And so it came to pass, that the aspirational lifestyle no longer served its purpose. It was time to move on. To regroup together as mind, body and soul – and ask ourselves what was giving us energy and what was draining us so. Together we twisted and contorted, turned left and then right. We got angry and frustrated. We got depressed and empty. We did our very best to squeeze our square little selves into the roundest of round holes. Although the roles began as somewhat fulfilling, the long-term sticking point came from the people. There were laughs and banter. A collective common as we fought to utilise our greatest strengths and squash the bits that strayed outside of the lines. We rode the highs together and we bonded strongly during the lows. We flowed together as a pool of conflicting personalities – all heading in the same direction but crashing and rebuilding through our own personal rapids. We worked hard, we were accountable. There was a pride in our work, our product. There was an openness of speech and humility in response. There were people driven by ego and there were lots that were not. I enjoyed it for the most part but it was time for growth, autonomy and new connections. It was time for the next chapter.
I never wanted to work in “corporate” growing up. I never dreamt that I would spend 5 days a week sitting on my ass in front of a machine that would dominate my every waking hour. I never dreamt that life would become a chore – a never-ending day of the same routine. Wake up tired, drag myself to some sort of physical activity, transit amongst other sick and depressed looking people, work passionately and longingly to build someone else’s dream – usually Shareholders of some sort – go home exhausted, not effectively communicate with my husband, drown out the pain with low functioning TV or aspirational personal work till the wee hours, toss and turn through the night with ghosts of lives past, rinse, cycle, repeat.
God. When you put it like that, it’s a wonder I ever made it out of bed at all. And to be honest, most days I barely did. I was a walking zombie. One for whom coffee was not an option. I couldn’t even drug myself to function on the required level. So one day I decided to sleep when I could, in the morning. And so I started a bit later and my productivity levels and serotonin drastically lifted. Once I got past the judging looks of those early risers and at worse, my own inner demons – I didn’t look back. Feeling more balanced that I had in years. It was a credit to my final managers that this change in routine was never questioned. Finally an evolution in perception, where the quantity and quality of work completed at last outweighed the insignificance of hours in the chair.
So if this was never the dream, then why was I here so many years later? Well, why do you think? Remuneration was not a desire but a survival factor. I was out on my own, paying to put a roof over my head at 17 and food on the table which no longer magically appeared each time I sat down. I had started in different industries but a series of unfortunate events had led me to the environmental and financial stability of the modern working office. I was lucky enough to work for some fun brands, national and international icons but at the end of the day, once you have spent enough time anywhere – it is no longer about the sport, the art, or the fun – it becomes about the bottom line. Or sometimes the poor management. Or the archaic patriarchal structures that has served these companies for generations past. I dug my heels in occasionally, speaking up for change and fairness. I was met with looks of shock or admiration depending on the evolution of the individual. It was often empowering. Often disheartening. Often frustrating. Efficiency, workplace progression, fairness – these were all things that the machine did not have room for. Unless you had a fancy title, then suddenly these words had more power. Or at the very least, the person’s hearing them, heard them with more intensity.
I can hear the chip on my shoulder as my thoughts spill out. I would be lying if I said there was no damage done. But it is not for me to blame an individual, a team, a company, or the social and business structures that have allowed our world to revolve around an economic model that has left us modern slaves to high salaries. The perfect picture has been painted in this lucky country we call Australia and it involves coming home late to your children and losing contact with your friends because you no longer have the time or energy to give back to yourself. We put so much of our energy and effort keeping the beast turning over. We feed it our blood, sweat and tears so that it can continue to grow year on year. For it can never be big enough. It can never stop growing. It will never grow so large that it self implodes, spilling out expired executives and oozing out the skeletons of the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed people that entered so long ago.
Or will it? We are at the start of a global revolution where the user-generated economy is taking an axe to previously dominated industries. This wave of startups and change makers finally have the technology to harness a scale that was never before possible. And as it does, not only will there be a somewhat re-balancing act of the ants and elephants…but it will allow the next wave of workplace robots to evaluate what they value most and hedge their bets accordingly.
I hedged some great bets. I was gifted safety, security, stability. I had some truly great workplaces, worked with more capable people than I care to remember, attended some great events, led some big projects, and made many people feel supported directly or not. But with every action comes a reaction and so it has come that my actions and reactions are screaming for change. It is time to try something different. I walked out full of beans. With big plans and a full agenda of extra curricula activities to maintain momentum and continue on the path of saving the world from itself through education and evolution of the mind.
It is less than a week into this new life before the first hurdle strikes. The reality that an overly ambitious deadline has been long missed is accompanied by a hasty reminder that hopes-and-dreams are no match for execution-and-action. So after a few days of mixed emotion and energy resetting, I find a present moment where I can be grateful for the space to do this. To allow the natural timeline needed for the ups and downs of life is but the greatest gift of all. There is time for healing, energy for physical and mental exertion where only you are the beneficiary, there is an openness and a longing for awe – something large in scale and nature to take our breath away and remind us that our problems are not so but thinking makes them this way.
In a “normal” set of events, we would rush through these moments – parking them in the back closet along with those elusive “stress” responses, our deepest fears, and our greatest ambitions. There is no time to consider these things as real and unique to us. There are presentations to build, children to feed and idiots in the traffic to yell at. Our energy is great in its form but it is constantly projected out to those we work for, those we love, and those we love to hate. We give this energy willingly because it feels normal. But it is us who have normalised it. We have chosen paths and words and responsibilities that mean we will forever be tied to offloading our energy for the benefit and detriment of those around us.
But this energy is ours. It can be harnessed and utilised. It can be focused and channeled, and streamlined for our benefit. And when this happens, guess what? We benefit those around us so much more. It is an old sentiment. We know it to be true. But who has time to implement it, let alone give it the head space for implementation? It is much easier to agree and then walk away. Until the next article or study comes out and we nod in agreement again and walk away all the same. Without this time and energy to strategically think about our own lives, we will always continue on the same trajectory. A comfortable path that cocoons us in paid bills, the odd “escape”, and the nice feeling we get when we know that we are colouring in between the lines.
So I cannot stay in this openness forever. Or can I? The day will come when I too have bills to pay, where the safety net I have placed below will no longer carry the weight of my living costs and when my husband decides that my old mentality of “spending” is not catching up fast enough with my current lifestyle budgeted for “minimalism”. Maybe on this day, I will be moved to find an intermediate space. One where I do not re-enter the beast and its temptations nor give into a life of debt and social isolation. I have many balls in the air, and am hoping that one or all of them land in a place that brings reward – be it personal, spiritual, financial or inspirational. I would ask you to wish me luck but if I’ve learnt anything, it’s that you have to make your own luck. But I’m superstitious so go on, wish me luck anyway!