The Life You Never Lived

9 to 5 suicide

You graduated college with a loan to pay off. You sent out hundreds of applications and did countless interviews. You cringed every time friends triumphantly declared on Facebook their new jobs.

And then finally, one magical day, it happened. Acme Ventures, Inc decided to make you their newest talent acquisition. You were razzle-dazzled by their offer of X salary, potential bonuses, employee-conscientious environment, and you started next Monday. The world seemed to consist of nothing but sparkling rainbows, cute puppies, and laughing children.

Next Monday came and when you came to the office, dressed in your 9-5 best, you were beyond excited. Sure, you were a little bit nervous too, but mostly you thought about how this was the first step to making it big. Bonuses. Leadership opportunity. Stock options. Equity. Your eyes were wide with possibility.

You made some big moves early on, and management was pleased. Then you had a barren stretch, and management wasn’t so happy with you. Everything was going wrong. Then it wasn’t. Then it was again. You won some days, you lost some days.

It was Monday again. Joe from three cubicles down ran into you at the water cooler. Sometimes Joe ate lunch with you. Didn’t he go to a concert last weekend? Wedding. Oh. Was it nice? Cool. Monday, huh? Then you went to your cubicle, and did things to make the little arrows on the chart go up.

Then it would be Friday, and when you left the office you would be happy. So would everyone else.

Then it would be Monday again. Then Friday.

Months would pass like this. It was all a blur. No day was alike. Every day was alike.

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFRIDAY

Saturday. Sunday. Time to breathe a little. Maybe you got drunk. Maybe you went to the movies. Maybe you saw your family or friends. Maybe you read a book. Maybe you went to a fancy restaurant.

Work was the same. Maddeningly? Contentedly? Depressingly? Reassuringly?

You were making progress, slowly. There was the ladder to climb. Climbing was good. Climbing was bad.

You looked at yourself in the mirror. You were putting on a little weight. You got a gym membership.

At the gym were all the other people who worked like you did. The machines at the gym were like the cubicles; everything was compartmentalized. 9-5 work. 6-7 gym. 7 dinner. 8-11 TV. Then sleep.

Money. You had money. Routine. Everything the same. Your own apartment, your space to be alone, like your dorm in college but fancier.

Then things changed. Was it the travel blog you stumbled upon? Was it that friend from college who taught English in Spain? Was it your younger sister spending a year in Australia?

It was Monday again. You looked at yourself in the mirror and realized something. You were not happy. You had not been happy.

But you had a job! You had money! You had friends!

Yet you were empty inside. What could you do? Quit your job? But it took so long to find it! And it meant security! And status!

But how old were you? 22? 23? 28? 35? It didn’t matter. It never mattered. You took a deep breath and quit your job. Then you bought a one-way ticket to Europe. To Thailand. To Bolivia. To wherever.

To see for the first time. To live slowly. To not watch your life rush past you like the subway train at 8 AM on a Tuesday morning. To maybe understand that it didn’t have to be the way it was before. To swear to never go back to the old way. To find peace with yourself and realize maybe you could go back, but to keep the peace within you. To realize that it didn’t matter what you did, but to find something you loved instead. To attain balance within yourself and be happy. To be free.

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12 thoughts on “The Life You Never Lived

  1. Well…I’m proud of you! Now go to work 🙂 Just kiding on the last one. It’s up to you, freedom or caged. It’s strange how you inspired me to write my story…one day, perhaps.

  2. I’m so glad I had this revelation, before I signed my life away! People think I’m crazy for not going to medical school, but I knew that I would wake up one day and realize it wasn’t what I wanted. Great post.

  3. Nathan, I lie this post a lot. You are doing a lot of self reflexion in your trip. No everyone is as lucky as you are to come out of school without debt and be able to have this adventure before the real world responsibilities settle into your life.
    Hope you are well.

    1. I realize my situation is a little bit different with regard to debt, but it is still possible to travel with loans to pay off. There are websites like couchsurfing.com and workaway.info that make travel both cheaper and fulfilling. And of course, having friends to stay with helps! I’m enjoying Dublin this week.

  4. You’re in Dublin this week?! Oh man, I have so many [of your] posts to catch up on! [I’m also excited to see you promoting workaway.info – I wish they paid me for spreading the word!]

    Also, I love this post. I went through the same thing! It was great being abroad. And now I’m back on the grind..it’s not as fun. Enjoy your sabbatical from work! :]

  5. Pingback: Life is a Camino

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