Going against the tide is no easy task but alas, it is much, MUCH, better than going with the flow the wrong way.
How does your ideal day unfold?
Actually, forget that. How does your ideal life unfold?
What color is it? What texture does it have? What fragrant smells and what delicious tastes does it diffuse? What music does it play? Where does it start and where does it end? What oceans and lands are you going to cross in your ideal life? What amazing things are you going to create with your hands and with your brilliant mind? What, if anything, are you just pining to do with your life?
In my 20s, I had started to ask these questions. Gosh if only I knew then what I know now! I wondered if happiness could be in what we do everyday – even every hour (dare I even aim that high?) - and not just on vacations and weekends. I did not know exactly what I want; I’ll grant you that one. I knew only what I didn’t want – that much was obvious – I did not want the misery of working in a field that I did not love and with people that I did not belong. To say that I was lost and confused is an under-statement.
The common advice that does not work for the uncommon mind:
Guess what kind of advice I would get from friends, family, peers and colleagues and on occasion, the opinionated stranger– and I must say, I know they had the best of intentions; I just looked for those pivotal answers in the wrong places. The true answers always come from within us and I was not mature enough to know how to look deep in my heart and soul. That bliss was a few years from finding me but on to the advice and smart arguments I did receive (along with my commentary in parenthesis).
- Well, it’s a job that pays well and you did study engineering after all. (Yes remind me again, as if college and grad school weren’t painful enough and engineering was my chosen path at 18!)
- Can you just wait and see what happens ?(As if the work that I dreaded was suddenly going to become “rewarding”.)
- Why can’t you just be grateful? (But I am! I am grateful for my life that is why I want to live it fully and without wasting it!)
- Have you seen how badly the economy is doing lately especially after the Internet bust? (What on earth does economy have to do with my life? And besides, the best and most brilliant things emerge in the worst economies. Just saying!)
- Others would give anything to have your job (good for them!) You have time, lots and lots of time to do what you want later. (Oh really? Excuse me but how do you know? I mean, this poor guy didn’t have that much time. I bet he would’ve loved to know that 41 was the end of his life and by 21, he’d already lived more than half of his life. How brutal is that? To never grow old and to never experience the full circle of life? To be robbed of the one thing that is supposedly promised to us for a long while. So yeah, I don’t think I am banking on the whole “time” promise.)
I really wish someone had told me that it is ok to give it all up and that we are not bound for the rest of our days to our majors from college or to the subject of our Master’s Thesis (Code Division Multiple Access in Wireless communications, anyone?). I wish someone had pointed that my corporate career was a joke and that none of what I did and did so well resonated with who I was – who I always have been – and that greed does not lead to bliss. I wish someone had told me that being miserable now so that you are potentially “happy” later is a bad formula for living, period. I wish someone had done this to me but alas, whatever happened happened (What a great show that LOST) and worry not, because I am about to do it for you!
If my beloved parents are reading this, I can hear them say, “Well, you wouldn’t have listened anyway!”
In their defense, my stubbornness has blinded me very often in my life. The undeniable fact of life – or my life anyway – has been that the more you invest in something, the more you want to invest in it. Pulling out is scary business and it only gets harder with time and with effort. That is why most people are willing to put up with more over time. You probably would not have put up with a lot of nonsense in the first year of your career but after 5 or 10 years of investing in it, it takes a lot more to make you walk away. The more you build something, the harder it is to let it go. Relationships suffer from the same phenomena; people tend to stay in those relationships that no longer serve them. It is hard to break the chains of habit and we human beings are creatures of habits. Listen, I adore my habits and find a world of comfort in them.
But alas, at some point in life – maybe after a special birthday or maybe after your first grey hair (who knows?) – the time comes to stop making the easy decisions and start making the right decisions. You need to stop blaming others. You need to stop coming up with excuses or justifications. You may choose to stay on a path that does not necessarily make you happy because the return on that investment in your life is worth the trouble – I did just that for a long time and it paid the bills and built my nest egg. Or you may choose to take a drastic measure and change your life now and you will be facing a whole new world of challenges along with amazing rewards.
Staying the ordinary course or walking the radical course, the choice is yours. It always has been.
Both decisions can and do serve you well at different stages of your life and what matters the most is to be honest and transparent with yourself about what you are willing to do and what choices you are willing – and not willing – to make. Denial, blaming others, and feeling jaded or cynical are indications of alarm and maybe a time to re-consider the state of things. Change can happen when and only when you are ready and not a minute sooner. And until it does, tell yourself the truth about everything. The lying business just gets old after a while!
It’s only been a week since my last day at my old job and I have happily broken all my remaining ties, the financial and the physical – the emotional one I broke years ago! I have already cleaned out the dust from my old job out of my home, rearranged my office and de-cluttered my head. I wonder if I should reaffirm that I made the right decision, even if it was far from an easy one.
Big decisions of life take guts and it is very, very hard to let go and take a risk; it is terrifying to give up security and constant cash flow among other things just to dive into the unknown. In fact, one may argue that it is even – shall we say – stupid (gasp!), the opposite of smart and in fact the opposite of what I am supposed to be writing here under the “Smart Habits for Rich Living” tagline?
Nah. Nothing stupid about following your heart at any – and I do mean any- expense whatsoever! Sweet freedom awaits and the freedom to pursue your heart’s desires and to build on your passions is not over-rated. I realize I had promised to sing praises to my newfound freedom in this post and share new business ideas and plans for Prolific Living but I got carried away again.
So I will absolutely and positively do it in the next post.
Until then, I am waiting with very little patience to hear your amazing thoughts and read your brilliant comments.
The certainty that life cannot be long, and the probability that it will be much shorter than nature allows, ought to awaken every man to the active prosecution of whatever he is desirous to perform.
~ Samuel Jackson
Use Your Inner Powers
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