The joy of not being employed

I like doing nothing.

Well, a small correction: I like not having anything on my schedule that requires me to move quickly into the day in response to an outside demand. Perversely, this can be choices made by me -- breakfast out with friends or sisters, or any other plans that include fun or work, like volunteering.

I wasn’t always this way. I used to be a go-getter, a multi-tasker, a stress junkie; I worked in advertising. Then, a few years ago, I thought there might be more to life, and I left that fun and exciting rat race. Now I am one of those people in a position that boomers by the millions are anticipating with varied emotions -- a retiree.

“What will I do when I retire?” they ask nervously. “What fills your time? Is there purpose?” To which I would (and do) reply: “It’s your choice.” For the first time in many of our lives, we can take time to think about how we actually want to spend our time, a concept apparently so foreign that it scares people.


Since I’ve been not-employed -- I don’t call it retired -- I have met others like me who have discovered new pursuits they never considered while employed because they were too busy to know such things existed or were so readily available. Like birding, yoga, tap dancing, hiking or writing just to name a few. I found writing classes and groups that exposed me to a new world of individuals with a wealth of experiences who have enriched my life beyond improved writing. Other people find good works; there are countless worthwhile organizations out there that value your talents and give that sense of purpose that some require.

And then again some of us find, as I do, that for the most part, we like to do nothing in particular.

What a luxury it is to get up on my own time and amble down to a local coffee place -- whether it’s your kitchen or Pain du Monde (which is mine) and while away a morning reading the newspaper. Afternoons can be filled with visits to the library, working in the garden or taking a walk around the neighborhood and chatting with anyone I meet along the way. Some of us combine many of those things, which can keep you busier than you thought possible.

So when I say “doing nothing,” what I really mean is “doing just what I want to do.” My employed life had its moments of excitement and novelty that gave it a particular exhilaration. This post-employment is more about simple enjoyment and slow growth.


I reflect on that old question about the meaning of life only momentarily since I haven’t quite worked it out yet. For me right now it’s just about discovery -- on my own terms.

Jelnick, having retired from advertising and with time on her hands, embraced the future. Her foodie blog, Tasting -- A Culinary Journey, is at