Life has been some combination of fairy-tale coincidence and joie de vivre and shocks of beauty together with some hurtful self-questioning. — Sylvia Plath
When I started working 13 years ago, I was so constantly dissatisfied that I couldn’t hold down a job for more than a few months. I always thought there was something wrong with me. It was only later that I finally figured it out. I simply didn’t care about the usual (and expected) progression of things. I didn’t find climbing up the corporate ladder and getting a high salary an achievement. What success looked like to me was being able to do whatever the fuck I wanted, whenever I wanted.
To me, jobs were nothing more than the means to achieve exactly that, and the moment that I acknowledged that point of view and stopped trying too hard, I became happier with whatever work came my way. I found myself doing better work and providing better output because I was working to be able to do the things that brought me joy—travel, dive, write, spend time with the people I love.
Which is why while people are losing their heads over the successive upheavals that seem to be plaguing the company I work for of late, I’m just coasting through like a very chill shark (I imagine). It’s not that I don’t care what happens if the company closes shop; I happen to really like my job. But honestly, one more soulless, faceless corporation in turmoil is hardly going to create a blip in the Universe. And it has very little to do with me in the greater scheme of things.
Suffice it to say, it’s not what I do for a living that defines me. It’s what I do to live. And I do plenty, each for a different reason that contributes to my sanity and makes me happy.
First, I write for clarity. I’ve always had this unhealthy tendency to live in my head. It leaves me rather disconnected from the rest of the world, which makes me seem out of touch with reality (and gives me a permanent glazed expression on my face). Writing is my anchor, my catharsis. It’s how I make sense of things and really accept my truth.
I’m nowhere near where I want to be with my writing, but that has long since stopped bugging me, too. I’m done writing to be read, hoping for other people’s approval. I’m now just doing this for me, and I’m so much happier for it.
Then I travel for adventure. I used to see my trips as my escape from reality until I realized that wherever I go, there I am. There’s really no escaping me. So I learned to embrace travel as a way of life—my way of life. This has made me so much more inquisitive and open to trying out new things because I’m no longer desperately seeking my zen and making it look like I have for an audience (e.g., the people who follow me on social media). I can just live in the moment. I can just be in awe. I can just be. And as a result, I no longer go through weeks of the doldrums when I come home.
Lastly, I freedive for peace—my peace. The world is a noisy place. Add to that the incessant din inside my head, and it’s a wonder that I’m still a functioning person. But the moment I duck my head underwater, everything is silent and still and peaceful. Under the sea, all the gossip and snark, the whispers of disapproval and disappointment fade to nothing. It’s worth all the sunburn and jellyfish stings, the myriad itches and scrapes any day. My skin may never be beautiful again, but the world in my eyes is. And it’s good to be reminded of that when all the noise makes me forget.
Indeed, it’s easy to see how in a world run by commerce and society’s generic and simplistic standards for success, making a living can be mistaken as having a life. But really, there is something infinitely more important, and that is joy. Joy is everything. Joy is what makes life worth living, what makes things worth doing. And whatever joy is to you, you owe it to yourself to go after it with all you’ve got.