I was a Slave to my Employer
It has been 15 months since I walked away from my last traditional job. I left my job as an environmental regulator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Earth Day 2016, and you can read more about that here. Prior to that, I worked as an agronomist for a large dairy. These two jobs were the extent of my “professional career” after graduating from college. Those ten years working (mainly) inside an office for 40+ hours a week were the worst years of my life, for so many reasons.
But to truly know something, you must experience your way through it. So the pain had purpose. I had to experience a lot of stuff that I didn’t enjoy, in order to find my truth. Growing up, I had no clue that it was possible to create a career and lifestyle entirely around my passion. I believed that I had to go to college and get a job working for someone else for the rest of my life. I believed I had to spend most of my time doing things that didn’t necessarily make me happy, in order to make money. I believed that money was incredibly important, and I had to sacrifice my time and happiness for it. I thought that because mostly everyone worked their week away at a job they didn’t really like, I had to do it too.
Slowly over time, I began to wake up. I began to see the irony in what I was doing: working 40+ hours a week to make money that would pay for the things that deteriorated as a result of me working 40+ hours a week. What deteriorated? My body, my happiness, my marriage, my kids’ happiness, my relationships, my dog’s health, my ranch…
Let me tell you what I’ve learned through all of this. Happiness is extremely important. It is far more important than money. If you are miserable, your world will fall apart, piece by piece. Your external relationships will suffer, as a result of your internal suffering. Your own misery is palpable to everyone around you. Your body cannot work properly when it’s under stress. It breaks down.
Another funny thing that happens when we are miserable is the overwhelming need for more things that will (hopefully) make us happy. When we cannot fulfill our own happiness, we seek it outside of ourselves. In the case of trying to get through another grueling day of work, a person may smoke cigarettes, drink an excessive amount of coffee, or eat a crap-load of junk food. In my beautiful state of Wisconsin, it’s common for adults to head straight to the bar after work, or make a weekend out of binge drinking. Bury the sadness in booze. These coping mechanisms are needed to fill the hole of unhappiness that exists as a result of hating one’s job. For me, I had to eat chocolate, take desk naps, or go to yoga in the middle of my work day, in order to get through the hell that was my job.
I can think of nothing more unhealthy than being forced to sit in a cubicle for hours a day, completely disconnected from nature and true purpose in this lifetime. I consider it equivalent to a chicken forced to live out its life inside of a cage inside a building, laying eggs that are taken away and packaged up for someone else to eat. Working for somebody else’s mission was the reason for my previous unhappiness. I was a slave to my employer. I was stifling my gift. I was playing very, very small.
What a waste of time! Today I feel that I am finally on-purpose. I am finally living each day as I was meant to live. I know this in the depth of my soul. And it has nothing to do with money. It takes a lot of courage to break away from the traditional way of thinking and open oneself to the possibility that one’s life has meaning far beyond conference calls and excel spreadsheets. It also takes a tremendous amount of trust to walk away from a stable paycheck and into the unknown. Not knowing when the money will come, and if it even will. And being okay with that.
We all have this barometer inside of us that guides us in the direction of happiness. But so many of us fail to listen to it, let alone follow it. It takes incredible trust to follow this guidance, because this guidance doesn’t usually follow the societal norm. Guidance is unique to each person. When it is followed though, you begin to work for your own mission and spread happiness wherever you go.