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What If There’s an Answer Sheet for Life?

Monday.

The weekend’s full-stop.

The weekday’s rude awakening.

Some Mondays are like a slap in the face with a wet newspaper.

Lately, they’ve all been like that.

How Not To Retire Early

You see, the decision to retire early changes the way you see work.

With only 5.3 years left in my career, I have only 2-3 more roles left. Then I’ll log off for the last time and suffer through the obligatory farewell-and-best-of-luck-with-irrelevancy morning tea.

So, ironically, as I approach retirement I’ve become more focussed on my career. Not less.

Currently, I’m working in a zombie job – a role I chose before Maggie and I decided to retire, and which is now totally wrong for me. I’ve arranged to change jobs in a few months, but for now I’m stuck in a dead job walking.

So Mondays suck. And with one eye on the retirement deadline, it feels like a terrible waste to be walking around in an ill-fitting job. This amplifies the suckage.  

Generation-x-beach-photo

Should Gen X Embargo Mondays?

A few months ago, I didn’t go into work on Monday.

I told Maggie I was taking the day off. Why, she asked? Because screw Monday, I said as I spat my dummy on the bedroom floor.

So I took the day off. Problem solved. Boom.

Except it didn’t stay solved. One week later, there was another Goddamn Monday (spoiler: there’s one every week).   

Again, I woke up depressed at the thought of burning through another week in the wrong job. I only had 219 weeks left in my career. I was frustrated.

So I took another Monday off.

Then the following Monday.

Then another.

Soon I was down to a regular four-day week, and rapidly burning through my annual leave.

Then Tuesday became the new Monday.

Life Imbalance

All this frustration and angst about work bled into the rest of my life.

Maggie found her wit’s end and the kids avoided me like a Math lesson. Grumbling, menacing clouds gathered around me and the Cure played endlessly in the background. Household misdemeanours like dodging the dishes triggered tirades on how the kids were shirking their responsibilities or running off the rails.

My long-suffering wife (Dear God, if you exist and there really is a heaven, please save her a seat next to you), was relegated to the role of adjudicator and peacemaker. The whole house was on edge.

Generation-x-chapel-photo

At first, we didn’t know the cause of my frustration and anger. After all, work happened in the office and family stuff happened at home. We thought it was a mid-life crisis or a physical problem or a mental health issue.

Over time we figured it out, but now I wonder if we could have worked it out sooner if we had a way to diagnose the problem – like a doctor would for a physical or mental health issue.

An Answer Sheet for Life

Remember those multiple choice exams you did at school?

You answered the questions by making a cross or a tick in one of the boxes in the columns marked A, B, C and D. Then the teach would correct them by laying a clear sheet with the correct answers marked on it, over the top of your answer sheet. All the answers you got wrong would immediately stand out.  

Clear and simple.

That’s what we need for life. Something to tell us where we’re getting it wrong and what the right answer is. 

Life Answers

Religion, traditionally, has provided the answers to life. For many it still does. Though I’m not sure religions have a lot to say about modern life balance.

People looking for alternatives find plenty of answers in the self help genre. Our Six-Point Self-Help Checklist goes into a bunch of these ideas, if you want to know more.

If religion or self help is not your bag, then you can always join a cult or an extremist group (non-violent types please!).

Generation-X-Sunrise

Myself, I like the idea of a very simple life model. Something almost philosophical, but practical enough that it can be an answer sheet for life. I like this one:

Life is someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to.

I tried, and I can’t reduce life to anything more simple than that while still keeping the core ingredients.

Life In Balance

When I lay this answer sheet for life over recent events, it’s clear I have a problem in the ‘something to do’ area. My work is important to me. It defines a chunk of my identity and partly fuels my self esteem.

The problem in the ‘something to do’ area, creates an imbalance that affects the other two areas. It drives my family (my ‘someone to love’) bonkers and it creates anxieties about Mondays, my remaining career and early retirement (my ‘something to look forward to’). The imbalance makes it appear as if there are problems right across my life.

The answer sheet for life, however, shows there is really only a problem in one area (‘something to do’). The ill-effects in the other two areas are actually symptoms, not problems. Boom. Mike drop.

So, the lessons are:

  1. Taking every Monday off work is awesome, but not effective.
  2. Figuring out your life imbalance is important, so do it quickly – cheat by using an answer sheet for life.
  3. Sometimes symptoms look like problems.   

What do you think? Bust a move in the comments...

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