Get a Life vs. Get a Job

In four days, I’m getting on a plane.

Moments after purchasing my airline ticket.

This plane is going to take me to London, where I will begin a five-week-long trek around Europe.

Let’s back up.

When I started this blog back in 2010, I was frustrated and angry.  I was stuck in a job that sucked the life from me, and I thought if only I could get the right job, if I could put my skills to work and feel like I was making a difference, then I would be making something of my life.  I titled this blog “The Get-a-Life Project” because I felt that at best, I was biding my time, trapped in a holding pattern until something better came along, and at worst I was wasting my life trapped in a cubicle.  Somehow I had confused “The Get-a-Life Project” with “The Get-a-Job Project.”  And those things are definitely not the same.

In the course of these two years, I’ve switched jobs three times in search of something better.  I’ve applied to grad school and been accepted.  I’ve spent significant time unemployed, and I’ve moved back into my childhood home.  I’ve followed every practical step I thought I needed to get a decent job, and therefore a good life (or one with meaning).

It’s easy to do – get a job confused with life.  We spend such a large percentage of our lives at work…where do we draw the line?  People talk about work-life balance, but what is that, exactly?  Our job is a huge part of what defines us, but it’s not everything that defines us.  While battling with this conundrum and working at jobs I feel do not even define a part of me, I’ve made some wonderful friends with my coworkers–one of whom was planning a backpacking trip through Europe.

As the time for her to leave was drawing closer and closer, I was mourning the loss of a bright presence in my otherwise dull job.  She kept saying, “Come with me!” and I would laugh and say, “Oh, if only I could.”  I had already resigned myself to a bleak summer at another dead-end job.  Until a wise person asked, “Well, why don’t you go with her?

So I called my friend and asked if she was serious about me going.

And then a week ago I bought a plane ticket.

No, it’s not necessarily “practical” in the way I thought I always had to be, and obviously I can’t backpack through Europe forever.  I have to work, too.  But for now, I have some clarity, and dang it if I’m not getting a life.

I want to hear from you...
Where do you find your work-life balance?  What do you do to get a life?

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19 thoughts on “Get a Life vs. Get a Job

    • From one dino to another….. I spent a wonderful six weeks in Europe traveling from place to place not knowing where I was going until two days before. I used Eurail Pass back then. Not sure what it’s called now. I never felt UNSAFE the entire time. Hope this give you solace! Huggs, Pam

  1. I started my blog two years ago at the same point you’re at now… having just quit my job to take an extended vacation! I returned 3 months later and quickly and unexpectedly got a job I had barely looked for that, a year and a half later, is still somewhere I want to be, though like anything it has its frustrations. I think you should go off and explore, but I also think that you should not worry too much about the jobs (or possibly even career for that matter) being “perfect,” because nothing is.

  2. Congratulations! I feel like I am reading the story of my life… but I’m not at the awesome point of actually making the dream come true… I hope you have an amazing time and find everything you are looking for 🙂

  3. Enjoy to the fullest. I do have police contacts over there (England, Ireland, Holland and a few others) and I don’t believe you will need them but I still have them.

  4. So excited for you! You are going to have the time of your life!

    You are experiencing what a lot of people our age are… We millenials don’t want to do the 40-40-40 plan the same way our parents did. (work 40 hrs/week for 40 years and them retire with 40% of our income). We want more out of life!

    This is exactly why I work with that travel company I showed you! I’m actually leaving my job at some point this summer for a new one. Heading off into a different world. What I’ve realized though is that many people are looking for a way to get their lives back! And my company offers me a way too monetize that while helping them do the same!

    I hope you enjoy Europe to the fullest! So excited or you!

  5. This is such a difficult situation. I spent two years between graduation and medical school working a job that I absolutely hated. When I say “hated”, I mean “put me on antidepressants” hated! It was awful. But after graduation, having fond memories of studying abroad (Morocco, Switzerland, and France) in college, I took two weeks off to backpack through Europe – Eurail pass (and not much else) in hand. It was amazing, and the memories of that trip kept me going through some long, hard days at work. Our backpacking trip started in Rome. Then we went up through Firenze and Cinque Terre; spent some time in Germany – Munchen (including the original Hofbrauhaus) and Berlin; stopped in Poland just for fun and an extra 6 Euros on our Eurail passes; and saw Luxembourg (my favorite country), Belgium, and the Netherlands. I’ll never forget it! Nor will I forget the attitude of the Europeans in general, which is very much “If you don’t like what you’re doing, then why are you doing it?” (I loved their long vacations, too.)
    This European attitude has really guided me through medical school. I love medicine and I’m lucky that I found something I’m passionate about that I can do for the rest of my life, and sometimes finding your niche is the hardest part of all of this. But after that trip to Europe, I went from ultra-competitive to ultra-life-focused. In other words, I’d rather have a low-key job and be able to enjoy my LIFE than attain a super-competitive position, just because I can, and hate my 180-hour-a-week job/life. I think these two things answer your question: (a) Do you truly love what you do? (i.e. if you won the Lottery, would you still be compelled to keep your job? I would!), and (b) Is your occupation a job, or a job/life? i.e., Does your job leave time and mental space for your LIFE? If not, how could anyone be happy, healthy, or fulfilled?!
    I recently decided to spend 2 weeks in Ireland with one of my best friends from PHS. My parents aren’t very approving of the monetary expenditure; but I know what a quick jaunt abroad does for my psyche, and I feel like time is running out before I start residency. I’m eager to see what new outlook this trip brings me; and likewise, I’m eager to see what your big trip brings you!
    It’s amazing what a bit of new scenery and reflection time can do for an individual. Looking down from your plane window at the curvature of the Earth and realizing how small everything is down there – even our problems! – can be a very spiritual experience. 🙂 Good luck, enjoy yourself, try to be present in every moment, and take lots of pictures! It will truly be the trip of a lifetime.

    • Bridget–
      I’m so sorry it took me so long to respond to this. What an excellent comment! It resonated with me before I left on my trip, and now that I’m back and re-reading it, there’s SO much good stuff in here that I couldn’t have even understood before my experience abroad (e.g. the whole European attitude towards work)! Would you ever want to guest post about this? Please let me know!!

      And when are you headed to Ireland? I’m so happy for you that you’re getting away for a bit. You’re awesome. This comment is so great to come back to and read again. Thank you for it!

  6. Pingback: Five Weeks & Eight Countries Later: Bitten by the Travel Bug | The Get-a-Life Project

  7. Pingback: Europe: Land of the Lucky Punch | The Get-a-Life Project

  8. Pingback: Europe: Land of the Lucky Punch | The Get-a-Life Project

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