Escaping the Rat Race: Why Humans Aren’t Meant to Work a 9-5

January 3, 2021

2020 was the year of many things. Lost jobs, postponed weddings, cancelled vacations, permanently closed businesses, and overall just crushed dreams. For me, it was graduating to no avail.

The virtually inexistent job market of May 2020 was initially my biggest nightmare, but in the long run turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It gave me time to think about what it is I really want to do, rather than throw myself into an office cubicle because it’s what people expect me to do. So when my friends and family ask why I still haven’t gotten a ‘real job,’ I tell them it’s because I’m escaping the rat race. To my surprise, most of them don’t know what that is.

The rat race, in a nutshell, is the accepted societal norm that life is meant for studying and working tirelessly until retirement. That life is all about grade school, then college, then immediately getting a job, and restlessly working your way up the ladder to the sun.

But the thing is, that light at the end of the tunnel is unreachable. The rat racers are climbing a Penrose ladder; a mere illusion of a goal that seems finite but has no true end. Every time they think they’re close – they land the promotion, win the election, buy the big house, reach the 1M followers – it turns out not to be enough because they’re left wanting more. Money, fame, promotions, power… it’s all a finish line that only keeps getting further and further away.

“Even if those long-awaited goals are attained, you’ll likely be too busy focusing on the next goal to fully appreciate them.” —Breathe Magazine, The Mindfulness Special

Take Paris Hilton, for instance. In her YouTube documentary This Is Paris, she talks about how she doesn’t sleep, never stops working, is in front of cameras 24/7 and travels over 200 days a year because her goal is to make a billion dollars. She wants this because she doesn’t want to “ever have to worry about anything,” as if having millions of dollars already were not financially secure enough.

Another example is TikTok star Charli D’Amelio, who towards the end of 2020 said in a YouTube video that she “wished she had more time” so that she could hit 100 million TikTok followers within one year. This goal, again, is an imaginary finish line that once reached will likely get farther away, and is also reflective of her skewed view of followers as numbers rather than real people.

While I understand that everything is relative, and a million dollars or followers to me is not the same to a celebrity, these arbitrary goals come from a place of wanting to prove oneself. And though Charli did actually hit her million mark on time, and Paris has since given up her billionaire goal to simply be happy, their initial attitudes are representative of the overall mentality our society has of wanting to make a point to someone. The problem is that that ‘someone’ is, more often than not, an imaginary entity we’ve made up in our heads; a make-believe society we think is constantly expecting something from us when in reality, people don’t think about us —  or notice our lack of progress —  half as much as we think they do.

True success comes when you become mindful of the fact that where you are now is the only place you’ll ever be. When you are at peace with the current conditions of your life rather than in a constant state of yearning... for that better job… that big house… that life partner…

Of course, this concept isn’t new to any of us. Everyone says money can’t buy happiness. External success, while providing temporary satisfaction and relief, isn’t the key to ultimate contentment with life. But if this is such common knowledge, why doesn’t anyone apply it? How did it become widely accepted that you have to graduate from college, and intern before you do so, and get a job immediately after you do, and then work forever until your bones are too brittle to do all the adventuring you wanted to do while society was pressuring you to ‘find a job’.

Why can’t we all just take a damn break?

Naval Ravikant says humans are made like lions, not cows. We are not meant to mindlessly graze from morning to evening, sleep, and then do it all over again the next day. We’re meant to build up rest as needed, then go out and hunt with the energy we’ve gathered. He believes our lives are meant to be lived in intervals of adrenaline rushes, not in continuous monotony, and I think more and more people are beginning to realize this. With digital monetization opportunities increasingly expanding, Spain becoming the first country to test a 4-day workweek, and Covid making people realize they can virtually (pun intended) work from anywhere, 9-5ing is becoming more and more obsolete each day.

"The Information Age is going to reverse the Industrial Age." —Naval Ravikant (Joe Rogan Experience, #1309)

I know it’s bold to want to escape the rat race. To want to find ‘another way out.’ To not follow the cookie cutter life path we all seem to be programmed with since birth. I’m pretty sure all my friends and family think I’m crazy for wanting to ‘make it’ as a content creator rather than continue filling out job applications. They might suspect I’ve turned into a hippie, or that my priorities might be out of line. But at the end of the day, I would rather be doing something I’m truly passionate about – whether that’s blogging or creating content or starting a podcast about music – than running in the wheel of hedonic adaptation. I’d rather maintain my artistic integrity than become a slave to the rat race, ultimately renting out my time to someone else and thus losing control of my innately granted freedom.

So that's exactly what I’m going to do.

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