I’ve never considered myself to be an ambitious person. I was always more than happy just kind of sitting about and chilling. I wanted things, but never with a fervor. Yet even for me, the months after graduation that I spent looking for a job were hard. I felt useless. I looked for jobs in multiple countries and faced countless rejections. It was hard not to tie up my whole self-worth into my job search. I felt like I could only deserve my spot on this planet if I got a job and kept busy. My main goal was to have each hour of my day accounted for, so I felt like I wasn’t wasting my time.
Here’s the thing – I’ve always thought of myself as a lazy person. It was the one part about me that I disliked the most, but I never did much to change it either. I thought I was irresponsible and didn’t seek out hard work. I only did the homework I absolutely had to and often studied for exams just two days before. I didn’t take on any extra projects in college and just kind of did the bare minimum. I felt like I could have done much more as a kid, joined classes, practiced playing an instrument and dancing, maybe tried to become good at a sport? But I didn’t. It was the worst kind of self-awareness. I knew what was wrong, but didn’t have the knowledge or motivation to fix it. Or at least, that’s what I thought.
Then I got a full-time job and several projects to do that I was very excited about. At first, I loved this arrangement. I finally got what I had wanted for years. My schedule was completely packed and it felt fulfilling. But as the weeks went on I realized something was wrong. I honestly thought that achieving the dream of a packed schedule was an end goal – that it would be enough. But I started getting into a phase where I thought about work all the time. Even when I was hanging out with my family or talking to my friends in my free time, I felt guilty about not working. It was frustrating, to say the least. Why wasn’t this working – why wasn’t this packed schedule of hard work making me feel happy? I finally changed the part of me that bothered me the most, it should have left me satisfied with myself.
I was talking to a friend about this and after she listened to my outburst, she had something wise to say. “But you know that even people who are not lazy aren’t productive every minute of every day, right? And why do you even want to be satisfied?” I thought a lot about that. What did I really want? What would make me happy?
I realized my goal wasn’t a sustainable one. It isn’t practical to expect to feel happy when you are constantly under pressure. The satisfaction that comes with applied effort needs to go hand-in-hand with the peace and joy that comes from leisure. I also think I was too hard on myself as a kid. Maybe I didn’t work as hard as some other people, but that was because of a lack of motivation. I’m learning that I’m capable of applying myself to projects that I’m passionate about. So what I was was not lazy, but chill. I miss that now.
There is something to be said for a changing definition of success, even if it does feel frustrating. We are taught that the ultimate goal is to get a job, to move ahead in our careers. We are never told that achieving goals isn’t everything. When I really think about it, I come to the conclusion that it makes no sense to build a system of work and education around the idea that there is only one way to live. We are told that our time must translate into a perceived value, be that money or productivity – something tangible to point to and say “Here is where my time went.” However, the definitions of value and productivity themselves are not objective. There is more to life than being a constant productive machine.
I now know that packing my schedule isn’t the end goal. It doesn’t make me feel great about myself, instead, it allows more things to fall through the gaps. I’ve read it so many times before but it is just now starting to make sense to me – life is all about balance. We need to remember that there is value in taking a break, relaxing, and doing things just for fun. There is value in a lazy day.
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