What It Means to Say “I Don’t Want to Work Anymore”
You've reached a breaking point.
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I don’t want to work anymore.
I need a break. A long break. I don’t want to work today, tomorrow, or next week. I want to go on vacation—a vacation that lasts forever.
I never want to work again.
I hate my job. I hate my boss. But it isn’t just this job or this boss. I hate having to have a job, any job. I hate working for someone else—someone always checking in and asking me to do juuuust a little more.
Aaaand maybe a little more?
And how about a little more?
No. I can’t give a little more. I hate this brutal, hollow, endless cycle.
I hate working. Period.
I’m tired of spending my time doing something I don’t want to do. I’m tired of living my life on another person’s terms.
I’m tired of people telling me that I must not really mean I don’t want to work anymore, that a normal person should want to work, that I all need to do is find another job. I don’t want a new job. I don’t want use what little free time I have now browsing websites, updating my resume, writing cover letters, and showing up to interviews so I can lie and force myself to smile through gritted teeth:
“Oh wow, thank you so much for the opportunity! Yes, I would love to work here! I’m a self-starter and a team player! I think I’d be a great asset to your company! This is my dream job!” I don’t have a dream job. My dream is to lie down on an empty beach and stare at the sun until my eyes hurt, until my brain melts, until I become one with the sand and the waves.I’m tired of the noise—the clicks and keystrokes, the ringing phones, the co-worker clearing her throat, the customer tapping his foot. The constant demands. The incessant emails and calls. The early mornings and late nights. I’m tired—I’m straight up exhausted. I’m overworked and underpaid. I’m bored, burned out, and angry. I’m pissed.
I resent this whole stupid system.
Why do I need a job? Why does anyone? How come some people never need to work a day in their lives while others spend every waking moment toiling away for practically nothing? The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, blah blah blah.
It sucks. It literally sucks the life out of people.
I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize my face. I’ve become wrinkled and slouched. Work’s changed me. It’s turned me into an old, ugly, sad-looking little goblin.
Life wasn’t always like this. I was a kid once. I played in the grass, I explored, I made friends, I marveled at the beauty of the world, I fell passionately in love.
Now, I’m another miserable, soulless adult. Another goblin in a button-down shirt holding a putrid cup of coffee. Now I’m either working or trying desperately to escape from work, trying to pull the weeds of work from my mind so I can spend just one day—just one hour—not thinking about my job.
I have nightmares about work. I wake up panicking, realizing I forgot to tell someone about something or get something done in time.
I feel sick. I feel dizzy. My stomach hurts. My head hurts. My hands shake. My eyelids twitch. I’m constantly stressed out and worried. I’ve given everything I have and it’s not enough. If someone asks me for more, I might snap.
I’m done with work. D-O-N-E, done-done, legitimately and officially done with work. Work is bullshit. And guess what?
I’m done with this bullshit!
Whew. That felt good to write. If you haven’t written down your feelings recently, I recommend it—it’s pretty damn cathartic.
Now, let’s take stock of where we’re at. How did you feel reading the words above?
If you found some or all of it relatable—if you’ve been feeling beaten down, overworked, and exploited lately—I encourage you to stick around and keep reading.
If you thought, “whoa, this is pretty dramatic—I’ve had some bad days, but come on, work isn’t that bad,” then please feel free to close this tab and read another article. We have hundreds to choose from.
Go ahead, click that X. Goodbye! Enjoy your—ahem—career!
All right, now that the sheep are gone, I’m going to level with you. You’re here for a reason. You typed “I don’t want to work anymore” into a search engine or clicked a link to this article for a reason.
Maybe you’re here because you were laid off recently and have noticed how much more enjoyable your life has become since losing your job. And now you’re wondering if you really need to go back to the working world.
Or maybe you’re here because anything that even slightly chips away at the hustle-hard, lean-in, let’s-get-this-bread mindset feels like a glimmer of hope in an increasingly greedy, corporate society.
Whatever the case, you’re here because deep down, you already know the truth:
Work is bullshit.
It’s a scam. You, my friend, are being used. Someone somewhere is using you—your body, your energy, your ideas—to make money for themselves. They’re using you to do something they simply don’t want to do themselves.
You know the saying “time is money?” Not true. They tell you that so you feel better about wasting your time making money. Time is much, much more valuable than money.
Money comes and goes. Time just goes.
When you trade your time for money, someone else gets to keep their time in exchange for money you will make back for them.
Following me here? They’re paying you to squander your life generating cash—the same cash they’ll use to pay you to do it again tomorrow.
Meanwhile, every second is a second you’ll never get back. Every bad day at work is a day of your life stolen from you. You have every right to feel angry. What your boss is doing to you is wrong. Work is theft—theft of time, theft of dignity, theft of humanity. It should be illegal.
And if you’re your own boss, well…
Surely not ALL work is bullshit… right?
What about all the jobs that are necessary, purposeful, or creatively fulfilling?
What about doctors, teachers, farmers, scientists, artists, musicians, and social workers?
Yes, those jobs are bullshit, too. The things those people do are certainly important, but the economic framework around them is bogus. The financial value we assign to actions such as planting seeds, healing the sick, or unearthing the secrets and wonders of the universe is totally artificial. It’s made up.
Money is made up. You can have a whole bunch of it, and it won’t make your life any better.
That means there’s always something driving work besides the significance of work itself. There’s always a layer of bullshit. A layer of money. One could argue, as many have, that this layer stinks things up and casts a shadow—that money devalues labor and, ultimately, the people performing the labor.
Isn’t saving someone’s life—or giving meaning to a life—worth more than a paycheck? How do you even assign value to something like that?
And yet in our society, we do. We define people by their professions—and often, by how much money they make. This is capitalism. It’s not a perfect system by any means, but it’s the system we live in. We can try to ignore its failings, or we can try to find an alternative (people smarter than me have imagined a few), but for now, we’re stuck with it.
This means there’s an inherent tension between what we want to do and what we need to do to survive. We need money to feed, shelter, and clothe ourselves; and to pay for access to the stuff that makes life worth living. To earn that money, we need to work. And aside from a select few lucky individuals, most of us need to keep working for years and years and years—long past the point when we feel interested in our work or physically and mentally capable of doing it.
I’m talking five or six decades of work. That’s an extremely long time to be doing anything. You could be doing something you love—curing diseases, or studying ancient Greece, or teaching kids how to fingerpaint—but at some point, you’re going to get worn out. The less you enjoy your job, the faster it’ll happen. It’s just a matter of time.
It’s a trap.
When you do reach the point where you’d rather stay in bed than face yet another day at work, the world will try everything to convince you you’re the one who needs fixing, that your feelings of burnout are your fault.
You just need a break and then you can get back to work.
You wouldn’t feel this way if you had a job you actually liked.
You need to start taking better care of yourself.
You’re letting people down.
I’m all for self-care and for recognizing mental health struggles, but come on. Are we really supposed to be happy little worker bees our entire lives?
What if some element of the depression or anxiety you feel is a response to your circumstances?
What if you feel tired all time because you are tired all the time?
What if you’re reading an article centered on the phrase “I don’t want to work anymore” because you really, sincerely do not want to work anymore?
What if you’re a human being—a lifeform on planet Earth with biological needs and desires that have nothing to do with a system we’ve devised in an attempt to fairly divide limited resources?
Here’s a fun fact for you: most primates sleep between nine and 15 hours per day. That’s twice as much as our species tends to sleep. Even the least productive members of society work harder than the most industrious monkeys.
There’s that word: productivity.
“Productivity.” Bah! What does that even mean? If you spent eight hours entering data into spreadsheets, the world would consider you productive. If you spent the same amount of time playing The Sims, you’re lazy and should feel bad about yourself.
But what if you streamed yourself on Twitch playing The Sims for eight hours and earned ad revenue for it? That counts as work, right?
Or what if you like inputting data for fun? What if you’re using that spreadsheet to organize your record collection, and not getting paid for it?
Is volunteering work? Is teaching or firefighting “productive” if you’re not making money?
Is a pointless, unnecessary job truly a job? If your work doesn’t make the world better, is there any productivity to speak of?
Again, it all comes down to money. Productivity, as our society defines it, has nothing to do with the amount of work you do, but the amount of cash you generate.
With that in mind, the real issues underneath all of this should become clear.
When people tell you you need to keep working, what they’re really saying is “you need to continue making money.”
When they complain about you being lazy, they’re saying, “you need to maintain our social contract.”
When they urge you to take care of yourself, they’re saying, “you need to keep the money-making machine in good condition.”
So, what does it mean to say “I don’t want to work anymore?”
It could mean a few different things:
1. “I am no longer capable of doing any work of any kind.” The machine is broken. There’s nothing left in you—not now, maybe forever. You need to quit your job and rest for a long, long time.
2. “I am tired of making money.” Capitalism and meaning have become two entirely different, irreconcilable categories for you. You still have energy and passion for something, but that something isn’t work. You need to find a means of survival outside of trading your time for money.
3. “I need to find another way to make money.” This is where most people end up. You don’t necessarily want to extricate yourself from a capitalist system, but you also can’t imagine doing what you’ve been doing for much longer. At this point, you have several options:
- Work less.
- Find another occupation (or a profitable side hustle).
- Find an alternative method of earning a living (e.g. digital nomad-ing, selling your stuff).
- Live more frugally.
- Retire early.
Depending on your goals and circumstances, you may be able to do one or more of the above right now, or you may have to wait and—sigh—work to get there.
Don’t waste any more of your precious time on this planet engaging in bullshit. We have the tools you need to live life on your terms.