I’ve always struggled with the question, what do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a confusing question and it equates your identity to your career- so, no pressure. What do I want to be? At the age of 6 I wanted to be a humanitarian aide worker. At 16, a photojournalist exposing the injustices of this world- the poaching of endangered species, genocide, and the blood diamond industry. In college I declared 7 majors and entertained thoughts of several others. At 26 I was contemplating law school, joining the Peace Corps and then working for Amnesty International. So, I guess you could say I wanted to be a kind, caring human being who stands up for others and contributes to making the world a better place.
Never once did I think, “Well, Jim, I’m glad you asked that question. I want to be tied to a desk for a minimum of 9 hours a day, get paid less than what I contribute, hope that time passes quickly so I can enjoy the meager few hours outside of work, commuting to work, or preparing for work. The goal is to buy a bunch of stuff I don’t need, so I can watch countless hours of television and have a drink or two each night to numb stress, boredom, exhaustion and anxiety. I also hope to owe a lot of debt and work until I die.”
Don’t get me wrong- I do like my job, I’m a hard worker and take pride in my work product. Aside from demanding hours (on salary of course), I am very lucky to work where I do. But … is this it? Is my life meant to be spent living for the weekend because over half of my life is dedicated to the consumer machine? What am I working for, exactly? A jet ski? More clothes than I can wear or store?
People say that if you do what you love, work won’t be work. I’m sure that’s true for some. But for me, I resent being forced into a structured schedule in a system that doesn’t align with my values and just seems insane. I love the work I perform, I’m just not all that thrilled about the conditions it’s performed under. We’re workers and consumers first, we’re cogs in a money-making scheme for those at the top. Our own lives are somewhere near the bottom of the list.
I want a life of my own making. I want to spend months in the wilderness communing with nature. I want to entertain creative bursts of energy when inspired. I want a garden. I want to road trip to friends and loved ones, to lend a hand to those in need. I want to meet new friends and love interests along the way. I want a simple, quiet life in a small country home. I want a teeny tiny camper as a traveling home while I go on my adventures. I want experiences and not things. Doesn’t everyone want this, or am I the outlier?
How do I get there? I don’t know. I’m assuming there are many paths. Trying to untangle them all and figure out the most efficient one is overwhelming. So, I guess I’ll take it piece by piece and one month at a time. But, first I should take stock, then take action to change my life.