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?

The Universal Ache of Mattering

Story conference attempt #3 (see #1 and #2):

My friends and I were really obsessed with the Lord of the Rings movies in high school.  If you’re honest with yourself, I’d venture to say you were probably a little bit obsessed, too.  So when I heard that Sean Astin was going to be appearing at Story, I was pretty stoked.  Some know him best as Rudy or as Mikey from The Goonies, but he’ll always be Sam to me…

Reading through my notes now, about a week after the event, I’m remembering that he spoke to something that’s been in my heart of hearts, and one of the recurring themes of this blog.  He told us that when he got the phone call telling him he had landed the role of Sam in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, he fell to his knees and cried.  Why?

“I knew I was going to get to do something that really mattered,” he said.

And that’s something that I’ve been searching for for quite a while now.  There’s a tension between needing a job and needing a purpose.  Something about sitting in a cubicle or pulling shots just doesn’t do it for me–it’s a way to earn a living, but not a way I want to spend a life.  I want to use my skills, but more than that, I want to use them in a way that really matters.

Sean said, “Artists thrive when they feel like they can make a difference.”

Absolutely.  I get that.  And I’m dying to make a difference somewhere.  It’s this deep down desire, an ache that I’m called to do so much more.  Someone once pointed out to me that a job is ultimately exchanging hours of your life for pay.  I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize I made a poor exchange.  The challenge is just knowing what that looks like practically.

I want that moment when I’m crippled to my knees with the realization that I’m going to get to do something that really matters.  I think it’s a universal ache.  Our souls crying for something more.  I want to make a difference.  I want to thrive.

Have you had a moment like this?  What did it look like?  How did you answer it?