We make a lot of sacrifices in the service of becoming successful. We sacrifice leisure time to take on additional duties at work or spend more time writing. We sacrifice time with our friends and loved ones. We sacrifice our hobbies and the things we do for fun. We sacrifice our health, both mental and physical.
But it’s worth it, right? If we just work hard enough, one of these days it’s all going to pay off. We’ll be able to pay off our student debt, or afford to buy a house, or be able to send our kids to college, or land a book deal that we can support ourselves with, or develop a big enough following that we can live off the proceeds…
We spend our lives following this mirage of success. One day it’ll pay off. One day we’ll get where we’re going, and we’ll finally be able to relax, catch up with friends, spend time with our loved ones, and do the things we enjoy. People chase this mirage until the day they die– which is likely to happen sooner rather than later if you never give yourself a chance to relax.
We need to talk about this.
Goals Are Important, But So Is Time To Decompress
It’s good to have goals. It’s good to set your sights on somewhere you want to be, and work to reach it. But the struggle to attain those goals should not consume everything that brings light and joy to your life.
Life is short, and some of us will never get where we’re going. What’s better, a life spent toiling away to catch the mirage? Or one we can look back on with fondness?
For my first year and a half at the other job, I made a policy of not saying no, unless the thing I was asked to do was illegal. This has gotten me where I am now: in two and a half years, I’ve received three promotions and more raises more quickly than at any other job. I’m widely respected across the company (at least, where I’m not loathed because my effectiveness highlights their failings.) I’m the one people go to when they need a question answered or a problem fixed.
In exchange, this job has eaten my life. It has consumed any spare time I have to write, go hiking, have hobbies, or spend time with friends and family. I worked nearly 18 hours a day through the month of June, 2020. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this not sustainable.
This isn’t a good place to be. I’m definitely not happy here; the only things I like about that job are the paycheck and the few friends I have there. I want out– not as badly as I wanted out of FedEx after seven and a half years– but I’d still rather not be here. What started as an 8-to-5 to pay the bills while I worked on building my author presence has grown to consume everything I love.
How Do We Reclaim Time for Ourselves?
That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? There are a lot of answers out there; personally, I’ve found that most of them come from a background of amazing privilege, from business writers who have flexible work schedules, high-paying part-time jobs, investment income, a wealthy spouse, and/or extremely understanding employers. Their advice is absolutely useless to me, and probably will be to most of you too.
Right now I’m working to figure out how to reclaim my free time without flat out quitting and going rogue again (which is extremely tempting.) If I find the answer, you’ll be the first ones to know.
In the meantime, don’t be like me. Don’t work yourself to death for an employer that doesn’t give a fuck about your health, success, or safety. It’s not worth it.