Featured Letter: Beating the rat race

You don't have to hit the jackpot to recharge your batteries.
You don't have to hit the jackpot to recharge your batteries.
Published February 1, 2010

The fifty-something guy sitting next to me on the GO train looked like any other frazzled commuter who had put in a hard day’s work. “If only I could win the Lotto,” he told me, “I’d get out of this rat race so fast they’d never know I was here in the first place.”

Practically everyone I meet these days complains about the extra workload they have to shoulder due to layoffs in the worst recession in decades. Older employees tell me they hope to be offered early retirement with a good severance package. The younger ones, from schoolteachers to nurses to janitors, worry about being laid off from jobs they no longer like, or, in many cases, hate. New Canadians, especially those from Eastern Europe and Latin America, tell me they find the workplace here even more stressful than long-time Canadians do.

While winning a big lottery would solve financial problems, you don’t have to hit the jackpot and jet off to some tropical paradise to recharge your batteries. A respite from the madness is much simpler than that. There’s nothing stopping you from finding peace and quiet in old-fashioned hobbies and pursuits on our own time. Curling is just one of the wonderful activities that have defied the winds of change. Sliding along the ice while wielding a broom is a sheer delight. In the spring, the feel of the good earth running through your fingers as you plant tomatoes and onions is almost as good as watching your produce bloom. In summer, there is nothing like fishing: The whiz of the line, the plop of the lure and trolling to the put-put of a five-horse motor are guaranteed nerve tonics. And barbecuing burgers and boiling corn on the cob are about as low-tech as it gets.

There are many more simple pastimes that haven’t changed one iota over the years. It doesn’t cost a penny to spend an afternoon in the park, take in an amateur play in a neighbourhood theater or read a few chapters of a good book in bed before you go to sleep. Why not cook a meal from scratch instead of plopping one into the microwave? Rent an old movie or drop into a church for a soul-soothing hymn-sing- even if you’re not a regular churchgoer.

As I write this article, the aroma of fresh ground coffee perking and the soothing music of a quieter age mingle in the air all around me. I have, for the time being, locked out the mind-numbing noise of a busy world and locked in the pleasure of simple living.

A rat race, you say?

I say: “Rats should have it so good!”

William Bedford


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