I Always Thought That Life Would Be Something I Understood When I Grew Up

The 9–5, the daily grind, the sheer mundanity of it all

Grace Whitley
Nov 14 · 3 min read
(Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash)

When I was five, I couldn’t understand how adults could drink so many beers while I could only drink one soda. My mother told me that I’d understand when I grew up. And I did.

When I was 15 and armed with the adult understanding of how beer and Coca-Cola differ, I wondered when I would be similarly enlightened and could understand the rest of adult life. How my parents got up and went off to the same old slog every day — and remained sane. How everybody around me followed the same established cycle: sleep, work, eat, repeat.

Sometimes, I would think about all the showers I would have to take over the rest of my life and become incredibly overwhelmed by that — let alone the 40-hour week that one is generally expected to work for somebody else. I tried not to think about showering too much.

I think people just get used to it and learn to be okay with it, because ‘that’s life.’

I hypothesized that maybe work was something that didn’t look appealing from the outside but was enjoyable while actually doing it. Like running. I love running, but watching sweaty people struggle up hills isn’t exactly great inspiration.

By 24, I had a good job and a college degree, and I’d worked numerous jobs along the way. But I still didn’t ‘get it’ — at least not in the same eureka way that I got the beer/soda divide.

Now, I’m 29. I still don’t get it. Only now, I don’t think anybody else does either. I think we’re compressed into very specific duties and times and lives. I think people just get used to it and learn to be okay with it, because ‘that’s life.’ Only it isn’t — or it doesn’t have to be.

All of these workers are part of a big machine, grunting out labor and taking home cash. But to what end? I had the good job, to pay for the nice apartment in a good location that was close to the good job, so I could easily get to the good job, to earn the money to pay for the apartment…

(Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash)

I think we’re all settling — for something we’re okay with doing for 40 hours a week. But what do you really want to be doing? Instead of basing my life around work because society has decided that a career is of the utmost importance, I base my life around happiness. Then I adjust all of the other parts — including my work — to fit. I don’t have a ‘real’ job anymore. I’ve never been happier.

What’s the point in having a great job if you only get two weeks off a year to spend time doing what you actually want to do? To be able to tell other people that you hold some sort of arbitrarily respected position, even though your life overall isn’t that great? Even though you spend the majority of your time doing something shmeh?

When I was five and my father asked me what my goal in life was, I said, “To be happy.” More than two decades later, and after many different lives lived, I’m doing just that.


The Bigger Picture

Oddly specific. Universally applicable. Submit your writing to biggerpicturemedium@gmail.com.

Thanks to Ryan Hussey

Grace Whitley

Written by

Writing is what I do instead of sleeping. notsexistbut.com Feminist, chemist, protagonist. Made in NZ.

The Bigger Picture

Oddly specific. Universally applicable. Submit your writing to biggerpicturemedium@gmail.com.

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