There are days when I want nothing more than to stuff my backpack with essentials, buy a used car camper, and travel across the country from national park to national park. I want to read beat poetry on nature trails, write essays in Portland coffee shops, and do cartwheels down the California coast.
Other days are simpler, and I only desire to spend my entire morning on the deck with a cool breeze, a hot cup of coffee, and a typewriter. But no matter what I’m daydreaming about, I always have an aching desire to escape from the obligations of everyday life and spend my days exploring and creating art.
But, alas, dreams don’t come true for free. I work a corporate nine to five job, and am all too familiar with the 40+ hour work week.
Let’s be clear: I have an amazing job. My coworkers treat me like family, my boss purposely exposes me to challenging work that aligns with my professional interests, and corporate headquarters is just a short commute from home. Work is challenging, but I’m fortunate enough to be able to maintain a healthy work/life balance. And although I get paid hourly, I make enough cash to easily pay my bills, put money into my savings account, and even have a little extra for some fun little summer trips. In short, I’m incredibly fortunate, and I’ve worked hard to put myself in a comfortable position. Regardless, I haven’t always been so content with my circumstances.
I graduated from college in December, and was immediately ready to begin a fulltime job (with benefits!) with any company that would take me. After months of fruitless applications and a few (but only a few) interviews, I began to get extremely discouraged. I was living back home with my parents, and working the same internship I’d had through college. I resented myself for not starting my career with a salaried job. I scrutinized all the things I had done wrong. I felt worthless for moving back home. I was angry for not filling out job applications every day.
I began applying for jobs that didn’t interest me, in states I didn’t truly want to live in, for companies that were completely irrelevant to my personal and professional goals. I was so unhappy in my current position, that I thought any kind of change would be good change.
At the height of my dissatisfaction, I realized I didn’t need to uproot my life and move across the country to find joy. There is beauty to be found everywhere, even in my unimpressive rural hometown, in my temporary internship, and of course in the family who has been gracious enough to take me back into their home. I am blessed, and I can’t believe it took so long to really, truly appreciate my circumstances as they are.
The fact of the matter is that a bad attitude can do more than just ruin your day (and annoy the people around you), it can significantly affect your life in negative ways. Pessimistic thinking is a habit, which can be changed with hard work and perseverance. The change in my overall attitude has been a gradual one. I’ve made many small changes in my life, which have resulted in a large, positive transformation in thinking.
I focus on the good aspects of daily life. I used to come home from work each day and complain about a coworker, obsess over a deadline, or dwell on a setback. Now, I make a conscious effort to only talk (and think) about the positive aspects of my day. In most cases, I leave thoughts about work back at the office, and spend my home time reading and writing.
An article by MayoClinic.org encourages those who may try to alter their attitude by offering, “If you tend to have a negative outlook, don’t expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you.”
Some mornings I wake up miserable, and resent the work day that looms ahead of me, but I remind myself that work is a privilege. I am incredibly lucky to have my job, and am more fortunate than ever for the beautiful people I work with.
One day, I will travel the US in a car trailer, brush sea salt through my hair, get sand in my typewriter, and mud between my toes. I will live beyond the restrictions of my student loan debt, my car payment, and the pressure to plump up my savings. One day, I’ll forget all about change management and root cause analysis. I’ll donate my dress slacks and wean myself of coffee addiction.
For now, though, I’m going to work hard every day, I’m going to pay off my loans, and keep enjoying this beautiful, fortunate life.