In America, working to live a “good” life is the standard. Society engulfs us, utilizing its sheer mass, pressing ever-so-slightly until we conform to working and consumer expectations.
Forty-five hours a week is the new forty, fifty is the new forty-five, and with any luck, we’ll make it to sixty if we’re patient. You don’t know it, but you stopped being Mike Danewitz a long time ago. Now you’re a call-center agent, waiter, plumber, stockbroker, IT technician, and everything in-between.
You could be excluded from several social circles, depending on your job title. And if you take a sick day from that job, you’ll be shunned from the sphere in which you operate. How dare you get ill or take a day off? Working-class America demands productivity, and the only thing that matters is power, money, and status.
For twenty-six years of life, I’ve valued these principles as sacred. Sometimes I’d spend 80 hours a week, living and breathing labor. Some don’t have a choice, they need to make a living, but most of us do it because we’re sick. We can’t stop filling our cart on Amazon or driving brand new cars off the lot that immediately decrease in value.
Simply put, we need to live better lives, focus on the things that matter, and create a legacy that showcases the wonder of our being.
The beating heart of this article is an understanding of three simple things:
1. You are not your job
2. The items you own end up owning you
3. Stop living for the weekend
You are not your job
My mindset changed when moving to Australia because other cultures around the world place far less value on titles and occupations. Back home, Americans make rash decisions before getting to know the person behind the mask.
These judgments put people into a box they can’t escape. But maybe, just maybe, we’ve missed out on the remarkable beauty of humanity by not giving people a chance.
The high-rise, business-class “suits” as they call them in Sydney are arrogant, waiters are confused, plumbers aren’t intelligent, and doctors are perfect. Every job has misconceptions about the people that work under its wing. Certain people indeed gravitate towards specific fields, but it’s also true that Suits are humble, doctors fail, plumbers play the stock market, and waiters enjoy their work.
You shouldn’t be classified by what puts imaginary currency into your bank account. After all, we’re a culmination of the service you do for humanity, interests, hobbies, and heritage. Your job, even your families’ lineage of work, is only a small factor in calculating YOU.
My story is one of struggle and resilience against some remarkable odds. I haven’t had much of family to lean on and rightfully should be addicted to drugs, living next door to the local Ridley’s Supermarket, smack dab in Small Town, Idaho.
But I’m not.
And you have your own story. One that nobody can attest to its grandeur except for you. Our struggle is what makes us the men and women we are in this brave world. It creates a legacy that goes beyond pointless business meetings, water refills, and leaky pipes.
Incrementally, each day, we write the stories our grandchildren will cherish. And when we’re long gone, nobody cares what you do for a living.
They won’t tell you about Mike, the Digital Marketing Supervisor for Sony Electronics. They’ll talk about Mike, the caring and loving man, who helps strangers lift their baggage into the overhead bin, visits his mother every weekend, and plays the guitar like a mean son of a gun.
Say hi and give a smile to the cleaners in your office building. Because thousands of people walk past them without a glimpse, subconsciously ignoring that they’re flesh and blood like you and I. Imagine how that would feel day in and day out, echoing over and over, they have stories, talents, and the capacity to love like everybody else.
You are not your job, and we shouldn’t treat others that way either.
The Things You Own End Up Owning You
Stop spending precious moments of your life chasing the dollar, because we’re all broke in death.
Imagine your last trip to Pottery Barn, perusing the aisles, looking for that perfect addition for your home.
Maybe that sleek charcoal gray spatula with the ergonomic grip, burn-resistant rubber, and flexible spine for easy-flip action. Or the Coffee Maker with programmable auto-brew, 24oz coffee pot, and the ability to display the local time in Tokyo, Japan. Some people are licking their chops just thinking about how sexy their breakfast would be with these modern additions.
You must ask yourself, why do we continuously need more?
Convenience is king, and we worship the ground it walks on.
How much is too much?
Our intuition tells us, “Shop until you drop, pedal to the metal, and full-steam ahead.”
Therefore, we exit through the gift shop, because we just can’t resist. Find balance when shopping for clothes or outfitting your home. Otherwise, the release of endorphins you get when you click “add to cart” will become more important than the item itself.
Some people make $100,000 a year and live the same quality of life as someone who makes $50,000. Others will work their life away, climbing the corporate ladder by skipping sick days, vacations, the gym, and time with their loved ones. Their mind poisoned by the pursuit of more.
Dads miss their son’s baseball games to attend meetings about productivity.
Material possessions are addictive, like smoking cigarettes. Consumer America draws you in with beautiful marketing, compelling copywriting, and tells you that you must have every product on display to be happy.
Your time is a finite resource, more important than anything you can buy on Amazon. You’re trading precious time for those items.
Remember the reasons we enjoy work, build goals for your income, and control the craving for material possessions in your day to day life.
You are not your coffee maker, now stop trading your soul for it.
Living for the Weekend
It’s alarming how much you can learn from the first interaction you have with your co-workers each day. In the restaurant industry, the cookie-cutter response to asking about another’s wellbeing was “living the dream.” In Corporate America, it might sound something like, “Good because it’s almost the weekend.”
Sarcastic and depressing undertones were woven into these statements, making me cringe the second each cliché left their lips. This misery is what countless years, 50 hours a week, and too much importance on that new iPhone does to people.
It dulls them.
If you only enjoy two days out of the week, I might mumble, “living the dream” as well. If my working life was this much of a travesty, the only honest thing to do is quit.
Seriously, in a calculated fashion, leave your job.
If you don’t like what you’re doing, you need to change careers. People feel stuck because of their degrees, income, or other factors in their life, but the only thing that matters is your happiness.
Some people are groaning about their responsibility right now, but the truth is that if you aren’t happy, how can you live for somebody other than yourself? You have nothing to give.
For instance, I’m 27 years old and passionate about writing. Was this my first choice? Hell no, I’ve done the following:
- Burger King Register Guy
- Subway Sandwich Artist
- Cruise Ship Deckhand
- U.S. Army Soldier
- Restaurant Manager
- Restaurant Server
- Technical Support Call Center Agent
My career before this was taking off, and I was starting to earn a serious salary. But I was miserable, so I quit my job, started writing, and moved to another country. I’m thrilled when writing and sometimes lose sleep when I get excited about working on a project. You should be brutally honest with yourself when choosing a career and reconsider the paycheck as your motivation.
“By the time you can afford it, the car ain’t important.”
Overall, we must find joy in our work. Ask yourself, do you laugh and smile at your job? Or do you provide a service that’s imperative for others, which helps you feel some type of way?
If the answer is yes, keep living the actual dream, the dream that involves an abundance of love, happiness, friends, and fulfilling work.
It’s never too late to make a change for yourself. A job that balances passion with responsibility gives us something that money cannot, purpose.
What Does All This Mean?
Our expectations are our own. But it’s easy to lose sight of what’s essential. Sometimes we need a swift kick in the butt. Simply put, life can get better if we understand a few things:
1. Stop judging people based on their job title, let them into your circle
2. Realize that we’re trading our most valuable resource — time for material possessions that we don’t need to impress those who don’t care
3. Find what we love to do in this life, pursue a career that we’re passionate about, and never trade our wellbeing and happiness for a paycheck
You’re not your job, you’re not your watch, and your career isn’t solely there to perpetuate the need to buy more things. You are uniquely you.
Stress little, work less, live more, and ask yourself,
Are you living for your job?