I was going to write a column about it being that “time of the year again” and how we all need to focus on what’s really important about “holidays” and family vs material items and commerce etc., etc. However I decided to kill that idea and perhaps address a topic that can apply to this time of year in some ways as well as to life in general.
As I prepare to tour with my new band Times of Grace and leave the “comforts” of a 9-to-5 office life that I have been accustomed to for the past four years (again yes, I am a musician but music has not been so generous to allow me an affordable living just yet as touring is not for the most part a high-paying lifestyle. So I have maintained a full-time work schedule that has zero to do with my passions and art). I have been contemplating the way we all live in this life and in our society. As I look around at the people I work with [they are all good people for the record] nestled behind their cubicles and working 8, sometimes 9 hours a day to provide a huge paycheck for other people (our bosses) while receiving just enough to sustain a basic life.
It reminds me how much we are not separate from the natural world, for example; ants come to mind. In a colony of ants, every “worker” knows its place and will live with the assigned role until death. We, as humans, have tapped into that and created our own colonies of workers. There is a King or hierarchy (or in the instance of the ants, a Queen) and then various chains of command that keep the work flow moving and thus keeping the “machine” or nest as it were, thriving and productive. This 9-to-5 life is for many people, and for myself in the past few years, a secure way to live. Having a “guaranteed” paycheck, benefits, paid vacation, etc. makes a person feel good and safe; but at what cost? We sacrifice our time and in some cases, our dreams and ambitions. Let’s not forget that no job is completely secure and companies downsize, shut down or go bankrupt. So is a 9-to-5 really a security?
We as humans have the ability to step outside of this “hive” mentality or way of thinking and go our “own” way. To live day to day not knowing if you will get a paycheck to live “free” as some would say. For example, I am leaving my job in just days to prepare to tour again and live a life long dream — to attempt to make a living off of my art, my music. I have no guarantees I will make enough money to make ends meet, I have no security of a solidified future as a musician or artist, yet I am going for it! I know many people reading this will be like, “OK, we would love to live that way, what’s your point?” My point is no matter what path we take in life, there are no guarantees and many, many possibilities. So what stops us from just going for it and striving to be truly alive and fulfilled regardless?! That is a rhetorical question and if there were a simple answer, I could stop here.
We all have our reasons for doing what we do everyday. I hear daily in conversations and online (Facebook messages, emails) people talk about what they want to do or “one day I will do this”…etc. I know a great deal of people that have so much talent and have never been able to achieve monetary success and then some who have never even tried to attain it. If I may dig up an old saying I once wrote down on a scrap piece of paper while contemplating this same thing: “Are we alive or just breathing?” So my question to you is this — Are you truly “alive?” Do you feel you are “where you should be,” and do you know your place in life? What drives you daily to do what you do?
This brings me to money. Money motivates so much of what people do. How important is money? I feel like there are a great deal of people who realize it is not money itself, it is what money can provide us with, right? Money is why many of us work crap jobs we hate because we need to make money to survive. Or, in contrast, artists who may have started out humbly doing what they do for the sake of feeling alive and expressing themselves. They find huge success and start making “good money,” live a certain lifestyle, become accustomed to that lifestyle and in order to sustain it, become driven by the money. In turn, they can become trapped and become just like that person working a crap job they hate. I have met a great many people who are living as they choose or fulfilling a dream; don’t have a lot of money and are quite happy. I also know people who work a corporate job, have inordinate amounts of money and are completely miserable (in my experience, I have found that is usually the case).
So no matter what you are doing at the moment, just know it can always change for the better or worse. This life is fleeting and short: take nothing for granted. Strive for what is important to you regardless of money. If you have a passion, money will come. Don’t spend your life wondering what if. Don’t pass up an opportunity to live your dream even if it feels like a total risk. You can always land a crap job you hate if all else fails. If you are reading this now and you are unhappy living a dissatisfied existence, to quote a wise old friend, “It’s your fault.” So that being said, here is a reality check: you can attain what it is you seek, you just have to work for it. In keeping with the season, try not to get caught up in the white noise of commerce and shallow tradition, enjoy time with your loved ones, be thankful for what you do have…but also know you have the ability to change the things in your life that do not satisfy you and hold you back! Start today!
As always thanks for reading. I leave you with one of my favorite songs from a record that helped shaped my younger days.