Yesterday afternoon, after working all day on a podcast project that I hope will soon come to fruition, I invited a couple of my ex-coworkers over for a cold one. I live quite close to the office I used to go to every day so it’s quite easy for them to stop over my place after the work day. I figured we’d chat about all the great things going on this summer and just chill out, while enjoying our cold beverages. I really enjoyed their company, but I have to say, once they left, I felt kind of crappy inside. Let me explain.
We talked about people who were going through the motions, as if that was the life they had to live. We talked about people who were miserable. These people were friends of mine and people I care about. The reality is that they are giving their lives right now to something that makes them feel less and less confident in themselves and less and less happy every single day. They are doing it willingly.
Once again, I have to express my feelings on this. The fact is, we are dying. Every single day, we’re one day closer to death. It’s a harsh reality, I know. I get the feeling that most of us think about death as incredibly far away. If we’re in our twenties, we think of death as something that we’ll face in our 80s, therefore it’s 60 years away. Well, my dad died at 46. If I’m 29, that means I’ll be that age in 17 years. I had uncles die young as well. One as an infant, a couple in their 40s and another in his 50s. One of my grandpas died in his 60s. I’ve always looked at my life expectancy as shorter than most, possibly in my 60s or so. If I live longer, great. But I’m not going to live my life as if I’ll reach the ripe old age that my grandma is right now, at close to 89.
I can’t help but look around and notice a trend among people my age. We have this belief that we’re going to live to be 90 or 100. The effect this seems to have is that we’re putting our lives on hold until we reach that age (65 or so) or that level of wealth ($1 million?). By “on hold”, I mean that we’re spending most of our time at the office or at jobs that we don’t enjoy. Heck, sometimes we are miserable at these jobs, where we are spending over half of our waking hours at, 5 days a week. And we’re commuting 1-2 hours out of every day to get to these jobs as well. How much time are we spending outside, enjoying the sunny days and listening to the birds chirp? We seem to fit it in when we can, which is once or twice a summer. How often do we sit under the stars and listen to the crickets? Not often.
What we seem to be doing, more and more, is commuting in traffic (because more and more of us live in cities or suburbs), sitting at a computer under florescent lights for 8-10 hours a day, commuting back home in traffic, and then getting 2-3 hours of free time before needing to get enough sleep to do it all over again. Where is the time for things that matter to us? Where is the time to enjoy our lives? More and more, we don’t have that time. Do you have that time?
I really want to challenge all of us, including myself, to wake up and realize that we only have one life and that we don’t have to sell it in the way we are selling it. A friend of mine has been posting pictures lately of his new house. I can’t help but look at them and feel prison bars when I think of owning a house like that. It pains me to think of all the selling of my precious life that I would have to do in order to live in that. I honestly want nothing to do with it. My life is too valuable to sell it for fancy things.
Your life is too. Your life is too precious to sell it for a fancy house, a fancy car, a big TV or anything else that they sell at the mall. That crap is meaningless. If you have shelter over your head, which I bet you already do, transportation, which I bet you also do, enough clothes to look presentable and food in your refrigerator, then you’re solid. That’s all you need. I encourage you not to sell any more of your life than you have to. It’s the only one you have.
Okay, so sure, we all need money to support ourselves and our family right? Right, I get it. So, let’s go earn enough to do just that. But then, let’s knock it off. We don’t need surplus if it’s just going into consumerism. We don’t need to work overtime, if we’re just going to use the money to buy a new TV. I’d bet that you’d find more fulfillment if you instead didn’t work overtime, but spent that time with your family, going camping in the woods on a beautiful summer night.
Roughing it, actually is fun. Living on less is just as enjoyable as being “spoiled” by fancy luxuries. In my experience, that’s true because I feel good knowing that this isn’t costing me my life, while a luxurious experience IS costing me my life, and more of it than I want it to.
Back to my co-worker discussions, there are people I care about suffering daily because they feel trapped. I believe it’s a shame for anyone to have to be made to feel like crap because of their job. If what someone does with their days isn’t improving their life and adding meaning to them, I believe they should chuck it and move on. Yes, I understand that jobs are hard to come by and that the whole thing is a pain. My advice there is first of all, stop living in the consumerism trap. That’s the first thing that can allow you to escape from this crap.
Second, think differently about the possibilities in your life. It doesn’t always have to be this way. There’s this little thing called the free market (or I guess it’s a big thing), and this revolutionary invention called the internet, that now allows any one of you, yes including you and me, to not only survive but thrive by doing things we care about. I encourage each and every one of you to believe in yourself enough to consider making a living on your own, and NOT following the job path.
In a job, you aren’t free when it comes to half of your waking hours, 5 days a week. In a job, you don’t own any of what you create every day. At a job, you repeat the same experience, day after day, year after year. At a job, you can lose your soul, self confidence and your LIFE. At a job, you can be thrown out and have your income cut off at any given time. At a job, you don’t have control over your income. At a job, you can get stuck doing things that don’t matter to you. Consider thinking differently. Make sure you don’t let your life pass you by while you’re trying to take possession of all these nice things.