It has officially been just over a month since my last post. Part of the reason has been working slightly longer hours and exercising more, both in a good way. I’m contributing more and feeling needed, and I’m feeling better in general because of basic taking care of myself.
The larger issue has been fully working out what is going on in my head – what it is I want out of life.
I used to not understand how people could truly say they loved what they did, and that they wouldn’t want to retire, unless they were artists somehow making a living through creating. Of course, if they made too much money, they were sell-outs. Only starving artists were truly happy.
I wanted that – to be able to create without restrictions. Except I didn’t have an overwhelming drive to paint or write, and I am way too risk-averse. I was nervous about quitting my old job even though we could more than live off Fergus’ salary.
Working towards financial freedom is my way of letting myself relax and just figure shit out. To write, to exercise more, to travel, and to “find myself” (I had to – this post was clearly not cliche enough already).
Fergus is even more risk-averse, and his naval-gazing tendencies are much reduced. His sense of curiosity and work ethic are enviable, though, and we actually have a list of projects we eventually want to make together when we find the time.
That’s the thing – working the 9-5 doesn’t just take those hours away from you. It zaps your mental energy, making it harder to work on side projects and be creative in general.
Take this week, for example, amazing week at work for me. I was a boss – catching issues before they affected our work, delegating responsibilities, mentoring a newcomer, and I even received an award and a personal gift from a coworker.
And on Saturday? I stayed in bed all day and watched videos. I didn’t even have the energy to put the damned laundry away, let alone write this post or finish one of the other dozen drafts in my folder. Even reading a book seemed like too much effort. Fluffster is partly to blame for waking me up way too early, but still.
I get it now, though – why some people don’t want to ever retire. We all want to feel needed, to become the expert in something, to feel like we matter. They thrive on that mental stimulation from working, and are justly worried about where else they would get that satisfaction. Retirement to them means you stop mattering.
For me, I’m still worried about what I won’t be able to do if I keep working. I can barely take care of myself some days, let alone push myself to create.
But do I want to fully say goodbye to work? I’m not sure anymore.
In my mind, the perfect situation would be seasonal work at my current job. Three months on, three months off.
I have a short attention span. I cycle through most hobbies and interests on a regular basis. Like those random YouTube videos – for some reason, I’m watching a crazy amount of skateboarding videos, despite never before skating in my life and having no inclination to pick it up (highly recommend Braille Skateboarding, particularly their Stupid Skate and Skate Everything series).
The vast majority of traditional role models out there have one drive, one purpose, and they have succeeded in that singular life goal. Everyone talks about finding your passion in different ways, and it’s often just assumed that everyone has one.
A while back I read this book called The Renaissance Soul that made me reconsider what success meant. How do you handle multiple interests, multiple drives, especially when having a full time job? What if you’re a Ben Franklin instead of a Mozart? The biggest takeaway from the book for me is that you have to pick and choose focus areas, but it’s fine to rotate interests. You might choose to focus on learning the guitar and jogging in addition to a full time job for seven months, then switch out the guitar for knitting or starting your own AirBnB business.
It’s just…it would be so much easier without having that full time job. So many more possibilities, and the freedom to fully have control of your time. Yes, there are days when I get home and am really proud of what I was able to accomplish, but those accomplishments are not fully mine to begin with. That work goes towards someone else’s vision of the world – not my own.
This story from singer/songwriter Harry Chapin seems particularly appropriate here:
My grandfather was a painter. He died at age eighty-eight, he illustrated Robert Frost’s first two books of poetry and he was looking at me and he said, “Harry, there are two kinds of tired: there’s good-tired, and there’s bad-tired.” He said, “Ironically enough, bad-tired can be a day that you won. But you won other people’s battles, you lived other people’s days, other peoples agendas, other people’s dreams and when it was all over there was very little ‘you’ in there, and when you hit the hay at night, somehow you toss and turn – you don’t settle easy.” He said, “Good-tired, ironically enough, can be a day that you lost. But you don’t have to tell yourself, ’cause you knew you fought your battles, you chased your dreams, you lived your days, and when you hit the hay at night, you settle easy – you sleep the sleep of the just, and you can say ‘take me away.'” He said, “Harry, all my life I’ve painted. God, I would’ve loved to be more successful, but I painted and I painted, and I am good-tired and they can take me away.”
Now, if there is a process in your and my lives in the insecurity that we have about a prior life or an afterlife and God–I hope there is a God. If He is – if He does exist He’s got a rather weird sense of humor, however. But let’s just– But if there’s a process that will allow us to live our days and will allow us that degree of equanimity towards the end, looking at that black, implacable wall of death, to allow us that degree of peace, that degree of non-fear, I want in.
Man, do I want that “good-tired.” To some extent I have that now – I’m learning, feeling challenged, and building good relationships. Will that change? Almost assuredly yes – remember, short attention span here. When that time comes, I want to be able to leave without fear, to be able to fully commit myself to my next focus. It’s always amazing what financial freedom can get you…
This is rambling as all hell, and that’s after multiple edits and refocusing about what I want to talk about and drive home. Yes, seriously. My mind is a scary and incomprehensible place unfiltered. Good for you all I’ve had over a couple decades of practice deciphering it. My point is, it’s important to think of “the why” – to have an end vision in sight, even if it’s not fully materialized or defined.
What drives you? Let me know in the comments so I can be super inspired by how awesome you all are.