I paid my first full rent payment and celebrated my first full month in my big girl job at Southwest a few days ago.
And then it hit me: this is permanent. This is my life now.
Most of my friends here grew up in Dallas, Houston, or some other Texan city within reasonable driving distance of where we live now.
Their whole lives (and all their loved ones) exist in a radius you could drive in a day.
My family is 14 hours away where most of my high school friends still live, and my college friends are strewn throughout the country.
I guess that’s the deal I signed up for when I moved 500 miles south for college and another 600 miles west to start a career, but sometimes it makes me nostalgic for the days when all my friends were under one roof at Notre Dame Academy 5 days a week and my biggest concerns were what time the Edgewood Police would crash Nina Rokvic’s party on Saturday or if I got 100% on my AP Physics WebAssign.
In a sense, "starting over" has been a theme that has woven itself into the last 10 years of my life.
There’s a level of social and professional effort required when you’re relatively new to a city. The ease and comfort that characterizes your hometown feels a little like climbing into your bed after a long day, by comparison.
Likewise, the effort can sometimes feel misdirected. You’re no longer following a four-year plan as outlined by DegreeWorks. Your life can’t be diced into semester-long chunks with definitive beginning and endpoints. It’s just one long, indefinite path. As my coworker Claire so aptly put it, “Holy sh*t, this is it now.”
The concept of starting over has been on my mind a lot lately, as I sometimes find myself yearning for familiarity in a life that’s all mine and all new.
Moreover, I’ve been trying to reconcile my idea of forging a meaningful life with the average 40-hour work week.
I recently saw a video that visually represented the human lifespan, chunked into decades. It started with 0 and ended with 80.
It marks a dash at the age of 16 and another at the age of 65. “This is about how much of your life you spend working,” it explained, harshly coloring in the majority of the timeline with a dark brown marker.
As I sat there staring at this unappealing brown horizon bookended by two tiny lines jutting out from either side to denote the measly portions of your life not mired in work, I felt a pit in my stomach.
“If you’re living and working for the weekends, you’re wishing your life away. You’re wasting your life.”
I immediately envisioned myself sitting in my cubicle, staring at the clock around 2:30 p.m., willing it to tick faster to 5 o’clock so I could rush home and…lay in bed? Eat sweet potato chips and watch reruns of Real Housewives of Orange County?
I can’t believe I spend nearly half my waking time wishing it was either nighttime or the weekend, I thought, nervously. And that’s saying a lot—because I really love my job. (There’s a saying at Southwest: “Your worst day here is still better than your best day somewhere else.”) I can’t imagine what the grind is like for folks who hate what they do.
Yet still—I found this knowledge disturbing. I can see why life seems to pass so quickly for adults. You work all week, cherish your 48 hours of freedom, and repeat. It’s not like school where explicit signposts divide your life into notable, predictable milestones. Each week follows the last with about as much excitement as a Microsoft Outlook bug fix update.
And while there are definite upsides to the postgrad abyss (read: $), it’s too easy to fall into the cycle of fashionable corporate complaining in which we frame our jobs as these miserable obligations that punctuate our daily lives.
I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t really want to spend 45 hours a week wishing I was somewhere else. Besides, most work nights are spent doing nothing but relaxing and resting for—you guessed it—work the next day.
We structure our lives around work, and sometimes, to the detriment of other equally (or more) important components of our well-being.
Sometimes when I’m feeling especially antsy to go home in the middle of the day, I pretend that I’m choosing to hang out there. I pretend it’s just me and a bunch of my friends in our cubes, casually working and collaborating.
Sometimes I block a small conference room, play music, brainstorm on the white board, and do my work in there—just for the change of scenery.
When I think of work as something I’m choosing to do rather than something I have to do, it somehow makes it more enjoyable.
I've been slowly developing my Dallas routines now that I'm "official," trying to find a cadence that makes me happy. Do I exercise before work or after? What do my Saturday mornings consist of? When do I wash my towels and pillowcases? How much money is too much money to spend on weekly Starbucks?
For a planner who finds a sense of comfort and control in routine like me, establishing these habits and "best practices" of life is important for my happiness. I'm really big on optimization and efficiency (you should see my "Life" spreadsheet), so I put a lot of forethought into the way I spend my time.
I guess we’re all just trying to figure it out. We’re all trying to inject a little excitement and sweetness into the monotony of every day, while still building the foundations for lives that we're proud of and satisfied with.
And unlike my physics assignments on WebAssign, the smart girl at the desk next to me doesn’t have the answers.
At the very least, I don't live in constant fear of the Edgewood P.D. anymore—so I guess I'm doing something right.
The fine print: