As I pondered upon grad school this morning, I kept hearing these words in my head; “do you live to work or work to live?” I couldn’t tell you why I was hearing them, they were just there. I kept wondering what this had to do with grad school. But I answered my own question by looking back at my life. 15 years ago, I lived to work. I made 6 figures, took the kids on two week vacations, had three cars in the garage, but I can honestly say I wasn’t happy. I bought things to fill an empty hole in my soul. I was an empty materialistic person who worked six days a week. I basically was living my work.
After many unfortunate episodes in my personal life, I found myself out here in the mountains of North Georgia. I was put in a rural community where life is sometimes difficult, and you learn to appreciate going out to dinner because you may not have the money to do it again for another two months. Being here has reversed my perspective on life and now I work to live. Basically I go to work to have money to buy food and shelter, and I’m happier than I was before.
I can hear people groaning – but its better for me. I’ve left behind materialism. I don’t have a big house, my cars aren’t new, I shop in thrift stores, I budget for food, I garden for food, harvest fruit to make jellies, live simply and enjoy the scenery. I think the only time I’ve been remotely stressed has been through undergraduate work, and that was at test time and student teaching when I was working for free. My children grew up here and I know they hated it because the nearest Wal-mart was 30 minutes away and we didn’t have any big shopping malls nearby, but the small community was good for them. Our entertainment was fireflies, taking walks in the woods, the lake and our friends.
I guess I was pondering this because of grad school and my love for history. A long time ago, people did just work to live. They didn’t have credit cards and they paid cash for the things they needed, and if they didn’t need it, more than likely they wouldn’t have bought it. At what point in our history did we fall from that? My boss and I were talking about it the other day, and he said he could remember when he could work 40 hours a week and make all his bills. Side jobs were a thing to have if you needed to buy a big item or pay off a small debt, and you saved money for a rainy day. Now days people are working 12-16 hours a day, at two to three jobs just to maintain their credit card debt, large homes, expensive vacations, big cars, new designer clothes, etc. and they don’t save. At what point in our history did we become a culture that lives to work?