September 4, 2013

I Got What I Wanted.

It's been a little while since I've posted - I've been busy with family, friends, and some surprises that have come up in life. The summer may be coming to a close, but the Gay Mustang will keep right on driving! (-:

When I had my breaking point in April, I now understand that it happened mainly because I was so disconnected from my loved ones and because the guiding principles and values of my life didn't make sense anymore.

My life had become robotic, and I felt completely lost - but I had no idea how to change it or even what form my life could possibly take.

And therein lies the chicken-and-egg problem. I wanted to change my life, but I wouldn't be able to change my life without changing my life first. As in, in order to change things - I had to take a leap of faith without knowing what would happen and just trust that everything would work out.

And now... This crazy summer is already almost over. I thought that I would have everything figured out by now... That I would know what to do next, I would know how my life would be structured, and that my exploration would be over.

Far from it. The exploration of a different way of structuring my life isn't over. It's just begun!

I can say that I have truly found what I was searching for at the beginning of this summer even though I didn't even know what I was looking for until I found it. Here's the list I've found:
1. Peace. I've had a real break from work and life, and I now find myself walking around with a smile on my face on most days. Imagine that. Yes, it's true.
2. Friends and Family. My crazy work and travel schedule had me completely disconnected from all the important people in my life. Being away from them really hammered home how important they are to me. Reconnecting with so many people I love has gone a long way to making me feel much happier.
3. The Joy of Working Outside and with My Hands. Being outdoors, getting my hands dirty, and learning about farming has really made me feel like a human being again. I don't think I will ever be able to go back to long-term full-time cubicle life.
4. A Spirit of Adventure. I have never felt so alive since that day I got behind the wheel of my Mustang and set off on the open road towards Nova Scotia, with no idea of what would happen.
5. Hope. I now really believe that having a satisfying, purposeful life is actually possible, and is in fact a reasonable, achievable thing to work towards.

If in your own life, there are things you want to try, things you want to do, things you want to explore... DO THEM! If your life has become a chore and completely routine... It doesn't have to be. In fact, it shouldn't be. It really shouldn't be! If you have a nagging feeling that something in your life is missing or that something isn't quite right... Explore it - even if it ends up taking you to some scary places. The scary places are often the most transformative ones.

Over the past 2-3 years, I've felt a subtle sense of emptiness - that something is missing, or that something just wasn't right in my life. What had happened was that I had structured my life according to many of the ideals and beliefs that our society and education system ingrain in us... And I was now seeing that these ideals and beliefs just weren't right for me. 

Here's a few examples of the values and beliefs that I realized didn't quite fit for me anymore:
...we should work a 40-hour work week in one career that should progress linearly up a corporate ladder.
...we should go to university for a degree, and get into thousands of dollars of debt that we carry for decades.
...we should get a mortgage on a home that is far beyond our means because this is what it means to be a "grown-up".
...we should sit at a desk for 40 hours a week, and then try and undo those 40 hours of sitting with 3-5 hours of repetitive exercise in an airless concrete dungeon called a gym.
...we should aspire to earn a lot of money so that we can buy lots of stuff to fill our homes to entertain us after working our weekly 40 hours in a job that we aren't engaged in. 
...we should funnel money into pensions and retirement savings vehicles that could be wiped out in one poorly-timed stock market crash.
..."success" is a white-collar job, and anything such as farming or manual labour jobs mean that you're stupid and lower-class and to be looked down upon.
...we should aspire to all live urban lifestyles because rural people are stupid and uneducated.
...straight A's in school mean that you're a smart and worthy person, and failing in school means that you're stupid, worthless, and will never amount to anything.
...if you have a university degree, you should look down on people who don't have one.
...if your child becomes a janitor, this means that you have failed as a parent and that your child has failed as a person. (Remember hearing your parents say, "If you don't do well in school, you'll end up being a janitor!" I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to live in a world without janitors! It'd be filthy and gross! Janitors and other so-called "working class" jobs are absolutely important to keeping our society functioning! I would argue that often, a janitor brings more value into the world than a good chunk of our CEOs.)

A big part of why I left my job and dove into the world of farming was that it didn't make sense to me how my job sitting at a desk writing Business Intelligence reports made so much more money than the typical family farmer (whom, I can tell you, works far, far harder than I needed to as a Software Consultant.) I didn't feel guilt as much as disgust at how backwards our culture's values seemed to be. How was I making more money sitting at a desk writing reports than the person who grows the food that all of us eat every day?

It became harder for me to live my life according to the societal values that had been drilled into me my whole life when these values didn't seem to make sense when examined based on their own merits.

So when I left my job and previous life... I wanted to rebuild my life in a way that made real sense to me. This summer has gotten me started on this. I'm nowhere near completing the rebuild, and I suspect this is going to be one of those asymptotical life-long things that I'll work on and tweak until I'm six feet under... But at least the process has started!

So what next? Damned if I know! At this point, I'm going to do a mixture of software consulting, a bit of farming and... A smattering of other things that I'll find along the way.  I really believe that one of the big keys to long-term happiness is staying engaged in your life by having your hands in multiple types of work. 

So, the path forward is unclear and undefined...

But you know what?

I feel alive, free, and happy - and those things are worth the discomfort that comes from not knowing what's going to happen next!