Beating The Soul-crushing Dreariness of Modern Life.

Apr 05

Once upon a time, I was like many folks in Western society, living a nine-to-five existence Monday to Friday at a job I once enjoyed but now found tedious and unfulfilling. I too made the commutes, stuck in traffic, trying to get to work on time, jockeying at the drive-thru for my morning coffee.

I worked an office job, handling a growing pile of paperwork (despite the supposed commitment to going “paperless”, computers instead created more work than it reduced) in a profession in which downsizing and computerization created more work and therefore more stress to meet deadlines.

In my final years in that job, I worked for a succession of supervisors who cared little about my welfare and more about using me and my co-workers as stepping stones toward advancing their careers.

Getting stuck in the rat race can suck the life from your soul.

Getting stuck in the rat race can suck the life from your soul.

I liked some of my co-workers, but most were self-absorbed automatons who bored me with their office politics and infuriated me with their backstabbing and sucking up to the boss.

Following each day, I’d make the commute home, in which my evenings usually saw me stretched out on my couch, zoning out in front of the television once I’d given enough time to my family regaling me with stories of their day.

I’d look forward to the weekend, which often began by numbing the dreariness and emptiness of the work week with alcohol on Friday nights. How much I drank on Friday night correlated into how much I did on Saturdays.

Weekends would find me wanting to do nothing more than just veg out, but more often than not there were chores to be done and a family who understandably wanted more of my time, which sometimes required real effort on my part.

I look back on that period from my early-thirties to my early-forties with no great fondness. Sure, there were some wonderful moments, almost all of which involved my family, which usually took place during my summer and Christmas vacations. Those, however, were all too brief, making me yearn for something better in my life.

For me, that period is my personal lost decade. It’s when my career at the time, which once was so fulfilling and enjoyable, turned to drudgery. It’s when I truly felt as though my professional life had gone off the rails, which in turn was have an adverse effect upon my relationship with my family.

Fortunately, it didn’t cause irreparable harm. I was lucky, because I’ve seen marriages fall apart, or to the point where some of my friends and colleagues appeared to be tolerating their family instead of enjoying their company.

I think a big problem for many people in Western society is we reach a point where we settle. The job may not be what we envisioned ourselves doing in our youth, or as in my case what was once an enjoyable career sours. But the money’s good, and because of family responsibilities we lack the courage to get ourselves out of our comfortable rut.

That’s probably the root cause for the midlife crises many face once they enter their forties and fifties. What was once fulfilling and rewarding now feels like a disappointment. We feel trapped, and we start blaming our families for putting ourselves into a trap of our own making.

TToo many of us are stuck in drudgery, fearing that making a change will bring about grinding poverty, risking everything we’ve accomplished and hold dear.

For me, taking the chance on becoming a freelance writer got me out of that rut. It gave me a more fulfilling, enjoyable career, improved my relationship with my family, and gave me a greater love of life that was missing during my lost decade.

I was fortunate, as I’d laid the groundwork for my career change for several years, burning the candle at both ends for a while, which ultimately made my career change almost seamless with little personal or monetary upheaval.

When I have my morning coffee during the workweek on my deck, watching my friends and neighbours make their commute to jobs I know many of them don’t like, I recall only too well how it felt to be one of them, and feel fortunate to have escaped when I did.

My life isn’t perfect. Freelancing comes with risk. Jobs are gained and lost. The cash flow not only fluctuates year-to-year but also month-to-month. Some months and years are better than others. There are times when I’ve been able to carry my family financially on my own, and others when I’ve needed their help to pay the bills. Though I don’t miss the office politics, overbearing bosses and vapid coworkers, I sometimes miss the interaction with working with others. In my line of work I get few holidays, and I don’t get any vacation pay for taking time off.

I’m also not passing myself off as holier-than-thou. Yes, I took a chance, but it was a calculated risk, buoyed by the support of my family and the aforementioned groundwork I’d laid for this new career. While it was a leap into the unknown, I wasn’t entirely in the dark, and I had options if things didn’t work out.

On the whole, however, I have no regrets over my decision. I love my current career, my relationship with my family has significantly improved, I’m more energetic, and no longer drink myself into a stupor every Friday. I don’t miss the commutes, the petty work squabbles, the drudgery. Life has become more interesting and fun again.

Making changes can be difficult, especially as we grow older. If I’ve learned anything from my own experience, it’s still necessary. There’s no point in staying with something you hate just because the money’s good. Make an escape plan, work toward it, and execute that plan as soon as possible. You won’t regret it.

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