I often find myself in need of a reminder to answer the question, “Why?” As in why do I work the hours that I work? Why do I do what I do? And, for what purpose?
Like anyone else, I want to carve out a little section of this world and keep it as my own. I have a vision. I have dreams. I have wants and needs. However, the question for me is the same as it is for most people: are my needs being met? Are my dreams intact?
Am I living up to my best potential?
These are great questions to ask; yet, most hard working people find that they run into themselves at the door. Most dreamers wonder if their dreams will ever come true and most workers are so lost in the shuffle that they miss the openings for a shot at their dreams.
If it is up to me, then it is up to me to be sure that my life does not sway too far in either direction. If it is up to me, then it is up to me to accomplish, achieve, attain and pull off my trick. No one else is going to do this for me.
In a previous journal entitled, “Working for a Living,” I mentioned the need and the drive to build and create. I talked about the hours I worked and the systems that I fed with hopes that one day, all of my efforts would pay me back.
I wanted more, as in more for myself and more than what I had. I wanted more substance and more reward. But more than this, I wanted more options or “Optionality” as I put it.
My aim was to open myself to a new form of existence. In other words, I was tired of living for the status quo. I wanted more than mediocrity and more than the mindless life on an automatic-setting, like cruise-control on a boring road trip.
My previous entry in this journal discussed the humdrum life of a push-button world. No drive or passion and no bursts or thrills of achievement. Instead, there was only the blandness of the same everyday routine.
There were no thrills with the people I worked with and no special rewards or moments of fulfillment. Instead, I was a cog. I was a spoke. I was only a piece of machinery that moved in accordance with the machines around me.
My routine was joyless order of more of the same. My daily encounters were not enthusing or unenthusing; but instead, life was simply flat. At best, I was excited about a new tool that eventually made its way into use and then inevitably, the novelty was lost.
I have seen people chained to their desks. They were both mindlessly and automatically focused on their computer – no emotion, no joy, no anything, just flat.
I’ve heard people complain about how they should have “Quit when they were ahead” or got out when they had a chance. Or, I’ve heard people tell me how they started at their job until they figured out what they wanted to do with their life.
I have seen proof that temporary stays can become permanent and more often, temporary dilemmas become permanent situations unless altered by a committed force. Consequently, this is why I’ve changed my course.
As a boy, my Old Man used to tell me about the toughness of his hands. He would tell me about the aches and pains and the suffering he endured so that I would have the advantages that The Old Man never had for himself.
He’d tell me, “I want better for you.”
I can remember him after a long day at work. He was tired. The Old Man sat quietly at the head of our dinner table, eating his supper, which was reheated because dinnertime had already passed. I can remember his intensity and as a young boy, I was unsure why The Old Man seemed unhappy because I could never understand the concepts of working for a living.
Read these words again: Working for a living . . .
I’ve heard people say this throughout my entire life. At the same time, what exactly does this mean?
The Old Man worked for a living. This kept a roof over our heads. Our house was modest but not poor and the rooms were warm in winter and cool in the summer. The fridge was never empty. The lights went on and off. There were cars in the driveway. We had clothes on our backs and coats in our closets. We had healthcare and access to doctors. In case of accidents, we had insurance. We had what we needed, which was great. My Father was an accomplished man. He was a busy man.
He built things. He created a business and carved out a small section of the world, which would otherwise be nonexistent had it not been for him.
He taught people how to speak English. He provided a safe place for his family. He helped people along the way. There were times when The Old Man came home after a long day at work and he was quiet and tired. His eyebrows folded downwards as if to show an intense facial expression that would appear to describe him as unhappy or unapproachable.
I think about people who work for a living. I think about people who find themselves in the trade of effort for income. And thus, I think about the excuse makers or the unenthused workers who go to their job on a daily basis. They log on or punch in and that’s it. No thrill. No joy. No person to person interaction to boost morale. No reward. No risk. No return. It’s just flat.
I think of people who I’ve met throughout my working life. I think of friends, like Floyd the Mailman. I think about my old pal, Vince. I think about Pete and I think about Bosco who was with me when I started in my union days.
I think about their smiles when introduced to a glimpse of their outside life and how, for the moment, a trace of their dreams were real and alive.
I think about the people I knew who worked for a living but never had a chance to enjoy their life.
Don was a straight-shooter and a friend to me. So were many others and I watched them lose to the black holes of corrupt executives and coworkers. I have watched people lose to their way of living the same as I’ve watched water flush down the toilet.
Such is life and such are dreams when deferred or put on hold too long. See what I mean? This is why I am up before 4:00am. This is why I am here to map out my dreams and create my success.
Throughout my tenure, I have met miserable millionaires and happy people who learned to live with less. I have met generous people and stingy people.
I’ve met happy people and cruel people, funny and angry, grateful and spiteful. Along the way, I have learned that life is worth more than a dollar amount.
I want more.
I am not working for a living. I am working for optionality. This is to provide me with the options of choosing the way I want to live. These are the options that will lead me to be happy, successful and to create the best balance so that I am not always working but instead, I am living.
I had a friend who ran the freight car in a commercial office building. We will call him Pete. We worked together for a while.
Pete would ask me, “Are you still writing those stories?”
He would smile. He would tell me to “Keep it up.”
“Don’t let this place steal you away like it did the rest of us.”
Pete would say, “You got something that these people don’t have.”
“And don’t ever let anyone tell you different.”
I miss Pete.
Floyd the Mailman once told me, “You’re better than what you do here.” He said, “And that’s not a put down to you or anyone else. But you keep doing what you’re doing and I promise you that someday, the stars are going to shine for you.”
Pete was better too. So was Floyd. So is everyone better; however, we often find ourselves lost in the shuffle of emotional thinking.
Most of my life was spent living as a working class man. I am proud of this. I am proud of my roots and my history. However, as I move past the stages of midlife thinking, I realize that I want more.
I want the stars to shine. I want options. I want the farm. I want my dream; but more, I don’t want to work for a living. No, instead, I want my living to work for me.
Oh and hey Vince, just in case you ever read this; I miss you my man.
Remember the time we had to hide because Mike (our boss) was about to catch us playing around.
“Like scared rats,” you said.
We laughed . . .
I don’t think I would have done half of what I’ve done without your friendship.