Do you Live to Work or Work to Live?

fantasy-landscape-1920x1200As 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?

Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb – Living Life and Your Dreams

For some strange reason this song has been stuck in my head for two days.  I have not heard it on the radio or anything, it just popped up in my head.  I actually believe it was in one my dreams the more I think about it.
Is there anybody in
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone at home?
Come on,
I hear you’re feeling down.
Well I can ease your pain
Get you on
your feet again.
I’ll need some information first.
Just the
basic facts.
Can you show me where it hurts?

There is no pain you are
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through
in waves.
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying.
When I was a
child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I’ve got
that feeling once again
I can’t explain you would not understand
This is
not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb.

Just a little
There’ll be no more aaaaaaaaah!
But you may feel a little
Can you stand up?
I do believe it’s working, good.
That’ll keep
you going through the show
Come on it’s time to go.

There is no pain
you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming
through in waves.
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying.
I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it
The child is grown,
The dream is gone.
I have become comfortably

Pink Floyd’s lyrics are actually quite deep when you read them.  Back when I was younger, we all thought this song had something to do with drugs, but as I got older and into college, in one of my English classes, we actually took it out and dissected it.  What we discovered in some of the discussions was this song mimics how some people look at life.  Going through the motions of living does not actually mean you are living, you become “comfortably numb” to what surrounds you.  The last couple of lines are the clincher, “the child is grown, the dream is gone, I have become comfortably numb.”

This song is very important to me in a strange little way, because for about a period of 12 years I was pretty “comfortably numb” to my life.  The things I dreamed about as a child, {being an author, teaching, graduating from college, my PhD} got left by the side of the road, and the harshness of life took control.  It was not until I made a move to Georgia back in 2003 that things started to come together, and I realized that I let the dream go, and was too “comfortably numb.”  I wanted it back, I wanted me back.

Moving up to the North Georgia Mountains was good for me and my children.  We stepped away from the hustle of big city life and took on a simpler country life.  I realized then simple is better. {My children would disagree sometimes, but that is youth.}  I let go of materialism, a six figure salary, bad karma, bad men, destructive behaviors and embraced love, life, my children, and compassion.  It changed me, and I found my dreams again.

So I challenge you to look upon the song, and then look upon yourself, have you become “comfortably numb?”