One of my best buddies vetoed my answer to his girlfriend's 'What do you do?'. Another just laughed, and said 'Is that what you are going with?'. All I had said was, 'I am a writer'. The truth is more complicated than that, but it is funny how easy most people find that question to answer even though the truth is more complicated.
In 2011, I started renting an Art Studio at the Wimbledon Art Studios. If renting an art studio makes you an artist, did I stop being an artist four years later when I gave up my studio to tighten up on expenses? Do you have to have sold work? How much? So does that exclude Van Gogh? Do you have to have done formal studies? Then what about the self-taught artists? At what point are you allowed to call yourself something? Another way I have cut back is that I have resigned as an Actuary. No membership fees in exchange for no FIA after my name. Just call me Trev.
Last day in my Art Studio a year ago
In India, most Gurus are self proclaimed. If one person follows you, you are a Guru. In truth, you don't need one person to follow you. If you are the only one who realises you are a Guru, you are. Some like the idea of more formal certification, titles, professional bodies and various other signals. I like the 'Stephen Hawking' idea. I have heard he uses no titles or letters after his name. Admittedly, the guy is so famous his name is a title. Labels give short cuts in an anonymous world.
'What do I do?'. Each day I wake up, preferably without an alarm, and do some reading before I write my blog post for the day. The rest of the day is free. I try to be 'micro-ambitious'. I like the framework I have learnt through Yoga. The five points focus on proper exercise, breathing, relaxation, diet and thinking. Progress is tiny and incremental. Each day, I try work another ache out of my body and learn something new. I try create space to read and think about the things that matter to people that matter to me. I try make myself available to spend time with people.
I stopped working for a salary about a year and a half ago. I am attempting to let my savings be my breadwinner while I focus on life building. If I spend less than my money makes, then I can keep that up. That is a general rule. If you use less than you put in, what you are doing is sustainable. If you use more, you are a consumer. 'How much is enough' depends on you. It is embarrassing to see how little material stuff the majority of the world's population get by on. The median household income of the rich OECD countries in 2011 was $19,000. Roughly 1.2 Billion people 'live' on less than $1.25/day. That is not enough, but enough is less than you think.
We mostly define ourselves by our work. Answering the question with 'I am retired' got awkward. I don't believe in retirement. I say writer because it is something I do every day. Perhaps I could answer the question, 'I make time'. The friend who laughed at my answer also hasn't figured out his answer. John's project is Unogwaja. He is trying to figure out how to be a partner to people who are trying to do good work. Trying to inspire fun and togetherness as we figure out what it is we need to do. And get on with it.