Three years ago I sat in a dorm room at the National 4-H Center at the end of an exhausting summer of leading camps across the United States. I was a few days away from wrapping up our final camp and I had stumbled across the 1930 essay by John Maynard Keynes, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (free PDF).
In this article, Keynes predicts that we will only need to work about 3 hours a day by 2028 and discusses (read: warns about) what will happen when we begin to have more leisure time.
As I read through the article, I was speechless. I realized I was simply working not out of any economic imperative but because I didn't know what to do with my freedom. This quote stuck with me the most:
Thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem — how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.
I'd traded my prized teacher's summer off for a few thousand dollars to run these camps, and I had no idea why. I wasn't planning to use the money for anything special. To this day, I have no idea what it actually went towards.
I put the article away and went on with business as usual: working a full-time role that requires me to constantly be "on" and pursuing my doctorate. The stress of around the clock work has caused me to lose friendships, jeopardize my health, and to forget what brings me joy.
So, I am putting a stop to the madness. I've traded in my full-time role with a great school network to work part-time next year with an equally great special education organization to deliver training and school support. I'm going to start measuring my success not in wealth, but in time. I'm rejecting the status symbol of a busy calendar in favor of reclaiming my leisure time.
And more importantly, I am taking my teacher's summer for the very first time and plan to do nothing but travel, visit friends, write, and relax.
Candace Burckhardt is an international education consultant with an emphasis on special education, English learners, and social-emotional learning.