Have you ever seen someone’s biography on a blog in which the person lists what they consider to define them? It might be something like Sarah is a mother of 2, marathon runner, baker, life coach and Christian. These sorts of biographies have always annoyed me. At first I simply disliked the idea of writing about yourself in the third person; it seems so forced when you can just say I. Recently though, I was asked something similar about myself. I don’t remember the question exactly, but it was something like what’s your goal in life?, or what do you need most?
When faced with these sorts of questions or discussions, I am lost for words. I do not have anything like a five-year plan, or a bucket list, or other set of life goals. I don’t have a family to raise or particularly want one. I generally enjoy my work but it is still work. I have some hobbies but couldn’t imagine wanting to do any of those full time, and they certainly wouldn’t sustain me. So what’s left? Do I just exist?
This might sound like more of an existential crisis than it actually is, but I am genuinely curious about whether existence is all that truly defines me. Of course, I could make it sound slightly more positive by saying that I prefer living in the present as opposed to dwelling on the past or wishing for a different future, but I don’t think that portrays the situation in much of a better light. So, I exist, but what for exactly?
If I was simply existing, then I would still need to work in order to earn money for food and shelter (unless of course I was born into what used to be the aristocracy and had no need to earn my own money). I could maximise my earning potential based on my abilities and for pure monetary reward it wouldn’t actually matter what I did, as long as it paid me enough. This is where I deviate from the purely existential I think.
My job, with its inevitable ups and downs, the curiously lower pay than many professions, and the mundanity of much of the 9-5 routine, gives me purpose. I get a sense that what I am doing is in some way meaningful. If I was offered more pay to do something that I did not value in the same way, I wouldn’t do it.
I have written about this before, but increasingly over the past few years, I am confident that I am good at my job. I feel that I am sought out to tackle specific problems because I have the right set of skills. And these are skills that I can largely take credit for myself; I learned how to do this job without a huge amount of explicit guidance or tuition.
In and out of work, I can almost always shape my day in a way that suits me. I decide what I want to do with my non-working time, and even at work I can usually decide what I focus on and when.
Is it sufficient to simply exist? Maybe it isn’t, but perhaps it is sufficient to thrive. And maybe I thrive in my existence by being motivated by there being purpose in my work, by continuously developing a sense of mastery, and doing all of that with almost complete autonomy. That doesn’t sound too bad.
I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days to Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting https://100daystooffload.com.