I had a chat with a couple of colleagues about our jobs. I wasn't surprised when we shared the same sentiment about life and work: the things we do daily don't give us joy.
I felt relieved when I learned that my colleagues don't find their jobs meaningful. I am not the only one. That was my first reaction. The longer I pursue my career, the more I feel it's just a job. Whenever I moved to a new company, initially, it was always exciting and fun. But it'll be just another job over time.
I am grateful to be where I am now; this was my dream. But this routine became mundane. Life became stressful. And I started to question myself, is this how it will be until I retire?
The golden handcuffs
Every day I wake up, shower (or not), work for 8 hours, and repeat. When I think about my job, I can only think about how bleak my life is. It's monotonous.
But if I zoom out and look at it holistically, my job gave me more than that. I got paid to do the job that I (used to) enjoy doing, am entitled to bonuses and paid time off, and the job provides stability.
And these days, having a stable job is a privilege. So what am I still complaining about?
My colleague told me what I feel is called "the golden handcuffs". I am trapped in a luxurious castle called a company. I don't hate to be here, because being here keeps me alive. But it's suffocating, because being here doesn't bring me joy.
I believe a lot of us feel the same thing. Even though we are free to leave, we feel trapped. The door is open, but we can't leave.
These are the golden handcuffs.
I have always done my best and worked hard. After all, everyone says that is the key to happiness. That's what all the books say. So I worked hard. I gave it all until I could be where I wanted to be. My dreams and goals became my fuel.
And initially, it was great to be there. It was new, I was living my dream, and sometimes I couldn't believe I was there. I was happy.
But the feeling wore off after a few years. Work became a chore, and life became more and more stressful. If you work too hard, you'll get sick and burned out. If you slack around too much, you'll get fired. Then what the f#ck am I supposed to do at work?
Once you arrive at your destination, it will not be as peaceful as you thought. Or it might be until it isn't anymore. Then you'll look for something else.
That's how I realised that working hard and chasing dreams won't bring me happiness anymore. Ultimately, the journey to find a meaningful life is more meaningful than the destination itself.
To live a meaningful life is to seek something you believe would make you happier. To live a life that brings you joy. To wake up with excitement and enthusiasm.
For some, it's to achieve their goals and dreams. It's a destination that they want to go to—the place they want to be. In the beginning, this is what most people want: fulfilling their dreams.
But a meaningful life can be more loosely defined.
You might find meaning in growth. You may or may not need a goal as the destination. But the sole purpose is to experience growth–to experience life. Once you reach your destination, you'll search for other things. Because what brings you joy and excitement is the challenge of a new journey.
In other stages of life, meaning can be stability and comfort. Not everyone pushes for growth and changes in their lives. And some people might be happy when they have just enough. So they seek comfort. It's a realistic point of view. We seek to live comfortably, build a family, settle down, and grow old.
A meaningful life differs for each person. It depends on our situation, stages of life, age, and passion. I can list down a hundred things that define a meaningful life, and you may not find it significant because it can be anything.
In the end, you are the one who knows what's meaningful to you.
I used to dream of being where I am today.
But now that I'm here, I can't find meaning in what I do.
As I grew and learned about myself, I started to see life differently.
To me now, it's no longer about the destination.
It's about why I am going there.
And here's a question:
What's your definition of a meaningful life?
I hope you find this post inspiring.
And whenever life feels too much, remember:
It's not going to be easy,
But it's not impossible.