I took the family out for a vacation down under in Australia. It was the furthest vacation spot that I have ever taken my family to. Most important to me was that we would have a great time together, and we did.
The thing about vacations to the working adults though, often is a flurry of activities to put things in order before disappearing from work (or at least thinking that we are indeed spared), and coming back to a whole lot of things waiting. The business cannot wait.
Throughout last week driving around the state of Victoria through mountain and ocean side roads, I barely used the phone except to look for directions, to update Facebook posts, and most of all, to take pictures. I did not realize the effect on not accessing the phone as much as I do at home, until towards the end of the vacation did I appreciate it. And I marveled at it too, because I did not otherwise realize how much time I am on the phone.
We came home an hour past midnight, unpacked some things, and went to bed. At 7.30 am, I was awoken by a phone call for a conference call that I was not aware of.
My bad. I was on vacation, I was not paying attention to the calendar invitation. Neither did I really want to.
Flashback to last Friday when I was in a small town of Forster near Victoria state’s Wilsons Promontory Nature Reserve. I chatted with the motel owner who lived in Forster for two decades. Prior to Forster, she lived in New York City in the United States. She commented that if anyone wants to make good money, and especially if still single, New York was the place. The fast pace and money excited her, until when she has decided that it was time to settle down. She and her partner moved to Forster and now own a motel, meeting city slickers like me trying to make sense of our working existence through week-long vacations.
Yea, I am just being overly dramatic here.
The thing is, I don’t hate my job. In fact, I was talking about this on one of the long countryside drives last week, that my current employment is the first job that I that I am still excited about after approaching two years. It wasn’t perfect, but on most days I wake up with enough excitement to want to make things work. I have a good manager, good colleagues, and good products.
However, something is broken, and from this morning’s 7.30 am call with my manager and colleague, I could not help but look at this broken part that does not only affect me, but everyone else in the call as well.
Traditional businesses (and this includes the framework of most corporate giants today) demands the paddle to the metal approach, and that is really not wrong or immoral at all. What I think of myself is that I need to recognize this a lot more clearly and really ask myself how long I want to commit to this. Putting your foot on the paddle means you cannot step out of the vehicle and take in the sight and scent of the ocean you are driving next to. The best you can do is only to head towards a down slope, wind down the window and let go of the pedal for a while – until you hit the next up slope. You also cannot take your eyes off the road to fully appreciate the grandeur of waves hitting on the cliffs, and at the same time cuddle your family while watching the scene.
I know at some point in my corporate career, I have to quit. I will not remain productive all my life, and I need to number my days.
Leaving corporate jobs does not mean sleeping in all day and tossing bread crumbs to pigeons in the park. I will probably do that when I am much older, but for now, the question that I cannot escape from is, what am I exchanging my productive life for?
Do I think that I must quit and spend my productive life on the family? No. I sincerely do not believe that. When my children grow up, they have to be productive and they need to take reference. I do not want them thinking that a successful life is to have absolutely nothing to do. I think a successful life is to be meaningfully productive.
I notice that since my productive life is largely in the corporate business, most dinner or car/commute conversations with my wife is about work. My wife is not sick of the conversation, and is often interested in these conversations too. But I therefore really should not be surprised when my children enter the workforce in the future, and assume that the working life should be exactly what I am going through.
Being in a corporate job is really not a taboo. In recent years, I reject many articles on the Internet that decries employment, calling it a slave machine sucking the soul out of well-meaning workers. I think such articles miss the point. Whether you are an employee, self-employed or a business owner, if your daily work you put in does not create enough meaningful satisfaction, you’re just going to feel jaded in no time. Then you’d fight very hard to take a break, eventually do get your vacation, and come back feeling you didn’t quite get to the place you hope you were getting to after coming back to work.
Many of us still have to have the foot on the pedal, glancing at the ocean in the distance, while needing to watch the road most of the time. I am convinced that most people whom I know will remain stuck in second gear all their lives in this aspect – and it will be absolutely normal – really nothing wrong with it. But I know this is not what I hope for, and this is something I know I want to finally move to that place in the next short years to come.
There’s got to be a way, and the search will be exciting.