20 days ago I abandoned my career as an Engineer in search of something else, something unknown. I would like to say that my world has been turned upside down, but it’s more true to say that it was already upside down, and that it has now turned the right way up. For the first time in my life I feel truly free.
There are two simple statements that have been resonating with me of late. Two simple statements that can be heard loud and clear by anyone, but take great attention and contemplation to fully understand.
The first is “Just Do It“. Here and now. This really is it. Right now. Next year we will all be older. Soon we will be dead. There are many things I want to do in my life. My biggest hurdle has not been an inability to achieve my goals, but rather an ignorance of my options and a fear of change. What will I do without my high Income? Will I be able to get another Job? Where will I live? These questions only served to keep me still. To keep me stuck in fear of change and perpetually failing to really live the life I have. The future is uncertain. But regardless, it is always possible that I might fail at what I don’t want to do anyway, so why not at least try and do something I really want to do? Why not pick that thing I want to do, and Just Do It?
The second is “Live and Let Live“. I spent too many years in hate. There are many people in this world, and many different ways of life. Yes, there is one and only one truth about life, the Universe and all that is and will ever be, but who am I to think that I am right in what I ‘know’. I may see many beliefs as silly or unwarranted, but who am I to tell anyone what they should or should not believe. We should express ourselves and our thoughts, and we should listen to others, it is the best way to grow in self. But we must learn to just love each other regardless of what we each choose to believe, be it out of introspective conviction, faith, science, ignorance, whatever. I have found great peace in the past weeks by learning to just accept anyone for who they are, regardless of whether they are willing to accept me or not.
These last few weeks have seen me completely lose who I thought I was. I now know, with absolute certainty, that money and happiness have absolutely nothing to do with each other. All of the best memories I have made over the past year have been in the last few weeks.
My First Game of Jenga
A Road Trip Break
Playing Jenga for the first time. Having a secret party under a bridge. Watching the clouds from a mountain top. Road trips. My friends bucks night at the pub. But most of all, what has brought me the most peace and happiness is people. I have met many new and amazing people.
Craigs Bucks Night
Secret Party @ Undisclosed Location
I don’t know where I will be in 4 months. But wherever it is, it will be somewhere I want to be. Otherwise I wont stay.
Followers of this blog will know that I have been rapidly downsizing my life. Getting rid of all the clutter, throwing out all the crap that I have accumulated and trying to figure out what it is that I really need, and what is really important.
Where my things once were
There’s less than 4 weeks now until I take off for Falls Creek for the snow season and I have successfully removed almost all of the material crap from my life. Those things that I have chosen to keep (a few guitars and a telescope) have been rammed into ‘out of the way’ corners at my parents house for storage. The rest of my life, the things I wish to take with me, are getting very close to fitting into a backpack.
After the snow season I don’t yet know what I will be doing, though I was thinking about making a move up to Queensland and spending the whole summer working and surfing. I hope that by cramming everything I need into a backpack that making a move like this may be as simple as just going. Just doing it. Of course if this is the direction that I choose for my next chapter then I will do what I can to pre-organize work and accommodation. But if these things don’t happen, why not just go? Why not just try and wing it? What is the worst thing that can happen?
It hard to be care free. But that is, in part, the aim. What is life if we are not doing the things that we want to do? Or at the very least doing everything in our power to get there? Any one of us could die tomorrow.
Now, after the decision to leave my profession, the sense of ‘running out of time‘ can at times seem overwhelming. Currently, the average life expectancy for males in my approximate age group within Australia is just less than 80 years. This means that, on average, I have the amount of time I have already been alive more than 2 times over again before I die. But I don’t ever get to relive my childhood, I don’t have to learn to walk or talk again. I don’t ever get to go back to high school, I already know how to read and write.
If in the first 26 years of my life, from a foundation of nothing I can come this far, how much can I achieve in the next 26 years. Though it is correct to say that I am starting financially again at $0, I am not starting from scratch. I now have experience, education, knowledge and will. We have a lot more time than we know, it only matters to recognize its potential and how we use it.
I am now 833,562,612 seconds old. Did I use these 786 seconds effectively?
30 days now until I finish my engineering career. Less than a month. Wow. It has been an incredibly difficult year, but the next episode is only just around the corner.
My work ethic is pathetic (perhaps my fate is in poetry) at the moment. It’s not something I’m proud of. I feel terrible about my present performance. I need to be doing so much more so that I don’t leave problems behind me for someone else to deal with.
Looking at what needs to be done, it seems perfectly fair and reasonable. Without doubt it could all be achieved ahead of time. But I am not a robot. I am Matt. A big kid. When all passion is lost, all enthusiasm has been drained by a desk, the drive to achieve has been eliminated by the realization that hard work and crap work as an employee result in almost identical personal outcomes. The ability to sit and work crashes and burns.
It’s in times like these that I must hold on to the future. My time will come. It is only just around the corner. It is in one month now that rather than hold on to the future I will be holding myself in the present. The first sight of snow for the season. My first ride up a chair lift. The first run down a slope. Sunrise from a mountain top. ‘Hopefully’ a lady under my arm. Life on Falls Creek. My endless ‘now’ will be my moment to hold on to.
One more month. I need to subdue my overwhelming urge to scream, yell, smash and destroy shit for only one more month. My strength is in understanding that no matter the events of the next 30 days, soon I will be on the snow. The stresses of this life will come to pass. Soon.
Here I sit, contemplating once again the larger purpose of my life. My desk is relatively clean, a few ‘important’ yet so distant pieces of paper scattered on its surface. The usual promise toying on my mind that everything I am currently working on must be completed by yesterday. There was a point in my professional life where the terms ‘important’, ‘quickly’, ‘urgently’ etcetera lost all meaning. When everything is always critical, and so much control is lost to unnecessary and underqualified authority, the will to excel diminishes.
As each day behind my desk has passed I have quietly, and sometimes very vocally and violently, observed my surroundings. I have tried to understand the overall goal of the profession I am working within and tried to understand the methods by which we aim to achieve our goals. We provide a service to a client, though the aim of our business has so obviously become making money as opposed to providing a brilliant service. Yes, every business needs to make money to maintain its service, though when so much of the focus diverges from the product and shifts to the amount that is being invoiced does not the quality of the product lose its value.
The core of any business is in the people that produce its product. It is critical to keep excellent people. It is critical to be able to motivate people and inspire them to output great work and it is critical to reward them appropriately. So how does an employer motivate employees? It seems that the all too common answer is to pay them a lot, though this hasn’t worked in my workplace, and my experience suggests that no matter how much someone is paid they only ever want to be paid more. It seems that income has little to no impact on attitude towards work.
I no longer have any pride in the work I output for my employer. I no longer have a sense of urgency no matter how much pressure is placed on me. I have become relatively calm as I have realized that at the end of the day, my effort and the quality of my work in no way distinguishes me from my peers. An employer needs to motivate employees by thinking outside of the box. Life is too short to continue working, providing a service, in a field I have no passion for because of a large pay cheque. We need to be proud of what we do day to day. We need to go home with a sense of achievement. Not a warning as to how much more we need to make, or invoice, for our employer.
I have been contemplating a lot lately the concept of living each day like it is my last. I look around me and see people living in fear of the future, only not realizing that in fear they are neglecting to live in the present. So how do I make sure that I live every day like it is my last? What does this really mean?
Tomorrow I must go to my desk. I am hardly convinced that by doing so I am living each day like it is my last, however I find myself part of this absurd world which has allowed me to put myself in a position where (temporarily at least) I must continue to do so. Perhaps in this world it is not possible to live each day as if it were our last. If we have a dream, a goal for our life, we must work towards that goal in order to achieve success. In this process we are inevitably forced to not live as if we will die tomorrow. There will be days, weeks, months and even years full of tiring hard work. Right? Hard work that will not result in immediate gratification. Hard work that may not ever pay off at all. Could it be that it is the journey, and not the destination, that really counts?
Being true to myself. Pursuing my own dreams and pleasures. Facing my fears. Taking risks. Perhaps to live each day as if it were my last simply means to live each day doing those things that I am passionate about. But therein lays another problem. What if the thing that I am passionate about do not get me paid (yet)? Then I am forced, by the pressures of this absurd world, to earn an income by another means.
It is here, in earning an income, that I believe many people make a profound mistake, myself up to now included. The mistake being learning in order to get paid, chasing a high wage and a promotion by becoming progressively better and more efficient at some specific thing. But this is not living. I no longer fear the future. Not because I know what it is going to bring, I don’t have a clue. But rather because I know that I have the ability to achieve my wildest dreams and I have so much time.
From May 23 forward, I work to learn, not for money (though it is required in small amounts to survive), then I will apply my knowledge in my own life and in my own business. Not only will I work to learn, I will work only in fields that I have a genuine and real interest in. Life is meant to be lived! Why not be who we want to be? Why not really live it? Is it ignorance that causes so many of us live in fear? I only have 23 more days of work behind a desk left. From then on my adventure really begins. Every day, I will ask myself these deep existential questions. Who am I? Why am I here? Am I living each day as if it were my last? I don’t expect to ever find an answer to any of these questions, but I will live as if the answer is just around the next corner.
1) I’m about to come into a lot more time; and
2) I’m about to take a massive pay cut.
As any follower of this blog will know by now, my life has gone mostly to plan, but my plan was made prior to my ability to really understand what I wanted, as it probably is for most. Life is crazy and constantly full of the completely unexpected. But I now realize that it us up us to make sure that when things get off track, or when we discover that we have been chasing the wrong dreams, that we get ourselves back on track or completely change direction if necessary. It is never too late. Saying “It’s too late for me” is akin to saying I don’t like where I am now, and i’m not prepared to think about how to get myself in to a position that I want to be in.
What to do with my time now is playing on my mind a lot lately. I can do or be anything. I have still got most of my life ahead of me. I used to play a lot of Guitar, until life got in the way. I used to do a lot of puzzles, until work moved and I started spending nearly 4 hours a day travelling. There is a little creative genius inside of me that has never really had his chance to come fully out to play. I want to learn to paint, to draw, to write a novel, write some poetry, to dance as if i’m not trying to stop myself tripping over, to write music, to start producing some films maybe, to create something beautiful. Something to be proud of. I am about to re-create myself.
Embarking on a creative journey is difficult. Mainly because to become good at something I must first be very bad at it for a long time. Failure is inevitable. Success depends only on how badly I want it. I thrive when someone tells me I cannot do something. Or when a hard situation arises. I need to be challenged and constricted in order to excel. When I was 16 I had been playing guitar for 2 years, and then put a circular saw through 3 fingers on my fret hand. To this day, one of my fingers remains completely useless, however I only ever got better and better on the guitar, by hours and hours of continuously beating on my craft. Having one less finger has not stopped me, it just gave me the drive to get better, to prove to myself that this injury would not hold me down. It never has. What stopped me playing was pursuing a professional career as an engineer. Committing creative suicide. Last Christmas, my brother and sister bought me a left handed guitar, so that I could start to learn in reverse, with a fully functional hand. So far I have only picked it up about 5 times. This must change.
My Left Handed Guitar
About three years ago, someone very close to me was showing me a piece of art they had created, and I remember saying “but what’s the point?”. She then stopped creating, for years. I’m so deeply sorry for this. It was me that didn’t understand the value of creativity. There does not need to be meaning. There must only be imagination.
I now commit to spending more time working on my creative skills.