The reason she didn’t like it here (Grand Cayman), he finally understood, was that she needed to remain engaged with the world. — The Silent Oligarch, by Chris Morgan Jones, page 200.
I’m starting to agree. It’s now been just over 6 months since I worked, and my mind is getting antsy. I’ve been doing some good hiking and cycling, but I haven’t really been using my mind. But it’s more than just not using my mind. It’s that I don’t feel engaged with the world. Perhaps you might call it not having a purpose, although I think the two are slightly different.
Working gave me intellectual stimulation, some social interaction, an income, and engagement with the outside world. There’s always the engagement with one’s co-workers, but I’m thinking of a larger context.
The best working years of my life were with a small company called Silver Creek Systems. We were dynamic, fast-paced, and on the verge of going out of business much of the time. But we very much engaged with the world. Prospective customers would tell us that they would buy our software if it just did X and Y in addition to everything it already did. A week later the software would do X and Y. I felt engaged with our customers; we listened, modified our software, and they bought.
Then Silver Creek was bought by Oracle and we no longer had that direct relationship with customers. Instead of responding to customer needs, work became dominated by having to change our software to do things the Oracle Way. There was no longer engagement with the world, and the exhilaration and joy disappeared from work.
That’s one of the stories I created to explain why I quit work. How much truth it contains, who knows? I also have other stories, because our pre-frontal cortex minds make up stories to explain things that our old brains decide without our rational involvement. (As has been said by Jon Haidt and Rory Sutherland, the rider on the elephant thinks it’s the Oval Office when it’s mostly the press office.)
But that was all six months ago. Today, after mainly playing for six moths, I’m starting to feel the need for more engagement. I was talking with a friend on a bike ride the other day and he told me he was an airline pilot, then he retired, then two years later he got bored, and now he’s engaged with the world again, selling real estate.
I don’t know where this desire for engagement will lead. I suspect nowhere in the short term because we have plans for the summer, but I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for opportunities for engagement. Something will turn up. The Universe always provides what one needs.