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Stop Thinking and Start Feeling

September 3, 2010

I’m sick of this life.

No, I’m not suicidal, thanks for asking. I mean my life is changing. Not just a little change. I’m talking dramatically. Massively. The type of change where I quit my job, pack up, and rack off somewhere for an unspecified amount of time doing unspecified activities with unspecified goals with no idea how I’m going to finance it or what the hell I’m going to do when and if I return.

Introspection

This last week or so I’ve spent a lot of time on massive introspection. By the end of it I’d come up with a rough plan and timeline of how I’m going to change things. I spoke with my mastermind group about it for three hours straight and blurted out the depth and breadth of the intense, gaping void that fills my life and the fear that sucks my energy like a black hole. I was expecting shock, surprise, or a “wow, you’re really messed up” response, but they reacted with familiarity and understanding. Clearly, I’m not the only one who has been through this.

I’m new to the mastermind group. I was invited to join about a month ago. I joined because I saw these people making huge leaps forward in the area of lifestyle design. They are all entrepreneurs with a dream and a vision of creating a better life for themselves and escaping the rat race. The members are fascinating individuals. Their interactions overflow with passion and excitement about what they do and want to achieve. Passion. Excitement. Things I hadn’t felt in my own life for a long time. I wanted that in my life too. The members are people for whom I have a deep respect for their knowledge, opinions, and courage to buck the status quo. Which is why I feel somewhat validated after our conversation – they gave me the same solutions as I’d proposed to myself.

So, Why This Big Change (and, um, why do you sound like a stark raving lunatic today)?

I started my first corporate job as yet another young, naïve university graduate who had somehow been convinced that paying tens of thousands of dollars for a piece of paper and then being funnelled into the full-time workforce for a salary in exchange for the bulk of my waking hours was somehow a worthwhile investment and actually a good idea.

My energy would sag as I looked around the trains and city streets during my morning commute. I felt as though I was walking amongst robots. Lifeless corporate drones who had long forgotten who they were, what happiness was, why they were here, or what they were even working towards. No one looked happy. Then again, no one looked sad either. They just looked blank. Numb. Dead souls. Pre-programmed zombies just going through the motions.

I suppressed the uneasiness, took my place in the pack, and let the undulating ocean of the dead carry me to the office.

Two-and-a-half years on I’m one of the waking dead. Just a drop in the ocean of corporate hustle and bustle, where people push to get on trains and out of gates and through doorways to get to a job that doesn’t fulfil them so they can buy more shit that they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t care about. They drug themselves with alcohol, excessive partying, sleeping pills, and antidepressants in the vain hope of distracting themselves from their meaningless, unfulfilling little existence. Desperately trying to escape the gripping fear that they’re just a number in the system. A minuscule, expendable, replaceable cog in the economy. Programmed by society to think and act a certain way, maintain the status quo, and keep themselves busy with work five days a week, eleven months of the year, for forty years. Then they’ll retire on their savings at which inflation has relentlessly gnawed away, rendering it next to worthless.

If they’re lucky, they’ll probably find a partner, get married, have 2.4 kids, buy a house behind a white picket fence, get divorced after a few years once they realise decent relationships actually take work, go to court to fight over assets while spending the lion’s share of the proceeds in legal fees, and leave the experience cynical and embittered, perfectly prepping their kids to repeat the cycle.

Bleargh. Is this is “The Dream” we’re chasing?! What a crock of shit.

Facing the Truth

A pure, unadulterated bolt of terror struck me to my core as I realised just how many people follow the crowd and live their life destined for mediocrity. The reality that I’m relinquishing my best years to “The Man” and well on my way to becoming one of them has finally become too much of a deafening roar in my ears to screen it out anymore.

Has it occurred to anyone that we live in one of the most abundant societies in the world, but we’re time poor, spiritually broken, morally corrupt, and disconnected from our hearts? So few of us are genuinely happy that living the way we are just can’t be the right answer. How can it be that a Tibetan monk with nothing but the robe on his back craves nothing and lives in a state of unconditional love, yet our richest and most admired stars with everything money can buy are desperate for more attention, more fame, better clothes, bigger contracts, and end up overdosing on drugs as a desperate plea for someone to help them?

After battling depression for more than a year, it felt as though that gaping void – that unquenchable black hole of learned helplessness and hopelessness – had taken over my life. I had been desperately seeking something to cling to in order to fill the void, but like a cancer it just kept growing. I finally realised that I was feeling depressed because I had disconnected from my heart. It was a sign that something in my life was very wrong, and my body was giving me a massive hint that something needed to change.

Catalyst for Change

Then something did change for me. A random event in my life forged a crack in my old thought patterns and started a chain reaction of new ones. Excitement began to creep back into my life as I began the process of disentangling from the stranglehold of my self-imposed limitations and re-opened the door to the world of my dreams. I asked myself what would I do if I had all of the time and money in the world. My answer? I’d live in the countries I’ve always wanted to visit and immerse myself in the culture. I’d learn the languages I’ve always wanted to learn. I’d do lots of arty stuff – write a book, become an artist, learn to dance without breaking people’s toes…

The Beginning of Dream Suppression

I started suppressing my dreams for what I now realise were stupid reasons. A long list of excuses, rationalisations, what-ifs, and reasons for why I couldn’t do what I wanted. I used to draw a lot as a child. I was asked constantly if I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I always pooh-poohed the idea as soon as it surfaced. “Nup. No money in that.” I was twelve, and was already conditioned to believe that more money equalled greater success. Years on, I chose to follow a career in technology instead of art or learning languages because of financial security and social perception. Language or art I would have done for fun, but I never pursued it because I couldn’t see how I could make a career out of it. As a woman in a male-dominated field, people’s reactions to me are very different than what they would be if I worked in something like administration or retail. All my life I’ve told myself that I didn’t care what anyone else thought. Now it is painfully obvious to me that I care far too much. How else did I end up in the vast soulless void that I’ve been desperately trying to plug then by trying to please arbitrary people in a society that doesn’t really care anyway? Somewhere along the way I lost my true connection to my heart. It was only recently that I accepted and admitted to myself that I didn’t have to do this anymore. I was choosing this life. Perhaps it’s time to release society’s definition of success and create my own. This isn’t me. I know that. I’ve known that for a long time but I’ve refused to accept it until now.

I realised I had most of what I needed to extricate myself from the energy-sucking tentacles of everyday life and take the leap from conditioned zombie to free bird. All I was lacking was the courage.

Options

I weighed up my options and thought about my alternative for taking the leap to live my dreams – the forty-year corporate gun-barrel I was staring down. On the positive side, I earn a decent income and I enjoy the type of work I do. Some days I’m so engrossed in what I’m doing that hours feel like minutes and I totally lose track of time. I’ll work past closing time and I’m totally oblivious. I’m in a state of flow. I love that feeling. On those days I get out of bed in the morning excited to get into the office. I also like the company and the social aspect of work. By and large, my colleagues are good value. As far as full-time jobs go, I’ve actually got it pretty good.

On the negative side, the days that I’m in a state of flow are few and far between. On the other days, the brain atrophy and frustration I feel at being forced to do monkey-work using grossly inefficient and unscalable systems for the sake of corporate politics usually results in me wanting to stab myself in the eye with a pencil. I’m a free spirit. I like systems and routines that I choose to set, not ones that are imposed upon me.

Why Am I Doing This?

What am I working towards if it’s not to enjoy my life? Am I really going to be doing this for another forty years feeling the way I am? Do I really want to put off my dreams until I’m too old and jaded to enjoy them? No. I’ve put off my life long enough. I need to stop thinking and start feeling. The desire to follow my heart is growing stronger with each passing day. I tired of living without passion or purpose, and I don’t want to ignore it any longer. The excitement that I feel when I think about my dreams it tells me I know I’m on the right path. Right now, my place isn’t here, living the life that I’m living. My heart is dying for adventure. Excitement. Fun. Time. I want to experience new things and see the world.

Fear Factor

So what’s stopping me? The simple answer is this – FEAR. If I take leave or quit my job that means my yearly income falls to exactly zero dollars and zero cents. The thought of going out and trying to make my way in the world without being an employee and without a plan scares the living hell out of me. What would I do? What if I fail? What if I’m so extraordinarily terrible with people and business that I have no choice but to work as an employee for the rest of my life? I don’t know, but I do know that I’m never going to find out until I try.

The Times They Are a Changin’…

So I’ve set the wheels in motion with work and communicated that I’m taking an unspecified amount of time off next year. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do yet or how I’m actually going to earn money. All I know is that something has shifted for me, and I can’t accept this stagnant existence any longer. The only way I can change my future is by changing my present. So excuse me while I check out of reality for a while. My life is waiting.

Reaching Out for Support

Readers – if any of you have experienced and negotiated this transition in your own lives, I’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to share your story, please comment below or if you’d rather share it privately you can communicate with me via my feedback form.

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2 Responses to “Stop Thinking and Start Feeling”

  1. I’m really happy for you and this change in your life, Taz!

    I quit the rat race about a year and a half ago and I fully recommend it. Although I haven’t earned much money since, I’m still well off financially. I did invest everything I had into stocks and that turned out to be a good bet.

    Maybe I’m not the best example. But I did jump and the net appeared when I was falling. Right now I’m doing better than ever and I’m earning 1000€/month, thanks to my cancer. 🙂

    I did get an offer to work for a magazine/website on a freelance basis and I accepted it. They liked my blog. 😉 I can’t receive money for that work though because of the income I receive from my disease. But we’ll work something out.

    Anyway, I look forward to whatever’s next for you. I know you’ll do great! 🙂

  2. Hey Daan!

    Thanks for sharing!

    I’m glad to hear leaving the rat race is going well for you. Things always do seem to have a habit of working out, but that doesn’t stop the fear you feel for that instant before you jump when you can’t see the net, does it?!

    It’s certainly an interesting shift and one I’m still trying to navigate. It’s tough work sloughing off all that social conditioning to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle in terms of possessions but more abundant in time and experiences!

    You have an incredible, positive attitude…I’m really looking forward to catching up with you again at CGW#5 and hearing about your journey!

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