You are sitting in your cubicle. Da cube. It’s gray as London and the fluorescent light, after all these years, is making you feel less human, more machine.
You remember first getting into the “real world” and the thought of having your own workspace, your own computer, your own business cards, was stellar. You were young and craved status and money—as you were more or less taught to, having an American upbringing—and it appeared you were on your way to both. You could finally afford to buy all your friends a round of drinks without thinking twice. Hell yeah. Your bank account was healthy. Your wardrobe was fresh. Your ego was healthy. Life was good.
But then something strange happened that you couldn’t quite place your finger on at the time: You evolved.
You realized all-night partying followed by all-day cubicle-ing had something major in common: both are toxic, not only to the body, but to the soul. Coupled together, they bring you further away from your deeper purpose, and, thus, are unsustainable lifestyle characteristics. If you carried on with either—or worse, both—you knew you would die too young, having never truly lived life, like so many people you had seen do the same. Like everyone you didn’t admire.
Life, you started to suspect, had to be much more than this cubicle confinement allowed. Maybe it didn’t even have anything to do with money? Work of the corporate nature felt like some kind of modern day slavery; an abusive owner that kept you chained in the front yard of life. You began to dream of ways to break free; you imagined changes you could adopt in order to sprint toward the open fields where you suspected you could live life authentically and make a genuine difference in this increasingly broken world. You noodled the alternative options in your brain and you came to the understanding that escape is at best difficult, and, for many, seemingly impossible.
It appears you have become stuck.
And here’s the thing: You aren’t young anymore so you can’t be rash, fleeing the cube and making plans to travel to foreign lands on your parents’ dime to rediscover your zest for life. (And if you are young and abundant, please do. Be rash. Explore. Grow.) The 21-year-old you would have quit on the spot and flown off to Costa Rica or somewhere with an ocean to remind you of the vastness of life. But the approaching-30 you has commitments; you have responsibly. You have tethers. Meaning: Until your grand escape plan manifests, you still need to eat, and perhaps afford for children to eat—you need to bring home the proverbial bacon. Stuck.
You look around and see most of your friends in the same boat. This seems too systematic to be normal. You seem too dumbed-down to be normal. Everyone is too tired to be normal. And it feels like everyone is too trapped to get free.
But you’ve always been an optimist and chose to focus on the possibilities rather than the limitations. At this point, there are two things you can do, two tribes you can subscribe to: remain stuck or unstick yourself. Buy into impossibility or be possible.
Most people will pick the former, staying where they are, consumed by the corporate/government/societal quick sands, squeezing into the straight jacket of complacency, complaining life away, ultimately wondering how on Earth life passed them by. And who can blame them? The alternative, non-conformity, is certainly a perilous, uncertain path. It is in no manner easy. Conformity is weak but it sure is cozy.
The rest of us will rise up to the challenge of freedom because we aren’t afraid of difficult and we have faith that the impossible is worth our time. This is the difficult but admirable choice. These people are my people—and we need each other. We need to support each other because society won’t support us; misery doesn’t just love company—it is obsessed with it.
At this crossroad, upon choosing to be strong enough for freedom, for happiness, this is what we do: We vow to commit to big changes until our big prison-break day arrives. We download the words Grit and Tenacity into our character hard drive. We reboot—and upgrade—our lives.
And until freedom rings, we are left with a hollow feeling. A “what can I do?” feeling. We want to make a difference in the world but our cubes consume most of our time and our urban-sprawl commutes consume the rest. The good news, I’ve found along the way, is there are simple ways we can begin living a more meaningful life from inside that awkwardly lit box we live die most of our days in.
1. Create a passion project. And work on it at work. Dedicate an hour in the morning and an hour before you leave to the project, and bust out your work-work in between. That might sound rebellious… but isn’t that exactly what you are—an amazingly creative, talented, life-craving, gritty rebel?
2. Distribute your hard-earned funds wisely. Spending money is your real right to vote, as it makes more difference than any ballot box ever will. So when you are sneaking in your online shopping on payday at your desk, think local, think eco, think organic—all these things make a difference and bring you more into alignment with the person you want to be.
3. Read personal development blogs that inspire you. Skip your zombified Facebook feed and choose to absorb inspirational material instead. This will help you stay pumped all day and perhaps offer you enough energy to work on the world-saving things you are passionate about when the time comes to punch out.
And when you get home from da cube…
4. Schedule time to unplug. Technology is a double-edged sword. We have come to a place where the negative effects of our high-tech world are beginning to show its face as technology overwhelms every aspect of our life. Constantly, obsessively being logged on to our computers and phones and tablets is detrimental to becoming truly happy. Quiet is the only place where authentic connection with our authentic self can happen and it’s important that we make time for it. Schedule time every day to turn everything off and do real things: take a bath, go on a hike in nature, read a book by the creek/lake/ocean, ride your bike to run an errand instead of drive, write a hand written letter, plant a flowers, create something beautiful with your hands.