(If work is preventing you from living, then why are you doing it?)
When you’re about to die and you’re taking your last gasping breaths on your hospital bed, what are you going to think about?
That sentence is jarring because it’s bringing to light your own mortality. The logical part of your brain knows that you’re going to die some day, but the emotional part of your brain refuses to think about it until it has to.
I’m not afraid of death. I think that’s from a combination of working in medicine and all the amazing experiences I’ve already had in my life. I have friends younger than me that tell me they envy the things that I’ve accomplished, but they always say it as if it’s something that they’re not capable of doing in their lifetime; as if “living” is a concept that’s out of their control.
Life is hard and so is the road to personal development. We don’t like to face our problems so we instead do things like watch too much television, drink alcohol to excess, or take drugs. All of these things are temporary ways to prevent our growth and self-examination. We already know that television and substance abuse are bad for us, but what about our jobs — what about an excess of work?
As Americans we believe it’s noble to work long hours at the office and we brag about like it’s something to be proud of. Working ninety hours a week isn’t noble, it’s stupid. We’re raised to believe that we need to go to school, get a good job, work hard for forty years, and then retire with a nice fat 401k so our life can begin. We hope that somewhere in between those long hours in our cubicle we have time for things like travel, relationships, or self-improvement; but our priorities are skewed. At the end of your life you aren’t going to wish that you worked more, you’re going to wish that you did more.
By immersing yourself in your work – or television, porn, social media addiction, drugs, alcohol, etc. – you’re missing out on experiencing life. Activities like dating are a pain in the ass and bring to light your deepest insecurities, but you never have to address these things if you just work all the time. “I’d love to travel one day,” and “I don’t have time to date because I’m always working” are weak statements of fear and avoidance; you’re passively waiting for life to hand you it’s treasures instead of going out and grabbing it.
You assume your hypothetical deathbed will come along when you’re eighty or ninety years old, but you could die today — then what are you going to think about? If you got hit by a bus or were a victim of terrorist bombing right this very moment, what are the things you’ll regret not doing? It’s not going to be about your job, it’s going to be about all of the experiences you missed because you were too busy avoiding life.
[Photo: Street art in the Sunset Junction area of Silverlake.]