I work in a standard corporate environment. Fluorescent bulbs shine down on sterile rows of grey and tan cubicles which provide an obligatory barrier between co-workers. The sound carries fairly well in my area of the building, and consequently, I am a privy to a variety of discussions that take place between employees.
Topic conversations range from status updates on crucial projects and their accompanying milestones to complaints about internal inefficiencies to discussions about vicariously fulfilling lives through offspring.
However, the one workplace conversation I hear THE MOST occurs mainly in passing and goes something like this:
“Hey Jim, how’s it going?
“O you know, hanging in there. How about yourself Dale?”
“Not bad, not bad… almost Friday”
“Sounds about right, two more days.”
The irony is that the conversations which occur following the weekend go something like this:
“Hey Jim, so how was your weekend?”
“Eh, it was alright. Had to take care of my yard all weekend.”
“Yep, yep gotta take care of that yard.”
“How bout you— how was your weekend Dale?
“O it was alright, didn’t too much. Had to take the kids to their soccer games, such a drag.”
“Welp, see ya.”
“Yep, see ya.”
Time and time again, like a movie stuck on repeat, these workplace conversations play out.
Days, months, years pass and nothing changes. Tim’s still mowing that giant lawn, and Dale’s still gotta shuttle those damn kids to their athletic events. No passion, happiness, or inspiration can be detected in their monotone voices which emote a sense of despair and a general feeling of being trapped.
My question to Jim: “Why did you buy a property that required so much maintenance if you hate having to maintain it so much?”
My question to Dale: “Why did you have kids if you can’t find at least a little enjoyment in the somewhat administrative tasks that accompany parenthood?”
The answer is probably fairly straightforward. Their peers, family members, and friends were all doing the same thing, so naturally they followed along. Jim bought a house with a big yard when he got his salary because “that’s what everyone does.” Taking care of a big yard is just something that“everyone has to do.” It’s just a normal part of transitioning to being an“adult.”
Dale had kids when he and his wife reached their mid-30’s because“otherwise it might be too late.” All their friends had children, and it was just that “next phase of their lives” that they knew they “had to do” regardless of whether or not raising children was something they TRULY wanted to do.
Don’t get me wrong, I can definitely understand how events that led those two men to that point in their lives transpired. But it still baffles me, and it’s honestly a little sad to see. The good news is we are reaching a point in history where it’s permissible to go against the “norm” and carve our own path through this life.
Don’t want to have kids because you don’t think it’s something personally aligns with your goals or expectations for this life? Great! Then pursue other fulfilling opportunities with that added time you know have. Don’t want to spend your weekends taking care of a giant yard fenced in to keep all the nosy neighbors out? Great! Then live in a more communal space where resources are shared by residents and less maintenance is required freeing your valuable time up for activities you actually ENJOY. Conversely, if anything, conventional or not, (including those past two items) aligns with your desires and expectations, then by all means PURSUE IT.
This long winded introduction brings me to my main point:
In order to best set ourselves up for a happy and fulfilling existence, it is of the utmost importance to thoroughly think through those decisions that have the broadest impact on the REST OF OUR LIVES.
Where we live, where we work, the career we choose, who we marry, whether or not we have kids, etc. all play an extremely important role in dictating our future personal propensity for happiness and satisfaction. So think through these decisions long and hard! Make choices, when possible, that allow you to live close to the things that you enjoy, that place you in the vicinity of the people you love, and that give you sufficient time to pursue these pleasures and spend time with your loved ones. Obviously, sometimes compromises have to be made. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be a happy middle ground, one that might not necessarily mirror the rest of your peers. This happy middle ground is one that will invigorate us and allow us to continue living with passion even into old age.
That way when we become “real adults” and are having conversations at work, they’ll sound something like this:
“Greg— looking classy my friend! How was your weekend?”
“Kev! Thanks for asking man. O you know, just CRUSHING it like always— checked out that new Hibachi grill with the lady and finished knitting that quilt. How about you, brother man?”
“My wife and I spent some time re-doing our SICK NASTY koi pond in the back yard, then we took the kids to their jai alai match. Brody is an absolute beast in the arena!”
“Right on man, well I’m about to go KILL IT in this presentation to senior staff, you take it easy brother.”
“You as well, man. Hashtag *makes hashtag symbol* data driven decisions, AM I RIGHT BROSEPH?”
*Both friends high five*
Who knows? I might be dreaming or delusional or just another millennial with no actual perspective on the matter thinking he knows how to break the mold and change the world. Or maybe I’m on to something. Either way, that second conversation sounds a heck of a lot better than the first.