Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Meaning of Life - Sector 7-G

Some people work to live; others live to work.

I am definitely in the “work to live” camp for the simple reason that to me, work is more like a punishment. I have been in my chosen career for almost thirty years and while interesting, fascinating and captivating at first, my job has become a major chore.

As I get older, I want more freedom. Some people want that freedom when they are younger which is why they delay leaping into the rat race for year or so to go travelling and explore the world. I did a little bit of travelling as a student but now I simply have an almost overwhelming desire to pack in my job and simply leave on a huge trip of exploration and self-discovery.

While I may curse my chosen career, I can’t deny that my job has encouraged me to do this.


Because my job involves travelling the world – not all of the time – but enough to give me a small taste of freedom.

In fact, I am off on my travels again this weekend, my third visit to Oman this year.

You may think that I am a hypocrite; I have a job that allows me to visit other countries and cultures. I love travelling - so why the bloody hell am I moaning?

Allow me to explain.

First of all, I work in IT – basically I spend my entire day sparring with technology. And I am bored with it.

Second, the majority of my life is spent sitting at a desk in front of a laptop surrounded by people who are equally disillusioned and frustrated and at the mercy of decisions and developments governed by Mr Motivation as he does his best to climb to the top of the corporate ladder.

Finally, while I may get the option to travel to wonderful and interesting countries, I am effectively limited to trips between the hotel and the office with very little chance to explore and only tantalising glimpses of what I could be doing if I were free of the shackles.

I am in a Catch 22 situation; I need money to fulfill my desires – and I need to work to get the money – and the work stops me from fulfilling my desires.

And this is true of most people.

The solution is simple; find a career that you enjoy, a career that makes you smile with glee when you wake up and anticipate the joy of work.  It seems to be too late for me now.

Some people may suggest that it is not too late but to those people I ask this: how can I change career when I can’t really do anything else?

I am risk averse and simply giving up what many people would consider to be a thriving, interesting and beneficial career in search of something else that will give me freedom and enjoyment, but with the same financial clout, would be absolute folly.

So I appear to be in a rut – and I can’t escape.

Outside work, I am very content and happy; when I am at work my life becomes a jumble of confusion, chaos and irritation. There are times when I get a buzz out of work but such times are becoming more infrequent.

And it would be just the same if I were to seek another job in IT in another company. At least the one I am in offers some form of sanctuary with occasional trips abroad. That’s what keeps me there.

Through my job I have visited places like Holland, the Caribbean, the United States, Canada, China, South Africa, Russia, Switzerland, Singapore and Hong Kong. I have become so enamoured with travel that I have visited many other varied and interesting places under my own volition, places such as Japan, Thailand, most of Europe and Australia.

If it weren't for my job, I would never have got together with Mrs PM in Hong Kong. I have a lot to be grateful for.

And it is now that I know what my ideal job would be; a travel writer.

There are drawbacks with that career, it has to be said.

First of all I have to be a good writer – I’m not.

Second I have to be able to fund numerous trips abroad – I can’t.

If I could see my time again, I would change my career choice and become a writer, training to actually improve the words I spill onto a page so that they make pleasurable and interesting reading instead of the inane twaddle that finds its way onto this blog.

The problem is that when you are young, you don’t know what you want; I alluded to this in a post about my schooldays last month.

Of course, another option is to work out a way to beat the system and win the lottery. The problem is that I have a logical, mathematical mind with a degree in computational and statistical science – and I know that the chances of my winning the lottery are about as close to zero as you can get.

You can’t plan a career on the off chance that you might win the lottery – despite what the lottery organisers tell you.

So, unless you know what you want to do and are passionate about doing it at an early age, when you can be trained and steered in the right direction before it’s too late, you will end up just like me, stuck in a rut in a stagnating career that provides money to live and perhaps give you a little enjoyment with a tiny taste of what your career might have been had you made the right choices as a kid.

That sounds depressing doesn’t it? And it makes me sound unhappy as well.

However, I’m not unhappy really – on the contrary – I am delighted with life.

I am also an optimist – I can’t help it – and I am still clinging onto the dream that one day circumstances might change in such a way that I can alter my vocation and wake up full of elation because I am going to work.

Anyway, I will discuss happiness in the next post to give you an insight on why I am happy despite moaning about my academic and occupational choices in life.

One day you might see a book on a shelf in your local bookstore with a picture of a grinning Plastic Mancunian called: The World Through My Eyes.

I can dream - can't I?

Don’t hold your breath though.

How about you dear reader?

Are you happy in your chosen career? 

Do you want to do something else?

Do you think it is too late for me to leave the rat race and unleash myself onto the world?

Any tips for doing just that?


River said...

"Some people work to live, others live to work."

I've done both, working in a shoe factory was so much fun I literally bounced out of bed in the mornings. Working in a supermarket was so mind numbingly boring, I quit.

"How can I change career when I can't really do anything else?"

You can't. Unless you quit and study to do something else, which is fine when you are young enough and have years and years ahead of you, not so fine when you are at an age when such change brings more problems than staying in your rut.

I do hope you find some sort of solution. Maybe a year off? To travel?

Jackie K said...

Oh my goodness PM, there is so much here, where to begin?
I like your outlook on life and like that you recognize yourself as happy despite no longer feeling engaged in work. I've given all these questions you raise a lot of thought and I don't have answers but here are a couple of things that might be helpful:

Penelope Trunk says don't do what you love for work, do what you're good at, and then "work to live". I agree.

We read a lot these days about people who are "passionate" about their jobs, or how if you "follow your passion" work won't feel like work, etc. I think 2 things about that. First, whatever you do, and even if you love it, work is work and will feel like it eventually. Second, I think this comes down to personality type. The people who are all pumped and passionate about living their dream are a type, I think.
And seeing the world differently doesn't mean you can't be happy and live a good life.

Maybe a career counsellor or recruiter could give you some different types of jobs you could do, in the same field?

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I'd love to take a year off - and a lot of people I know feel the same way; one guy actually did it - but that brings its own problems.

I'll just have to stick it out - for now at least.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie,

Wise words there - thanks.

There is a lot to think about but I also have to consider other people as well as myself. As River suggested I would love to just fly off into the sunset but that is truly difficult at the moment.




Jackie K said...

There's no perfect solution. We all grapple with this. Me too, as I'm the family breadwinner. As you and River both point out, changing careers late in life is not realistic and taking extended time off is not skyways possible or brings it's own "re-entry" problems. Live your life, treasure your family and friends, and enjoy the good bits. That's the only solution! :)

H2B said...

I love my job so much so that I will show up at work even after I have won $30 million dollars. It is my hobby. That said, there are days when I dread going to work, especially days filled with meeting with arrogant people, unreasonable deadlines. Those are the days, I have to remind myself that you don't get paid to enjoy yourself.

The biggest problem I have at work is imposter syndrome. At times I'll have panic or guilt attack that I am a fraud, I don't really know what I'm doing, especially the days after a big win when everyone congratulating me.

DrB said...

Do you think it is too late for me to leave the rat race and unleash myself onto the world?

Any tips for doing just that?

It is never too late to leave the rat race, you can quit anytime once you have saved enough for your son's education, or just let Mrs PM to be the sole breadwinner. ;-)

My job is highly insecure and competitive. Therefore, I have plotted and implemented ways to have alternative income if my career came to an abrupt end.

So, maybe you can do that? What else are you good at besides your current job? What is your plan B?

In china, the retire age is 55, so you are not far from that. I know you are not in china but you can always planned to retire at whatever age you want. My cousin retired at 40, the age he planned to retire from the day he started work. So, he had been looking for ways to generate passive incomes. He did! Sent his wife (a beautiful woman, 10 years younger) to a beautician course, skimmed, saved and borrowed for the capital of setting up a beauty salon. Then the beauty salon took off, his boss lady wife went on to open a chain of salons, he retired at 40, and spent his days boating, fishing, travelling around the world. He is in his 60s, wife recently handed the salon chain to their son, and both travelling the world.

So, have a plan for passive income Mr PM. It is not impossible and never too late.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi H2B,

I am actually very good at my job - as is proven by surviving countless redundancies over the years.

Deep down, when I analyse it, its the politics I hate - which is why I am happy being closer to the technology.

Nevertheless I am still totally bored with the bit of the job I like.

I wish I were like you - wanting to still go to work after winning a colossal amount of money.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi DrB,

That sounds like a good idea. I do have plans for a passive income already but it is a few years off fruition yet.

Mrs PM could support us actually - but I'm not sure she would want to.