If you don’t already know, my 9-5 work is as a career coach. Outside of career coaching I’ve also done some work in organizational development and completed graduate coursework in I/O psychology (the study of the workplace). I say that to say: I’m obsessed with all things career and work-related. One aspect that is often forgotten in conversations about work is its antithesis: leisure. So, in my free-time, I’m studying Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class – truly nerdy, I know. In this book, Veblen walks us through the history of leisure, how it formed, and its implications on socioeconomics. He theorizes that conspicuous leisure is the display of one’s wealth through leisure activities. Essentially, you know that someone is well-off because you almost never see them working. Think about the last time you saw one of those jet-setting-yoga class in the middle of the day-hobbyists; remember thinking, “wtf does she do for a living?! How does she have so much free time?!”. To this day, a life of leisure is the number one way to boast financial security.
As early as colonial America, if you wanted to flaunt your wealth, you did so by making ample time for sports, entertainment, studies, and travel. If you wanted to go a step further, you hired others to work in the business you owned. And the real flex was if you could have slaves do all the work for you thereby not only owning a business but actually owning the people “under” you. For that reason, Black people’s history in America is not only rooted in cruel work but in the lack of and in many cases, complete absence, of leisure activities. So in light of recent events, I’ve realized just how much my interest in work and leisure is deeply rooted in this aspect African American history. Imagine how much of that generational trauma we harbor. Then, layer on systemic racism, code switching, discrimination, workplace abuse, and poverty. Black people are powerful and strong and our magic is real but just because we are phenomenally resilient doesn’t mean we don’t get tired. It is my wish that when you do, you’re able to find guilt-free rest; whatever that looks like for you.
Enter the Modern Lady of Leisure and my commitment to honoring our ancestors by seizing every opportunity to rest.
Unlike the original concept of being a kept woman, the modern lady of leisure has earned the chance to truly enjoy the fruits of her labor. She has gotten the necessary training and education to master her craft. She’s an expert and is wildly efficient. She has earned every penny and it’s her own income that funds her lifestyle. And although she loves a good retail therapy session, the MLL understands that the way she makes and manages her money leads to the real luxury purchase: buying back her TIME.
When we say that we are our ancestors’ wildest dreams, I truly believe they’d be proud to see our college degrees, professional jobs, homes, cars, and material goods. But no one on their deathbed wishes they had shopped more. Being our ancestors’ wildest dreams is exercising our freedom to choose how we use our time. Rest, personal time, quality time with family, learning, investing in ourselves and family – these things were unfathomable for them.
So while there’s a lot to be said for hard work, for Black women there is even more to be said for rest, self-care, and leisure. Time, something we can’t get back once it’s gone, is the best luxury purchase you’ll ever make.
And to help summarize my sentiments, here’s Diddy’s take on working your way up to a life of leisure:
“That’s why I pay everybody so I can do less work. That’s the hustle! You make enough money to pay everybody so you don’t do shit but be as happy as you can be! I wanna be happy, I pay too many people!”