A meaningful life
EDITOR’S NOTE: This essay was originally posted on April 27, 2016
There are many different things that motivate people in their lives. Whatever motivates you is what you will spend the most time and energy pursuing. Some people want to make money. Some people want to have a family. Some people want to advance in their career. Some people want to save money for retirement while foregoing immediate rewards.
I want to live a meaningful life.
There is nothing wrong with any of those other things. However, I have watched people give up on many life-enriching opportunities because they are waiting until retirement (or a different financial situation) to “live.” They assume that once they’re retired (or have paid off X amount of debt), they will have free time and (hopefully) enough money to have some fun. They drudge through every day, possibly at a job they don’t like, because they are positive it will all be “worth it” in the end.
But what if that’s your plan, and you get hit by a bus tomorrow? What if you become ill or disabled? What happens if you put off every interesting thing in life and then retirement never gets here? What if you take a job you hate instead of a job you love because of the money and then you’re miserable every day until you die?
I’m going to be honest: I don’t know if I’ll have enough money for retirement. Then again, I don’t know if retirement will get here. Hell, I don’t even know if humans will still be able to survive on this planet by then.
There’s so much uncertainty in life that I can’t wait around to find out if “some day” will get here. Instead, I live every day in the most meaningful way that I can. I try to learn things, become a more interesting person by attending cultural events, and interact with other interesting people. (And I think almost everyone is interesting.)
I’ve worked at soul-crushing jobs a few times. Rooms full of cubicles. Work that is not rewarding. Fluorescent lighting. Oh how I loathe you, fluorescent lighting. “Security” often comes with a price that I’m not willing to pay.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, working for yourself is often terrifying. But not as terrifying as the loss of creative energy and autonomy that often comes from trying to fit myself into an 8-to-5 box in an overly structured environment.
Even when you have freedom, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals. Life is busy, and time seems to go by faster then we think. In order to motivate myself to make each year meaningful, I keep a list of interesting or meaningful things I do each year. If the list is looking too light, I make sure to plan some things to fill it out. I want every one of my years to look like it was fulfilling and worthwhile.
This list makes me proud of who I am. When I look at it, I know I have really lived. No matter when I die, I’ll do so with the knowledge that I did things. I took chances. I made a difference. I lived an interesting life.
The desire to lead a meaningful life is what motivates me every day.