Recently, a friend confided in me about her frustrations and battles in life. “I am so tired of fighting,” Sally said outside of the yoga studio. She caught me off guard in my astonishment at how her statement reminded me of myself. Her words cut directly to my heart and I felt a sudden dropping motion from chest to feet. It was as if she had telepathically read my mind. By the way, she’s extremely formidable and resilient. While many of us sleep, she either works out, swims, or runs at the crack of dawn. What could I have said to her?
Sometimes, life feels like one unrelenting series of struggles. Are we alone in our exhaustion? I don’t think so, but we may feel alone at times.
Americans are all about hard work and hustle. As a society, we work more than ever and take less time off. In checking the statistics, I discovered the following:
- The everyday American works 44 hours per week, or 8.8 hours per day, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- In the more competitive arenas of our economy like technology and finance, professionals work 60 hours a week as a rule and are available during downtime by smartphone.
- Contract workers, such as Uber drivers, often exceed 100 hours of work per week with no overtime pay.
We need a health and reality check. Our culture celebrates working past our breaking point. In the morning, some of us rarely, if ever, wake up feeling human. We cover our weariness by sipping coffee and drowning our sorrows with alcohol. Most of us are grateful for a full-time job, which provides some stability in a world dominated by insanity.
Meetings at most companies feel like acts of endless futility and fruitless conversation. Cubicles crush our souls and suffocate our brain cells. While at work, we smile on the outside to appear pleasant at the water cooler, even though our souls are silently screaming for an escape. There must be a better, more fulfilling, and authentic way to live.
In response to my rejected job application, a Human Resource manager emailed me, saying, “May you find purposeful employment.” I just shook my head in disgust at her condescending tone. In taking a step back from my perspective as a disgruntled guy on a hamster wheel, I suddenly realized the power of finding a purpose in life.
Find something you love to do, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. For yours truly, writing is not my profession, but it provides both purpose and passion and fulfills my needs that go unaddressed during the workday. If you’re fortunate, unlike me, you do find passion in your profession. However, I need to find a livable balance between pursuing my life’s work as a writer and paying the bills with steady employment. Like me, many of us may also benefit from finding fulfillment in other ways, outside of the workplace.
Returning to Sally’s struggles, she may not be unhappy. After speaking with her outside the studio, I recognized the kindness and compassion flowing from our yoga community. The studio owner provides an excellent example of a purpose-driven life through yoga practice and teaching, writing poetry, and as a singer with the National Philharmonic Chorus. As for the students, they’re an encouraging and considerate group of practitioners who cheer for each other. When one student (after struggling) gets into a difficult posture, after a lot of effort, patience, and dedication, a typical class erupts in celebratory shouts and empathic expressions of joy. And as if that’s not enough, the faculty shares that empathy, devotion, and attention to detail.
While each yoga instructor is worthy of consideration, one teacher’s storyline deserves the spotlight. She is a mother of three, a breast cancer survivor, and also an inversion virtuoso. Her model handstands continue to amaze me long after I leave class. Ms. Unapologetically Awesome, your unwavering optimism and radiant light serve as an inspiration to all of your students.
The human mind yearns for purpose, and the heart seeks something greater. Everyone has a unique role in life. Sometimes, this journey is rocky and filled with valleys. During our trials and setbacks, the obstacles seem overwhelming, and the darkness goes on forever. In moments when our resilience seems spent, we can find our purpose and draw upon the strength of remarkable, real-life heroes. No one should endure every battle alone.