Stop Wasting Your Life in the Pursuit of More and Different
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, so let’s stop lying to ourselves
If I could break my whole sad life down to one word that would allow me to show you the folly of not being grateful for what you have in life, that word would be longing.
No matter where I was currently in my life, one thing was always the same. No matter what I did or did not have, or how much better off I was than my neighbor, I not only wanted more, but I also wanted different.
20 years old. Child on the way. Married for three years. With not even a high school diploma, I worked my way into a shift manager position in a major hamburger chain. I was getting the bills paid, sometimes with a little help from my dad. I had a car. I made more money and lived better than the majority of the people I knew. Was I happy? Nope. I spent every waking hour thinking about what it would be like to be with a different woman, win the lottery, drive a fancy car, travel, on and on ad nauseam. I was never happy and would never be.
35 years old. Three children. Big mortgage. Big second mortgage. Making over 100K per year. I hadn’t sat around the past 15 years dreaming about a different life. I went to college. I taught myself coding and web design. I landed increasingly higher paying jobs until I settled in Boston, and I finally had money, but I wasn’t happy. I spent all my time wishing for a different life, wife, job, house, face, body, and mind. I was a mentally ill burnout who spent all his waking hours stoned and still wishing for more and different.
52 years old. After a divorce and moving to the other side of the world, I finally have a few things I am grateful for. I have a wife who appears to love me unconditionally and a total of five kids — two being under 8-years-old. I’ve fought a bloody battle with mental illness and have come to somewhat of a truce at times. I can write consistently when I am not having psychotic episodes, and I am starting to build my reputation.
You would think I would finally be happy, right?
I still want more and different. Even though I have little ones at home, I want to travel. Even though I am working as hard as I can to be financially successful, it’s not happening fast enough. I daydream about what it will be like when I am making thousands instead of hundreds. I still dream of winning the lottery. I don’t think about more and different women because I am delighted with my wife, but money is almost like an obsession — a mistress that would fulfill my every need.
I have a do-over. I screwed up my first marriage and destroyed my relationship with my first three kids because I was always too sick and too focused on getting the things I longed for. I have a chance now to impact my children’s lives by being present and grateful, but all I can think about is working harder. I have a partner who craves my attention, and I’m too focused on giving her all the things she ever wanted.
I work myself until I am so tired that I can’t fight the depression and the voices that try to control my brain. When I’m not sick, I am feverish in my quest to do more. I feel like If I can do more, I could finally get all those things I have been dreaming about my entire life and be able to give everyone I love the things they want.
I’m always working.
And when I’m not working, I’m thinking of work. Even when I have the chance to spend quality time with my kids, I’m often distracted or staring at social media on my phone, trying to promote and engage with my audience.
If I can break through this ceiling and start making money, I can travel. I can have that new laptop I want. My wife can have the latest car she keeps talking about. I can start saving for my kid’s college. I can help my mom and dad and my three boys in the States.
We could finally move my whole family to the U.S. and allow my wife and kids to see another way of life. They only know life here in the Philippines, and I would love to take them for a $5 ‘Pizza! Pizza!’ in the land of the free and home of the brave.
So I work. And I work harder. And maybe I miss out on some things with my kids, and I don’t have the best relationship with my wife because I’m distant and distracted all the time.
If I could finally fill the longing for more and different, aren’t some sacrifices worth it?
I’ve been struggling the whole day with this question. Part of me loves working and writing. I want to make money be known for something other than a broken mind and bad decisions. I want to fulfill the idea that my kids and my wife have in the heads of a successful man. They have only ever seen me broken. They have never seen me win.
I want to win.
But if the price of winning is missing out on the little things with my family because I am working, is it really worth it? Is the price you pay for financial success that you have to give up anything worthwhile in the pursuit of money? I’ve already lost one family to more and different. Do I really want to lose more than that in my quest for success?
Sadly, the fight to make something of myself and to provide a good life for my family is so ingrained in my mind that it’s not easy to even consider slowing down, even if I know it’s the right thing to do. Even if I want to experience every little moment of my children’s lives, my brain can’t help but worry over everything I need to get done today.
Maybe I am insane because I keep doing the same things over and over, hoping for a different result.
Life is so damn confusing.
Let’s Make Some Sense of This
How many of you struggle with a need to push harder to find your version of success? Are you trading precious moments with your family for hours in front of a laptop, trying to make your life better?
If we all had our way, none of us would have to work, and we all could spend all our time with our families. But we need money to survive, and it is becoming more challenging every day to make ends meet.
Sacrifices need to be made. There is no way to have it all. It’s just not possible. There are only ever 24 hours in one day.
For one, I would rather work myself to the bone than to have my wife and kids have to worry over where our next meal is coming from. I would rather push myself to the edge and hang on with bloody fingers than make my kids suffer or want for anything.
I come from a long line of proud and stoic men who sacrifice their health and bodies so our families may live a good life, and it is doubtful whether I will change anytime soon.
But what about you?
Maybe you haven’t traveled so far down this path that you can’t still salvage your life. Perhaps you have already found some success, and you can slow down and spend time with the people who matter.
I hope that your search for more and different doesn’t end like my current situation.
If you can fix your life and start to enjoy the important things and still make a living, you have hit the sweet spot, and I applaud you. Stick with it! Spend time with your partner, or kids, or parents, or friends. Make time for the people you love.
And even though I will continue to push myself despite my illness, I will start looking for those moments where I can stop and be mindful of the here and now. Instead of scrolling on social media, I can put it down and play with my kids or give my wife a break and cook dinner for once. Maybe I can even take a day off here and there and make some memories to think about when I am pushing myself for more and different.
We all have the decide which sacrifices are acceptable.
Everyone is different.