. The flip side is that it hasn’t exactly resulted in putting me on a firm financial footing.
‘Worrying about potential future problems to the extent one doesn’t tackle current pressing matters is rather silly.’
Therein lies the crux of the matter. For if I was to focus more so on money I would stop writing this blog, stop making podcasts (speaking of which, I hope you’ve checked out Get Inglés!), stop co-presenting Bogotá Nights and, to stay independent in this country, use the additional time such moves would free up to look for more students to whom I could teach English — English teaching being about the easiest and most profitable independent activity a native speaker can do in these parts.
End of the road
I would more than likely feel less fulfilled overall doing that but I would probably have more pesos in my pocket. (I hasten to add, lest the two students I currently have think badly of me, that it’s not exactly that I dislike teaching English, it’s more a case that I don’t want it to be a full-time gig.)
For sure, life is not all about money. Yet, to state the obvious, when it’s in scarce supply living becomes much more complicated.
At this moment in time, one significant area where my independence is compromised is in having to house share — my misanthropic tendencies have increased to some extent during the pandemic.
In fairness, however, in an officially stratified country such as Colombia, renting a room in a leafier suburb rather than renting one’s own place in a humbler barrio may be a false economy. In my own case, going it alone would probably also do wonders for my general mood, even if it were to cost more, at least at that initial making-a-house-a-home stage.
Bringing it back to a broader level, we must also remember that at some point the road ends for each one of us. And we’re never fully certain when that will be. With that in mind, worrying about potential future problems to the extent one doesn’t tackle current pressing matters is rather silly.
So while some of us are not sure where we’re going, I think it’s fair to say the majority of us know where we don’t want to go. We would do well to follow and act upon those impulses.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.