Sunday, March 4, 2012

Buying Back My Proverbial Soul and Forgoing Rent

For much of my life I was led to believe I needed to have a clear idea of exactly where I wanted to go and what I wanted to be doing. In high school I was supposed to know what college I wanted to attend, why, and what I wanted to major in. Then I was supposed to know why I wanted to major in that subject and know what field I wanted to work in and where. In the midst of that I was also supposed to be inadvertently planning to have a husband, 2.5 kids, a house, and maybe a few animals. 

I felt like a failure for not really ever having a concrete plan to present. I was also really frustrated because it seemed like I just couldn't get it "right" no matter how hard I tried. I shifted my major from English to Philosophy to Art to Nutrition back to English and then graduated from college without a (prospect) fiancé, and an English degree that is currently hanging useless in the job to which I unwittingly sold my soul to pay my rent.

I've spent the last 3 years and 5 months figuring out how I got myself into this situation, and how to get myself out. (The soul-sucking job, I mean, I'm quite content without the former for the time being.)

Through the course of my questioning, I've decided the idea everyone should have their lives all plotted out is a lie. I don't mean I think it's ok to meander aimlessly through life with no goals or direction, but I don't believe we need to have a comprehensive map drawn for our life path either. 

One of my favorite quotes comes from an essay by Paul Graham (

"It's hard to find work you love; it must be, if so few do. So don't underestimate this task. And don't feel bad if you haven't succeeded yet. In fact, if you admit to yourself that you're discontented, you're a step ahead of most people, who are still in denial. If you're surrounded by colleagues who claim to enjoy work that you find contemptible, odds are they're lying to themselves. Not necessarily, but probably."

I don't know what "work I will love doing" is going to look like. But this I know for certain: It's time to buy back my proverbial soul and find and do what brings me (back) to life. I refuse to subscribe to the lie "It's work, it's supposed to suck." I have no romantic delusions that leaving a stable well-paying job is going to be easy. In fact, it's going to be really hard- so hard it seems downright stupid. That's why people lie to themselves and believe they're stuck- because the alternative is terrifying. But it's also liberating. Taking a risk by leaving "cold comfort for change"grants the chance for happiness beyond what "stuff" we can obtain, and gives us the chance to find true meaning for our lives- for ourselves. 

I realize many people have kids, spouses, health conditions, houses, etc- I'm not at all proposing one foolishly drop everything and compromise your family's well-being. I am proposing questioning motives and rationalizations. Believing you're stuck and choosing a means to an end are different things.

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. ... Stay hungry. Stay foolish." -Steve Jobs

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