Whenever I was unhappy at work people would sometimes tell me something like, "well, there's more to life than work." I never really understood what they really meant. I never found it comforting AT ALL. I took it to mean that while work may suck you can derive joy from other things outside of work. True. I don't debate that there are many things besides work that can bring joy, but the notion that we just have to endure our work didn't sit well. We spend the majority of our lives at work. So, if we don't like what we do, what is what the person who says to me "there's more to life than work" really saying? That we're just supposed to find all our happiness and meaning in life in our bits of free time? That we only get to live our lives in the scraps we get of our evenings and weekends? In the few moments we're able to step off the treadmill of work demands?
I used to think the answer to these questions was "I guess so" because I didn't see any other way. I had jumped all the hoops and done all the things society told me to do to be "successful" and if this was the best we could do, then this must be the best we can do. I thought I had no choice but to just endure it and perhaps there was something wrong with me for not liking the reality of the corporate jobs coveted by so many. And I wasn't about to just walk away from it all. I had worked hard for many years to get there. Not to mention that while I was definitely not ok on the inside, from the outside I looked good and didn't want to mess that up.
So I hung in there. Well, until I couldn't anymore. The scraps of my evenings and weekends were never going to make up for all the time spent working at places and doing jobs that made me deeply unhappy. It just wasn't sustainable. Not for 'just a few more years' and certainly not for the duration of a career.
To be completely honest, I didn't know if there was something better, a different way to approach life that would make me happier. But, I was willing to step into the unknown to find out. Yes, I was scared and very upset that I just couldn't just be happy with the corporate job I thought I had wanted, but I was also at peace with my decision because I JUST. COULDN'T. ANYMORE. and I was willing to see if there could possibly be another way.
It was a powerful choice. For the first time in my life, I chose me and my happiness over "shoulds", over social convention and expectations, over what "everyone" will think. I chose to find a way to actually like my life. It is my life after all, no one else's. I chose myself. I chose to fight for an existence fully lived and full of joy. Did I know I was going to find it? Nope. Not at all. But I would rather have tried than to have spent my life in that cubicle wondering what would have happened if I had dared to try something different.
Spoiler alert. This is what I found. In short, there is another way. A way to live your life and be happy. You don't have to try to make do with scraps. It's possible to like your whole life. You don't have to stay in unhappy situations. We have a choice.
How I got there is a longer explanation, but in its simplest form, most (if not all) of what I was believing about how I had to be wasn't true. There was a slow unfolding and letting go of all the thoughts I had about who I should be. Then came a process of getting in touch with who I really am and what brings me joy. And lastly, moving my life in that direction - in the direction of my joy - and in all areas of life, including work. It's both beautifully simple and incredibly challenging at times, but 100% worth it. Because my life and happiness is worth it. And so is yours.