“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” – Alfred D. Souza
At the beginning of the year I bought a book by John C. Parkin called “F**k it, do what you love” (I’m sure anyone who knows me heard me talk of it non-stop). It’s a self-help book which aims to inspire people to follow their passions in life. As soon as I purchased it, without even having read a single page, I told myself that do what you love would be my motto for 2016. I didn’t get round to reading it until I was in Canada in the summer but that just so happened to be when I needed to read it most. I’d gotten to a point where I felt stuck and realised I was running around in circles in life. Every single thing in the book resonated with me- it even inspired me to quit the horrible job I had in Toronto. After reading it, I realised that everything I’d ever stressed about in life didn’t matter, especially in regards to work and education.
In today’s society, the norm is: nursery/preschool, primary school, high school, university, out ‘into the real world’ to get a 9-5 job, retire then die. To me this has always felt stupid. I hated school. It never made sense for me to study a load of subjects I didn’t care about whilst also being put under a huge amount of stress to do well in my exams if I was to be successful later in life. We’re never taught how to develop the skills we need to work for ourselves or taught to follow our passions. All that matters is getting good grades so you can find a job in whatever field is closest to what you like.
After working really hard to get into university I ended up hating that too. I figured I must just be lazy so I tried to get on with it and told myself I only had two more years to go. I was so determined to get a degree because that would mean that I’d made it in life- that I was successful. Then I thought to myself, two years is an extremely long time to be doing something I don’t enjoy. And what even is success? Getting a piece of paper at the end of a horrible four years to say I’m qualified to do a certain job? Although it sounds a bit morbid, I always remind myself that I can die at any second. Did I really want to spend the last years, months, weeks or even days of my life doing something I hated? Imagine you spend 4 years of your life absolutely hating university or your crappy job and then the day after you get your degree or your promotion, you die. Suddenly, all that stress and misery was for nothing and you’ve missed out on what could’ve been the best years of your life.
If you love what you do, great, but a lot of people don’t. We say working is a choice but if you choose not to work you’ll end up hungry and homeless as well as being branded lazy. So a lot of people feel stuck. In the book, the author included a recent survey which showed 70% of Americans hate their jobs and I read an article saying that 70% of Brits would consider working for themselves. The book also talks of the excuses we come up with to stay stuck doing what we hate, because they validate the fears that prevent us from doing what we truly want. If we have something or someone else to blame then we can’t be held responsible for the way our life is. I’ve never felt that it made any sense to work for 40+ hours a week, 5+ days a week, 48+ weeks a year… all for the benefit of someone else. But I followed blindly anyway because that’s just what youre supposed to do in life.
We aim to get ‘good jobs’ (at least, society’s definition of a good job) purely because we want other people to recognise/prove to ourselves that we are successful. But on your death bed, who actually cares how much money you made, how many qualifications you had, how big your television was or how cool your car was? If you’re not happy what’s the point in any of it? Nothing else actually matters. Why can’t we help others or add value to the world without trying to fit into these little moulds that society has created?
I feel that we measure our success based on the opinions of others rather than defining it for ourselves. A lot of people spend their lives miserable doing things they hate because they think it will be worth it when they achieve x, y or z. Then they achieve those goals and are still unhappy, because they’ve never learned to appreciate now. We’re conditioned to always be waiting for something- the weekend, a holiday, a better job, payday, the day you can afford that designer handbag, the latest iPhone…
I felt like I was always chasing the next best thing up until very recently. I’ve now learned that I’ll never ever be satisfied if I live this way- there will always be something else to chase. I need to do what makes me happy right now rather than constantly postponing ‘real life’ to the future. For me now, happiness is the ultimate success regardless of what that looks like to the rest of the world. I’ve also realised that the more excess I rid myself of, the happier I’m becoming.
I don’t claim to have everything figured out, I’m still learning. I know that life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and that doing what you love isn’t as easy as just quitting your job today when there are bills to be paid and children to be fed. But if you’re unhappy with your life you can at least start taking baby steps towards a better one. Starting with your mindset.There are so many resources out there now that can help.
Right now I have no idea what my future looks like. All I know is that I want every day to be filled with passion and happiness. I don’t care if I’m labelled a daydreamer or unrealistic because the alternative doesn’t really appeal to me. I’m learning to live more simplistically and focusing on enjoying the present without becoming complacent. And I know that I’m the only one who has control over my life and circumstances.