If you’ve read Practicing Presence, you know I’m not often idle. You also might recall that I seem to be constantly encouraged to slow down. So, when I stumbled on an entire company dedicated to helping people slow down, I decided to pause long enough to check it out.
Idler is devoted to helping people lead more fulfilled lives. They publish a bi-monthly magazine, produce online courses and run live events. They want us to “slow down, have fun and live well!” Digging a bit deeper into their company, I discovered the founder of Idler, Tom Hodgkinson, back in 1991, was a 23-year-old journalist who was bored by his job. He dreamed of starting a magazine called-you guessed it- The Idler. He followed his dream and now is devoted to inspiring others to say no to unfulfilling jobs, and yes to fun, freedom and pleasure.
In 1991, I delivered my first child in April, took a 5-week maternity leave and went back to work teaching two sections of Kindergarten. That summer I managed a swim club, tutored and taught summer school while working on my second master’s degree. Thirty years later, I’m still teaching multiple summer school courses, facilitating numerous workshops and publishing articles and writing my second book during my “summer off” as it’s typically ridiculously referred to in education circles. Most educators I know have multiple jobs and are rarely idle.
Clearly, we could use some support to learn the craft of idling. I purchased Hodgkinson’s book: How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto. It’s not that I don’t know how to say yes to fun, but I need more discipline on how to say no to work. Interestingly, I’m embarrassed to admit I coach other people on how to say no. Once again, we teach what we need to learn.
Something else about Hodgkinson’s career trajectory struck a chord. I too was a journalism major, but when my first job bored me, I pivoted, changed careers and went into teaching. In my role as a Professor at West Chester University, I advise roughly sixty undergraduate students a semester. About 1/3 of them have no idea what they want to be, yet they are in the very narrow education career path with only nine electives (3 courses) to explore other majors. Wouldn’t it be amazing to give them just a bit more time to idle, explore other professions and dream a bit more? Perhaps we should be envisioning how to do the high school transition into work or higher education thing a bit differently. Now is the time to reinvent this system.