Due to some changes within my company I will soon join the growing ranks of the unemployed. I've decided to use this opportunity to return to school and pursue a lifelong dream--I want to manage a non-profit organization. It's not exactly a lucrative career and it will require some lifestyle changes, but I've finally found what I want to do.
As I think about life and the decisions I've been making up until now, I've realized a few frightening things about my behavior:
1. If I don't know what I want in life, I probably won't get it. If you don't know what you want in life, it's easy to cycle between the mundane routines of survival and the expensive habits of avoidance. You hate your job and it takes up most of your time, but it pays the bills, so every weekend you go to stores and buy things to fill the void in your life, or you spend too much money eating out at restaurants. Your credit card is maxed out, so on Monday you go back to work and sign up for overtime. At least there's retirement!
2. When I don't know what I want, I usually seek money, power, and fame as a substitute. If you have enough money, power, or fame you can hypothetically have anything you want--so when you actually do figure out your life, you'll have the means to attain what you want. This is a cop-out approach that rarely works.
3. People gain more money, power, and fame by convincing me that they have the secrets to money, power, and fame. It's a pyramid scheme, plain and simple. By convincing you that your life is incomplete, people who are just as unhappy as you make money by promising to fill the void in your life.
Those are the three biggest things I've noticed recently. Often when I walk by a store or a restaurant and smell the food or see the nice things for sale inside, I begin to feel unhappy about my life. If I can only earn more money so I can eat in that restaurant or shop in that store, I'll feel more complete. Those people inside must be happier than I am. Every TV commercial I see plays on that same mechanism--somehow my life is incomplete, and if I can just buy this thing or own that house or car, I'll finally have arrived in "Happy Valley".
We see constant evidence that much of our culture is just a big, hollow lie, but for some reason we still fall for it. I finally realized why:
We still don't know what we want, so we just decide that we want everything.
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
-The Hollow Men; T.S. Eliot
This blog narrates my journey to find out how to break this cycle, figure out what we want in life, and to get there as inexpensively as possible. I'll be sharing fun ideas, cost-saving tips, good books I discover, and those little "a-ha" moments that come every once in awhile as we examine the world around us and try to determine our true place in it. I hope you'll come along for the ride and contribute your own ideas.