We live in a modern age, or rather, a post-modern age. We live in an age of creation, innovation, and technology. We live in an age of multi-tasking. We live in an age where money talks and nothing else can be heard, where time is money and money means time – more time to do what we really find fulfilling. We live in an age of exuberant consumerism, of "retail therapy", where purchasing "stuff" can make things seem better when we are having a bad day.
All of this amounts to workaholism. Everyone has it, like a contagious disease that spreads easily through the television and computer screens, through wireless connetions and the water we drink. We are bombarded with beautiful things, everywhere we turn, and we must have them. We must have them if Joe and Sally have them, and ours must be better and faster and more beautiful. This means we must work hard to get these beautiful things, and to be able to maintain them. But too often, the work does not satisfy the soul. Perhaps we believe the thing we would truly be fulfilled by would not be a feasible and lucrative career option. Perhaps we believe what fulfills us can't possibly be met in a job. Perhaps we don't believe in ourselves enough to follow our hearts to fulfillment. In any case, many of us stay tied to careers and jobs because we have a lot invested in them: years of education that would be lost, years of clawing up the ladder, years of kissing the boss' ass, years of membership in a society or union, years we have sacrificed things we enjoy to work overtime in order to advance more quickly, years we have spent honing our skills. Years. We think we can pay them forward: we work our asses off so that in a few years' time, we can take an extra week of vacation, or we will finally be able to take that parental leave without financial hardship, or be able to buy that home, or be able to call the shots. Years.
It reminds me of that opening line of that terrible afternoon soap opera: "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives". Time pushes us forward. If we think of the years we "invest" in unsatisfying careers in terms of years of enjoyment lost, things look quite different. Every year we spend doing something that is not emotionally or spiritually fulfilling, is a year lost to us, that we could have been spending doing the things that make us happy: travelling, learning, making art, playing sports, playing music, writing, doing yoga every morning, baking, gardening, hiking, raising children, making love.
In an age that defines us by our jobs, it is my suggestion that we stop spending 8-14 hours of each day in a place where we do things that do not fulfill us, and that we stop defining ourselves by our job title. I challenge myself and everyone who might read this to answer in a different way the next time someone asks "What do you do?" Answer by telling them what it is that you do that makes your heart sing and your spirit dance. Refuse to be limited by your job. Tell them you go to art galleries and museums and reflect on what speaks to you. Tell them you tuck your kids in each night and read them a story. Tell them you kayak and surf. Tell them you bake the best chocolate chip cookies they have ever tasted. Tell them you go to bars and dance to live music. Tell them you make jewellery. Tell them you run and do 300 crunches a day. Tell them you read voraciously. Tell them you write poetry. Tell them you review movies. Tell them you make children laugh.
We have allowed our jobs to control our lives for too long. We spend too much time at it every day not to be fulfilled by our work, just so we can go to the store and buy more stuff that sits in our home while we sit at our office; stuff that will never fill the void or make us happy. Next time someone asks you what you do, answer that you dance by moonlight around campfires to music your friend makes on his guitar – or something equally joyful that makes your spirit sing!