Tuesday, October 19, 2010

And so it begins...

What am I doing?  What. Am. I. Doing.  These four words have ricocheted around in my head for the better part of the last three years.  It’s a great question.  And the answer is an evolving one.  What am I doing now?  The answer to that question at this precise moment is simple: I’m starting over.  The logic, however, has not always been so transparent.  What I am doing is purposefully walking away from the very things most Americans spend their entire lives trying attain: financial stability, job security and a comfortable, predictable future.  Today I resigned from my job as an advertising executive at the largest privately owned media group in the country.  I have moved out of my condo in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood and rented out all three rooms.  I have put nearly all of my possessions in a storage facility 350 miles away.  I have sent my best friend and four-legged partner in crime, Lola, home to live with my parents in Indiana.  And, in one week, I will be out of a job, out of Chicago for good, and hopping on an international flight to South America with my two-legged partner in crime and the woman that I love, Christina.
As a child, I dreamt of becoming many things when I grew up: a karate master, veterinarian, a chef or a filmmaker.  Suffice it to say, while practicing with my homemade make-shift num-chucks in my backyard and cultivating a worm farm in the damp crawl space underneath my childhood home, I could have never predicted my current situation: Five years spent hunched over a computer in a 5’x 6’ synthetic taupe box underneath the drone of florescent lighting.  My ten-year-old self would be ashamed at how easily I let my dreams die.  Knowing the end of my corporate career is near, I have taken inventory of my cube: One black, second-hand stapler.  One telephone that was likely white 30 years ago, but now appears the shade of a bad smoking habit.   Countless binders and trapper-keepers filled with marketing and sales collateral (never opened). One wall-sized calendar with intermittent tally marks noting pay days and today – The Day- in particular.  Three calculators, one briefcase, one picture each of my girlfriend, my dog and my nephews—tacked to the cork board.  One inspiration quote, reminding me that pursing a life that is meaningful to oneself requires courage.  And last but not least, one computer, one grease-stained keyboard and one mouse, in front of which I spend roughly 40 hours a week sitting, doing my job.  As a kid and a dreamer, I foolishly thought that while working, I would be surrounded by things that I loved, things I cared about, things that inspired, things that were connected to me.  Instead, my tools of the trade are meaningless, inanimate objects—their connection to me never extending beyond the computation of my commission from that day’s sale.
Here’s some rough math: Life = 1/3 of time spent sleeping + 2/3 time spent awake.  If you work an average of eight hours a day, you spend nearly half of your fully conscious adult life working.  The past five years, I have lived a life considered by most societal norms to be a privileged one.  And no doubt, it has been.  I have had a well-paying job with an expense account, full benefits and an office on Michigan Avenue.  I have been able to buy a nice condo, a nice car and countless gadgets I never needed.  If there were a barometer to measure success in this country, the metrics would most certainly be linked to the amount of “things” one can acquire and the requisite money.  As a society, we’re obsessed with “things”.  The more of them you have, the more successful you have been.  And, by that measure, I have done pretty well.  Until recently, “What am I doing?” was somewhat a rhetorical question.  I knew exactly what I was doing.  I was doing what most other Americans were doing, what I was supposed to be doing, right? I was working a job that gave me zero fulfillment, making money and acquiring lots of “things” to make that eight-hour void seem worthwhile.  And, I was comfortable, which scared the shit out of me.  And in some part, is responsible for this change, even this very blog.  To some people, such as myself, being comfortable is a bit of a paradox.  People spend their entire lives trying to find a place where they are comfortable.  Then, they ride it out straight to the grave.  This is not a life that I want.  I do not want to look back at my life and regret never having the balls to pursue a career and a life that holds meaning for me, one in which I have fulfillment and a connection to my work, simply because I was too scared to be uncomfortable.
What am I doing?  I am quitting my job.  I am backpacking in South America for two months.  I am finding a new city to call home where I will start a new life and a new career, with new friends and new experiences.  And, I am doing all of this without a plan, but with a simple goal in mind: happiness.  Years from now I will likely look back on this decision as either one of sheer brilliance, or blind ignorance.  But, the journey is certain to be unforgettable.    This is my life from scratch.  Thank you for joining me on my adventure.


1 comment:

  1. HOLY COW!
    This is so my life. I have sat each day sad and questioning WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING? Where did my dreams go? My ambition? My excitement and zest for life...

    This is truly remarkable. You're an inspiration, Clay and Christina! I hope that it's as fulfilling as you hope. I will get there sooner than later, I pray.

    Be safe. Thinking of you both.