I’m adding an extra blog post this month in honour of International Awareness Day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases, of which Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a part of. I thought I would take it as an opportunity to discuss at greater length a topic that I mentioned in my article for news.com.au today. And that’s making your life the life you want it to be.
A few months ago I was offered a job back in the visual effects industry. It was a good job for a small company that was extremely talented, and the role was exactly the type of role that I would want if I were to return to that life.
I turned it down. Yep, that’s right I turned down a high paying job that would stimulate and challenge me. Why?
I love visual effects, it will always be a part of my life, but what I learnt from my time with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is that working in that industry only encourages the negative parts of my personality. Working to tight deadlines with clients who seem to constantly change their mind adds stress to my life. Trying to meet my own high standards whilst working with a tight deadline only fuels my anxiety because ultimately I’m my harshest critic, and I always what to make my work better than it currently is. This means that I spend longer working on things than I should, which leads me to working longer hours.Those longer hours lead to late nights and that plays havoc with my sleep patterns, and when my sleep gets disrupted I begin to toss and turn when I do get to bed, worried that I’m not going to get enough sleep, which means that I’m not rested when I wake up the next morning.
Add to that my own expectations of my co-workers and not seeing my family because of work commitments, and you have a lifestyle that is just begging for my CFS to return.
Now, I didn’t turn this job down immediately. In fact I actually spent several weeks contemplating what it would all mean if I were to take it. It too up a large chunk of my time and distracted me from the thing I thought I was dedicated to, writing. If I wanted to I could say that I kind of wasted those weeks, because I didn’t get any writing done, and in the end I decided not to pursue the job. But I don’t look back on those few weeks as wasted time, because that’s not healthy. Instead I see it as a challenge, one that I passed.
Commitment to change is hard, and there are many temptations that will try and derail you in your quest to be a better you. This job opportunity was a temptation that tried to lure me back to my old life. It dangled a fat salary in front of me and whispered sweet nothings in my ear, it massaged my ego.
And if you live in Sydney, as I do, apparently all those things are important; I’m sure it’s the same in many cities around the world. We aspire to have more than we currently have, to have what our friends have, to have what our boss has. We want their job, we want all the stuff that goes with having more money, a bigger house, a nicer car, a holiday to Europe or some other exotic location.
That was me before I got CFS, and I got all those things, but it didn’t satisfy me. Once I had them I wanted more of them. I moved into a bigger house, but it wasn’t big enough. Boy would I love an Audi to replace my Subaru. Got to Bora Bora, now how do I get to the Maldives?
I don’t believe in regret anymore, there’s no point, I can’t change what’s happened, but, if I could go back in time and have a conversation with myself I know what I’d say. Just enjoy what you have, because it’s pretty good, and you’re lucky to have what you have. You’re lucky to live where you live in the house that you live in. You’re lucky to own a Subaru, and how many people ever got to go to Bora Bora?
I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t get caught up in all the bullshit that society likes to throw at us. Don’t worry about people who turn their nose up when you mention the suburb you live in, they’re obviously not people who value the things you value. If getting that promotion is going to mean you spend more time at work and less time doing all the things you derive pleasure from, then maybe you should stop and question whether that promotion is worth it.
I’m earning way less money than I could be, but having that extra money wasn’t going to make me happy. In fact it was probably going to have the opposite effect, because work would, once again, dominate my life. That was going to be the trade off, more money but no free time. No time for me and my writing, no time for my wife, no time for my son. Oh and then there’s those things called friends, no time for them either. I want all those things to be in my life, they bring me joy.
Success comes in so many different forms that if you look at your life you will discover that you’re already a success. But it’s up to you to define what success is. Don’t let anyone else tell you what makes for a successful life. All they will be doing is putting their own desires, their own pressures onto you. Let them believe what they want. You can’t control how other people think, how they will react. All you can control is you. So, if you haven’t done so today, stop and ask yourself this.
Are the things that I do on a daily basis making me happy?
If the answer to any of them is no, then maybe it’s time you started to question what it is that will really make you happy. It’s up to you to make your life better, because in this dog eat dog world, no one is going to do it for you.
Next Thursday I'm going to talk about the phrase 'I have to do this', and why that's bullshit.