More or Less?

The biggest challenge and struggle in my life right now is not letting my work mess with my head.

I am working full time and although the job in itself would not be that bad, the environment and people make it the wickedest experience. Quite often I ask myself it this all worth it?

Life has evolved in such a way that it’s become a chore. Is the purpose really to spend our life laboring away, (contributing to) producing a surplus of products/services that we don’t even really need but have learned to want because of the great job greedy people are doing at convincing us that we are less of a person if we do not have more and more?

I do not mind working. I actually need to work, work in the sense of doing something productive with my time, in order to be happy. Having too much time on my hands is no bueno. Boredom is my nemesis, ‘cause you can only do so much fun stuff, and then time seems to expand and expand and I become lost in there and turn antsy. However, when I end up working in an environment that is nothing less than toxic (I am talking about psychological poisonous effects), for an employer that is not only unappreciative of my efforts but also attempts to take advantage of me financially, a line has obviously been crossed and all the joy I would otherwise feel contributing is gone.

Everybody here surrendered to their expected role: that of a robot. On a large open-plan floor, in a grey setting, enclosed in cold cubicles, we’re all hunched over the keyboards typing our life away. For the purpose of manufacturing and selling a product that’s already in abundance, whose life span is much longer than the marketing materials suggest, and that does certainly not need an annual face-lift. Hardly anybody lifts their head from the monitor, let alone smile or greet one another. I was so surprised to find a co-worker who shared my view; her status on our internal IM program said “Remember, folks, we’re not curing cancer here… breathe and relax!”

There are numerous reasons we work and work a job that does not make us happy: that’s what adults do – life is hard, haven’t you heard?, it’s just a steppingstone to something greater, we need the health insurance, we need to pay our bills. I admire successful people and deep down inside I still hope one day I will fulfill some of my own ambitions. At the same time however, I feel saddened thinking about all the personal sacrifices prerequisite for professional success. Mothers who return to work weeks after delivery, mothers who boast how their babies are thriving on formula gaining 40 oz a week (that is oh, so wrong!), fathers missing out on their kids’ milestones because of business travels, people avoiding emotional commitments because of an overloaded work schedule, and the list can go on. The worst is watching and listening to people who believe that they have been brought into this world to work. They take so much pride in working 12-hour days, having had no vacation in five or more years, and feel that having fun, relaxing and enjoying themselves is a weakness. Someone at work – the poster child for this type of personality, announcing a trip abroad for which she’d miss work for like… four days said “It’s not like I’m going to have fun… I’m going to a wedding.” This speaks worlds about the issues going on up there. On the outside she seems content. I hope she is authentic.

The average person working the standard 8-hour a day job spent in 2012 55% of their awake time on the job;1 that is not counting any over-time (which is quite standard in the US) nor an above-normal commute (as it is the case in some states, like our gorgeous Golden State with its fantastic 405). Before I moved closer to my workplace I would spend between 2-3 hours in my car a day, add that to the 9 hours I’d be at work (lunch included), I’d get home at 7, cook, eat, and go to sleep. Day in and day out. On a good day, I’d squeeze in 45 minutes the gym, but most of the time the commute would drain all motivation out of me.

I strongly believe this is not the way we’re supposed to live. While I’m at work, performing unfulfilling tasks that contribute to a goal that I could not care less about and an increase in the bottom line of some opulent industrialist, outside the sun rises and sets, leaves change color and flowers bloom and wither, my son grows and learns about life from someone other than his parents and I am missing it all.  Not a moment passes without my wondering why do we choose this for ourselves? If it was up to me, I would pack up my bags (ok, first I would need to spend some time weeding through my belongings and getting rid of 85% of them) and drag my family over to a little house on a prairie. This is another post altogether. Hubbyloo says I wouldn’t survive living outside the city for more than three days. Let alone tending to chickens and cows, and harvesting crops… I hope one day I will get to prove him wrong. That means he would finally get a well-deserved time-off, my husband being one of those people who work their hardest a job they love, luckily though he still wants and knows how to manage his schedule to make time for us and his leisure interests.

Since I have to stick around the city and I do want to put my brain power and whatever skills I may have to good use, and we could certainly use extra income, I have officially started looking for a job in the non-profit industry. Too late (and too lazy) for me to study to become a doctor, or a lawyer, or a journalist (a real one, not part of the ignorant, corrupt species) – professions for which I think personal sacrifices are acceptable (not the only ones though, we need policepersons, too, and even stand-up comedians etc.); nevertheless, contributing to the work of organizations that support and fight for relevant causes carries enough meaning and importance to keep me happy and satisfied, and make my time spent away from my son worthwhile. I have a history of supporting non-profits in the past through volunteering – I loved every minute of it; I should have known back then that that was the industry for me.

In fact, I did know, but I ignored my intuition and listened to advice that suggested a focus on a better pay. It would be a lie to say that I wasted the last two years of my life as I have learned a lot in terms of technical skills and social psychology and interactions, but I would nonetheless love the opportunity to turn back time and choose more intuitively. Will we ever become awaken enough to realize that we are not living at our true potential only because we always try to quiet the voice within?

 

P.S. My editor, aka my bestie, kinda disagrees with me on a few items. Her question to start the debate was “If you wanted to be a farmer, why did you leave your ol’ country?” Good question. First of all I definitely did not know then what I know now. I left because I wanted something better for myself, because I encountered all the right opportunities for me i.e. work to get me started, a school to educate myself, opportunities to travel, etc. I am simply not happy with where I am now, feeling that I am just a small piece in a huge machine, that I spend my time and energy on things that are not worthy. If I were in the ol’ country now, I’d probably feel the same, because I am pretty sure I would not have been a farmer, but an employee in a corporation that would treat me worse than I am treated now. Part of the masses, I have also been programmed to abide to the rules of capitalism – I need the $$ to live the good life I am being sold on. It is however possible that while being grateful for having a job (to which I still go in spite of being sick to my stomach some mornings), and a husband who can afford to support us financially and enjoying the magical world of abundance we live in, I can still dream of something less. I cannot yet enter that world where people live on less because of circumstances, because I am not ready, so as a compromise I will continue to be a working citizen but I will carefully choose who and what I support through my efforts.

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  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. American Time Use Survey. October 23, 2013. Retrieved on November 6, 2013, from http://www.bls.gov/tus/charts/chart1.pdf []

9 comments on “More or Less?

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  6. Great post, Ana! You hit every point that a working woman might have to balance and you did it with a great tone! I was literally going “yep, check…” as I was reading along. As someone who started out as a lawyer and didn’t even last that long I can tell you that you shouldn’t need to think another minute about “what might have been” because I, along with many many similar professionals, have made a transition or at least contemplated one like you are – I really believe most of us have been in that boat before…but I find that it was best to decide to take that boat one one direction or another – not to stay on it. Have you and your family created a list of values to work towards or considered making a “dreamline” (http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/lifestyle-costing/)? I did both of these with my boyfriend recently and we found that it has helped me stay focus what we want to commit our time on or make time for. Just know that I am in love with your self-reflection and give you lots of props! <3 – Fanny, your friend from LYL Creators Guild

    • Thank you for your note, Fanny. I get the feeling that more and more people question theirs lives and their life choices; it’s likely we’re approaching a tipping point.

      Sitting down as a couple and jotting down our values is a great idea, but it would not be a productive exercise right now. My husband is the rational half in our marriage and he keeps us focused on the financial security not only for us, but for our son as well. I respect that. As I mentioned in the post, he strongly believes I would not be able to live a minimalist lifestyle, and to be honest I am worried he may be right. Before I got pregnant a friend of mine and I were talking about joining a commune up in Northern California for a few weeks. The thought of it made me so excited, but then, like always, life happened, I got pregnant and now I kinda need to focus on this little person for a while. But while I’m at it, I am looking for compromises to be made between the life I have to live and the life I believe is right for me. The day will come when I will have the chance to step off the boat.

  7. I think it is just a way to find your self more and more, stroger and mature woman. Because you know how to apreciate what you have know in your life, people, familly, a lil’ one.. A good supported life by you and your hubby.. I just advise you to look inside you and be awear of how strog you can be, not for your familly but for you like a woman. And whatever you do i think you will be victorious and don’t let anybody tell that in this world in this america you will not find some job to fullfill your expectations, because your are wrong, just turn your head around and look close and I know you will see and find your professional happines… Big hug..<3

    • Ana-maria, thanks for your encouraging words. I am certainly trying to find that fulfilling job that would make me happy and give me a sense of professional and, more importantly, personal satisfaction. It will probably take some time before I will completely transition into that new life I dream about, but I am pleased to find myself moving forward. I’m working on my patience. You know what they say, all things are difficult before they become easy…

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