For many years I followed social norms because I thought it’s what I was supposed to do. Essentially what I was doing was living the life that was expected of me. We all fall victim to these kinds of pressures, but it leads to unhappiness.
For five years I worked in corporate communications and public relations. There were some highlights but more lowlights. When I complained I was told by family members “You don’t like to work,” and I believed their logic. I wasn’t comfortably conforming to the nine to five routine, sitting at a desk all day typing away at a keyboard and going to meetings where my colleagues said things like, “Move it forward,” or “We need to optimize the brand model to leverage our existing prioritization.”
I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought I had a good work ethic. If I am to be honest, I work harder and more efficiently than most people I know. My objective in these office environments was to retain my individuality. But I couldn’t shake the nagging realization that I wasn’t living. I was a zombie.
When I looked at my colleagues I saw worn faces. They seemed so defeated, unwilling to acknowledge that they conformed to pay a mortgage. Unwilling to ask themselves, “Was it worth it?” No one should live their lives to make other people comfortable with their limited narrow-minded world view. Whether that person happens to be our parents, our siblings, or our employers. We all have to be true to our hearts.
I know now that I can’t live my life based on other people’s opinions and ideas of normal. Clearly when I tried I didn’t succeed and I couldn’t accept a life of mediocrity. It may not be mediocre for a lot of people, but for me, it was depressing. I couldn’t live with myself watching adults behave like teenagers, going through the same dramas they did in High School.
If — like my grandparents — I am lucky to live into my 90s I doubt I’ll reflect fondly on an all nighter I pulled on a project no one remembers. I know that at 90 I will cherish the many conversations I had with my friends in darkly lit pubs as the beer flowed freely and the laughter permeated the air.
Trust me I tried to conform. I tried very hard. It was pummelled into me that a pension, health benefits, a salary and a job title were all that mattered in life. Security and stability was the ultimate goal. The acquisition of goods was synonymous with success. To me success is based on how comfortable a person is with him/herself and has no relation with money, a job title and a salary.
For those who deeply identify with their profession I wonder what would happen to them one day when it all disappeared. Would they know who they were, as a human being?
I have been advised by well intentioned individuals that I should censor my thoughts on my blog. They’re worried that a potential employer would pass me over because of its content. My reply to this is alway the same. So? If an employer is going to judge me based on a few differing words and opinions then I don’t want to work for them.
Job descriptions profess that they are looking for someone who “thinks outside the box” and is “an unconventional thinker.” When I would interview for these positions I quickly learned that they wanted me to come only so far out of the box so that they could push me back in. I wasn’t interested in being someone they wanted me to be. Life is too short. What compels a person to change every fundamental thing about themselves? A car payment?
The idea that if you work hard enough you’ll get ahead in life is completely bogus. In my career I saw people get ahead through nepotism and cronyism. It had nothing to do with competence.
So instead I focus on other endeavours. My life is unconventional for a lot of people because they can’t control what happens next. I get it. I too have control issues. But waking up and not knowing what the day will bring is exhilarating.
You would be surprised how many expats there are in Buenos Aires, all with similar stories as mine. Each sick of their mundane effortless lives back home. One day they said “fuck it” and made a commitment to be active participants in their own lives. Few people trapped in cubicles can say that.