Grinding It Out

A friend wrote about losing sight of what’s really important in life because she had been too busy with work to focus on the things that give life meaning, and to enjoy life.

She reminded me of my former life. I wake up, go to work, come home, and it starts all over again. It came to a point that I question my purpose in life. After two decades of working hard to live up to expectations, I felt disenchanted. I could carry on with the same routine for another 10 years but then what. The fear is I may not have a further 10 years, and I would have spent all my life toiling at a desk, and not appreciate life.

I struggled to find meaning in work towards the last few years of my career. I spent hours in a never-ending series of meetings that often turned out futile.  I coped with disillusioned colleagues that left me despondent. There’s a saying, death by PowerPoint and I was the victim. Did it really matter, all that I have done? Performance was measured by dollars and cents. I was tired, and work consumed my time and energy. Coming home to Bambi was the best part of the day, and I waited all week for Friday to come. Every morning when I put on my power outfit for work, I thought, is this what my life is about – earn money, spend money and the cycle continues? Have I reached a plateau where I am not making any progress in my life? Or am I going downhill from here?

I attempted to break the monotony with baking, gardening, holiday trips, wine and dine, and to push myself harder at work, I bought myself a fiery red car. It motivated me for a while but it drained my energy, and left me with little time for my furry kid. Still, there was a nagging doubt in the back of my mind, it didn’t feel right.

I have lived over half of my life. Could this be mid-life uncertainty? It wasn’t a crisis surely, but I felt I could live better. I don’t mean it in a material way, but rather, living to my values and beliefs. Good health, a fulfilling life, a sense of purpose, freedom and the ability to help others are my guiding values. But, I feared stepping out of my comfort zone.

In the hustle and bustle of our life, how often do we stop to smell the roses, and be truly grateful for the little things we have? Most of us are working to amass more wealth, nothing wrong, but in our mindless pursuit of material possessions, we lose our state of mind.

Here’s Einstein talking about accumulating wealth in 1934, as part of the “The World As I See It”, a collection of his essays and ideas:

“I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure characters is the only thing that can lead us to noble thoughts and deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and irresistibly invites abuse. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?”

KL’s support and encouragement were the impetus for my decision to quit my job last year. I have not looked back since. I’ll tell you how my life has changed in a year, in another post.

To all my friends who are grinding it out, find your joy and meaning in life. You only live once.