I sometimes wake up before my alarm clock rings. It’s a great feeling—mainly because it allows me to turn the alarm off. Unfortunately, those sweet few seconds of satisfaction never last long. The daily thought inevitably returns: what if I just didn’t go to work today?
I humor myself. Well, if I didn’t show up, I’d probably get some panicked phone calls and/or emails full of genuine concern from coworkers and management alike. They would most likely think it was some kind of serious illness or family emergency. That’s my thing: I respect the arrangement I made with my employer and they know it. They pay me to be somewhere so they expect me to be there when I’m supposed to be. When I’m not there, they worry and, truthfully, I worry too.
I’m sure most of you can relate. If it’s not a job, it’s a child. If it’s not a child it’s a chronic illness or 1,000,000 other things that strangle what’s left of our time. This is life. This is the game.
So the next morning I wake up before my alarm clock, I stare at the ceiling, and I think to myself: what if I just said fuck it? What if I never stopped foot in another corporate building ever again?
It’s unrealistic of course. I mean, I have a mortgage. I have debt. My body needs food and sometimes booze. The electric bill definitely needs to get paid because I’m not going through a Texas summer without air conditioning. And how will I travel? What will I do about health insurance?
So I comply. I get up, eat, jump in the shower, and get dressed. My beat-up car deals with another 45-minutes worth of traffic (one-way) and I arrive at the office energized and ready to produce. Something happens throughout the day though. Periodically, a tiny voice in the back of my busy mind asks “what if I never got in the car? What if I did something else? Why don’t I?”
Fear. That’s why.
Fear dominates us. It forces our dreams, passions, and aspirations to retreat to the darkest corners of our brains. Fear straps our hopes to a torture rack and beats them into submission. A seasoned despot, fear manipulates us into thinking a safe trek to middle-management is akin to that mural we wanted to paint, the months-long hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, or building that log cabin in the middle of nowhere.
Fear is the real reason we play it safe. Fear is what keeps us from breaking our various covenants. We try to rationalize it. “A normal person would never walk away from this to go do…” that’s what we say. When someone finally sees the prison they built for themselves, their friends and family automatically assume the worst. “Wow, they snapped” or “good luck makin’ a livin’ doin’ (insert dream here).” They ask “what’s really wrong?”
Why do they say these things? Because they’re also afraid. They’re afraid for you. They’re afraid for themselves. Maybe they’re jealous. Maybe they’re truly up shit’s creek. Some people are just in too deep. Ripping themselves away from their cage would destroy them or their families. Continuing to help you build your own prison makes sense to them. Plus, it’s comforting.
Indeed, it is far easier to build a prison than it is to break out of one. The best way to free yourself is to never give up your freedom in the first place. However, if you’re like me, all you can do is keep chipping away.
Maybe one day we’ll see daylight again.