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The Importance of Work

What happens if you don’t work or volunteer, and is it important for women to work?

By: Thea Easterby

Back in 2000 I left Australia to live overseas with my partner. Unfortunately due to my age, I was unable to apply for a work visa. Little did I realize at the time what a profound impact not working would have on my wellbeing and relationship.

From this experience, I learned several lessons on the importance and value of work.

1. Financial Independence

It’s probably no surprise this one is first on the list. Having your own money to spend or save as you see fit is a wonderful feeling, one which we don’t truly appreciate until we find ourselves without a regular income. I started working full time when I was 16. By the time I went overseas, I had been supporting myself for 19 years. I was used to taking care of myself.

In all honesty, I was not prepared for how uncomfortable I would feel asking someone for money. I realize for many people this might not have been an issue. For me, asking my boyfriend for money felt physically painful. I hated it. At one point, I picked up some cash in hand work. The money I earned was a pittance and my employer was a horrible woman but for a brief time I felt comfortable with my financial situation.

Having your own income and being financially independent is important. Financial independence brings with it options and flexibility.

2. Social Interaction

Working isn’t just about earning money. There is a social element to working that should not be underestimated.

Our work colleagues can often turn into some of our closest friends. Deep friendships that can continue well after you stop working for a company. Dinners, drinks after work, events, conferences and sporting functions can all help to facilitate friendships.

Even if you don’t socialize with your colleagues outside of the work environment, relationships kept within the company can be beneficial (could lead to future positions) and fulfilling. When you ask people about why they enjoy working for a particular company, their response is often based around the wonderful people they work with.

3. Emotional Wellbeing

When I left my family, friends, apartment and job to go overseas I felt confident with my decision. I was excited about the future.

My clothes not arriving from Australia, an ATM machine chewing up my card on arrival, a case of bedbugs in our dingy flat and problems in my relationship all began to shake my enthusiasm. Throw in not being able to work and not having any money, and I began to struggle with depression. In turn, my relationship problems escalated. I felt isolated and desperately lonely. My self-esteem plummeted. Five months later I was flying home heartbroken and alone.

If I had been able to work, earn my own money and had the opportunity to make some new friends, I suspect the outcome would have been different. Having a job wouldn’t have solved all of our problems but it would have helped enormously with my emotional state.

In hindsight, I should have looked for other ways to feel useful and happy. Volunteering would have been an excellent way to help others while also feeling good about myself.

4. Healthy Self-Esteem

While we may occasionally grumble about having to get out of bed on Monday morning or wish we were sipping cocktails on a sandy beach instead of heading into the office, what we don’t realize is how strongly our self-esteem can be influenced by our work.

Being good at our jobs gives us a feeling of achievement, satisfaction and a deep sense of pride. Problem solving, overcoming challenges, seeing a task through to completion all help with building our self-confidence.

5. Making a Contribution

Working can help us feel like we are contributing to society.

Contribution comes in many forms and shouldn’t necessarily be defined by your title or the company you work for. We may be contributing to our company, work colleagues, children and families, people less fortunate, the sick and elderly, the welfare of animals, the environment or society in general.

Never underestimate the importance of making a positive difference in people’s lives.

6. Positive Distraction

Not long after I returned home from overseas, my father was diagnosed with cancer and told by a doctor to ‘get his affairs in order’. In short he was dying.

Some days at work were hard. With early morning hospital visits before heading into the office, there were times it took all of my strength to keep it together at work.

Most of the time though, work was a blessing. It was something to sink my teeth into and concentrate on that didn’t involve cancer or death. The work itself, as well as the amazing people from my office, helped me through an extremely difficult time.

7. Time Away From Work

As much as I realize work is important, taking time away from work can be invaluable. Years later after a forced company redundancy, I headed overseas backpacking for eight months. Purposely, I didn’t work at all during this trip. It was a fun, joyous, exciting time in my life which I will always treasure.

It’s important to point out that work shouldn’t be defined as working for someone else or being an employee. You may be running your own business or forging your path as an entrepreneur.

As a result of not being able to work overseas, I signed up for an online writing course. This was the starting point where I realized I wanted writing and creativity to be a part of my future. If I hadn’t experienced that difficult phase of my life, I may have never started writing.

Sometimes work and life have the strangest way of getting us to where we need to be.


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Thea Easterby

Freelance Writer
Thea is a freelance writer/blogger. Her blog www.writechangegrow.com offers inspiring tips on writing, career change and personal development. For more information, click here to read her About page.


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