The past three weeks have been tough. Not in a “my cat died” kind of way. But in a “I need to force myself to crawl out of bed every morning” kind of way. The kind of way I see many people spending their entire lives. The kind of way I have made my life’s mission to avoid.
Trying to describe what it was, it almost sounds ridiculous. So yes, we went on a field trip to a town on the coast. Tough life. But I swear, it was. It completely proved that the whole business-travel-thing is all work, no play. Meeting after meeting, always late, always rushing. Hardly even having time to pee, shoving down whatever food you can grab in the break that you don’t really have time to take, short nights of restless sleep… And yet having to be alert, sharp, present. Who cares about basic human needs, suck it up, for fuck’s sake. Put on some extra make-up, nice clothes, a fake smile and go. Or better run, because the clock’s ticking.
Looking back at it, as always, I’m tempted to say “It wasn’t that bad”. But to be honest, it was. And even it wasn’t, “not that bad” is still not what I strive for in life. The sick part is just that I somehow enjoyed it. I’ve always been intrigued by hard work. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of pushing my boundaries, of doing more than I thought I could, of not stopping when I wanted to, but when I would be done.
There is a feeling of triumph in overcoming your “weaknesses” (or, as I said: basic human needs). And then there is a rush of adrenaline (and lots of coffee) to keep you going. Especially since you know that it’s only for a few days. Or weeks. Or months, maybe. But it will soon be all over. You can sleep then. You can catch up with your friends and family then. You can do all the things you actually want to do then. Only one more meeting, one more trip, one more deadline, one more project. Next year, I think. Or the year after. There will be some time to rest then. You’ll see, it will soon be all over.
I know quite a few people who would shake their heads if I told them all of this. “Welcome to real life”, they would say, mockingly. And in fact, what I just described above is actually intended to prepare us for the “real world” out there, the one that is awaiting us after uni. The one that is commonly referred to as “work life”.
And guess what: I am ready. I have been for a very long time. These past weeks have neither been my first, nor my most intense experience of “reality”. I know how the system works. I have been very well prepared to fit into it. 18+ years of education have taught me to receive, understand and carry out instructions. I have learned to write to-do lists and tick them off, no matter if I feel like it or not. I have been trained to focus on what is “important”, to do my work, without looking for much meaning behind it. I have accepted the fact that most of my time will be consumed by tasks that I find rather useless. I have understood that what I want to do and what I have to do are two entirely different stories. And I have learned to put my duties first. Priorities, my friend. First work, then play. If there’s still some time and energy left, that is.
Yes, I have been prepared for all of this. And I am very capable of doing it. I can work hard on projects I don’t give the least bit of a shit about. I can put endless effort into the most useless projects. I can put my personal life and my hobbies on hold for “success”. I can do all of that. Most of it quite well, even. I am ready. Ready to enter the “real world”. But I don’t have the least intention of doing so.
I don’t want to live from weekend to weekend, from deadline to deadline, from holiday to holiday. I will not spend my life counting down until it’s finally over. I am not planning on entering this universal vicious circle commonly referred to as “work life”, a never-ending loop of emptying and recharging one’s batteries. I don’t feel like spending my days doing something I don’t see the point of and my evenings trying to over-compensate for everything I feel I’ve been missing out on. I am not going dedicate my life to things that leave me tired, empty and in “need” of a drink, a treat, a trip. Not anymore. Not ever again.
I’m no longer willing to sacrifice what I want to be doing for what I “should” be doing. In fact, my goal is to eliminate this distinction as a whole. The things I want to do are the things that I should do. They always have been one, I just got so caught up in “the real world” that I started to confuse society’s priorities with my own. But I will go back to my own reality now. The only one that matters for my life, for my happiness. The only one that I can shape. I am going to put all the things I actually care about, the things that make me want to wake up in the morning, the things that give me energy instead of straining it from me, right on top of my to-do list. I will focus on these things. I will build my life around them. And I will not listen to any voice saying that’s not possible – including my own.