Life is short- a saying that we constantly have to remind ourselves. Everyone’s here on this Earth temporarily. It’s like we’re renting a room and not quite sure when our lease will be up. We really never know when we can go or like my mother likes to say- when our ticket is punched. We can’t control what happens in our lives and sadly, we simply cannot predict our faiths. Now before you close this article hang on a moment! I’m not trying to get all dark and depressing. This isn’t a piece about death- it’s about life. For those of you who’ve been following me long enough know that there’s always a method to my madness.
My inspiration for this post came to me during a wonderful one month trip to Thailand I recently took (I know please pity me). Throughout this holiday, I fortunate to meet some really interesting people from all over the world in which I got to share many interesting conversations about life in North America versus life in other nations. There was always a common theme in most (if not all) of them- North Americans don’t take enough time to enjoy life or at least, we’re not doing it properly. Sometimes we don’t mean to, we just let priorities take over and not always put ourselves on top of the list. We build this order of how our lives are supposed to go and God forbid, we do anything to mess that up or something that’s not considered the “norm”.
First, we go school for what seems like forever then right after, go crazy trying to find a job and figure out what we want to do for the rest of our lives. After enduring the stress that is school, we jump right into the stress of job hunting and eventually- work! We don’t take any time in between to travel or do something crazy before we’re tied down and become slaves of the corporate world. Many Europeans and Australians take anywhere between 3 months to a year off to travel once they graduate high and before they start university. Once they complete their university studies, they take time off again to travel before they enter the workforce. This is very smart if you think about it. Part of the reason many of us are stressed or unhappy with our jobs is because of the simple fact that we’d just rather be doing something else- like sitting on a beach with margarita in our hand or marvelling at one of the World’s Wonders (and not just looking at a postcard). Now if someone has travelled and completed their bucket list, wouldn’t they be a lot more driven to get a job? They’ve dedicated their time in doing something great and now it’s time to apply that to their careers and move on to the next chapter of their lives. They’ll never have to wonder what if or have any sort of regrets. How a young person has enough money to travel for a year is still beyond me! But it shows that clearly they’re better at saving money and are less materialistic than we are.
Most employers in other nations see it as a good thing if someone has travelled whereas in North America, not as much. And it’s often not the employers who see it like that, the potential employees often think they’re committing career suicide by taking time off to travel. We fear that we’re seen as lazy, not serious and that they’ll pick someone else who’s willing to chain themselves to their desks and never so much as take a vacation day as long as they live. My thoughts are that if a potential employer sees it like that, then it’s not a place I should be working at.
Another reason many nations live better than we do is another simple reason- they have more vacation days! The average vacation time (if we’re lucky) in North America is 2 weeks whereas in Europe and Australia it’s at least 4 weeks. Now wouldn’t we be happier with a little extra paid vacation time? We’d have more time to travel and take longer trips to great destinations or take multiple trips within a year. I know if I had more time off I would never leave a job. Many Americans I met abroad had to quit their jobs in order to be able to travel for longer. My kind of people! Choosing life over labour.
Here’s another shocking fact, many North Americans do not even take their vacation days (gasp!). So not only are we overworked, overwhelmed, not travelling, we’re also not even taking time off! And why? Because we’re afraid to lose our jobs or that we’ll be seen as incompetent. Let me tell you something my dear readers- anyone and everyone is replaceable at any moment! During layoffs you know who’s often the first ones to get canned, whoever’s been there the longest and costing them too much money. Why pay a great employee who’s given all his/her time and efforts when someone else can do the job for much less? And for those who work until they burn out and develop health issues guess what, you’re not useful to the company if you’re dead! In fact they’ll probably recruit your replacement at your funeral. Another big reason people quit their jobs to travel, their careers are slowly killing them. I’ve met several travelers who had highly stressful jobs that were damaging both their mental and physical health and decided to take some time off. Sadly not too many people are bold enough to do this. The motto is WORKING TO LIVE not LIVE TO WORK. Why do we keep forgetting this!
Now I will admit something, I myself have had moments where I was so focused on something that I forgot about the pleasures of life. I had finished my first ever bachelor’s degree at age 30- an accomplishment I’m very proud of may I add, and had to get back into the workforce after a few year absence. So I threw myself into hunting for a job however there was a slight problem- I forgot how hard and daunting it can be! Prior to my studies I worked in the tourism industry and never had much issue finding work. But now, I was in a whole new ball game. I had a degree to my name and hoped that better opportunities would come my way and if I didn’t find a job in my field of study, I could easily just find anything for the meantime.
Unfortunately for me, I came across many obstacles. Now I was getting called in for interviews- hell I had more interviews than dates! But like the dating world, I was receiving a lot of rejection and from all types of jobs. The same jobs that wanted to hire me years ago thought that I was overqualified and the ones in my field felt I was under-qualified. Then I thought I finally struck a victory, a company that I wanted to work for was expressing interest in me (I won’t say names-yet). I had a phone interview, 2 face-to-face interviews, and even passed a test with flying colors. I was told that the next job opening was mine. Finally, things were looking up and my luck was improving. However in a strange plot twist, this did not happen. When I followed up with said company they ever so graciously advised me that they went with other candidates. You can imagine how I reacted.
To think that I got myself stressed, anxious, depressed, gave up travelling and was overall just not myself for some time. I did what I always said I wouldn’t do, let myself get physically and emotionally sick over nothing. Did any of the companies that rejected me care that mental sanity was slowly deteriorating- of course not! So who loses here? Me! You’re probably wondering what happened after this? Well…I’m not one to hold back so I’ll tell ya!
I ended going back to my roots and getting a sales job in the travel industry that just so happened to be, said company’s competitor. However I quickly found out- this type of job isn’t for me! I worked my butt off to get my degree and what am I doing, at a job that I could’ve done years ago. I had to work around the clock which I always said I didn’t want and deal with dumb clients and even dumber colleagues (not all of them). Now I often get along with everyone so if I’m not gelling with someone, you have to ask yourself why. But hey, I was working right? Getting money, keeping myself busy until something better comes my way. Doing what I’m supposed to be doing? I just got to suck it up because not everyone is supposed to like their jobs and why am I different. But did I have to be so miserable that the thought of going to work made me sick to my stomach? Did I have to miss out on travelling and be so tired that I was neglecting my writing. And you know what else didn’t help? I got my heart broken! But that’s a whole other blog post.
So once again, I found myself not too happy with my life. And I suppose my employers felt it too. After a lengthy and surprisingly nice conversation with my boss, we mutually decided that the company and weren’t the right fits for me. We parted on good terms and I was back on the unemployment line. Back to the drawing board! But this time, I made it a point to focus on jobs in my field. I was off to a good start, already had a few interviews and even offered a freelance position so already things were slightly improving. However given the competitive nature of my field, still no bites.
Sadly, my anxieties about finding a job decided to come out of retirement and return. I was feeling sick to my stomach every time I opened up my laptop, waking up in the middle of the night crying and my hands were shaking uncontrollably. I wasn’t myself and everyone felt it. I hated it. After one particular interview I had made a decision, if I don’t get this job, I’m taking a nice trip. I couldn’t go on wasting my time and feeling sad, this is not who I am. And that’s exactly what I did; I went for it and booked myself a trip to Thailand. Now many didn’t agree with this or thought it wasn’t a good idea. What if you get a job offer when you’re gone? You know your problems are still here when you return? Shouldn’t you get a job first and then go? Here are my responses:
I’ve waited this long for a good job offer; I can wait a bit longer. Plus, often when you apply for career jobs, they often call you several weeks later. Yes I know that but at least for one month, I don’t have to think about these issues. Once I get a job, I won’t be able to take vacations for a while, let alone for a month. I was being selfish, putting myself first and doing what’s natural to me. And I didn’t care what anyone thought!
And I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I had the most amazing month, met some great people from all over the world and finally after several months- started to feel like myself again. My only complaint, I wish I went away for longer! Now I cannot guarantee that I won’t get back down again, but I’ll definitely have a different approach to it and better control. I’ll be damned if I let someone or something take my light away from me again. I do intend on living a creative and meaningful life that I love. If it takes me a little longer than I expected then so be it. So, what’s next for yours truly, who the hell knows! I’ll let the universe decide. Life is my bitch and only I can control it. As long as I live the best life I can, take exciting opportunities and enjoy the fine moments, then I’m already kicked ass.