Is your work doing this to your life?


The plans for the new building seem to be great. All the electricity, plumbing, roofing, insulation, and everything else is just right. He closes the document, moves his move over to the email icon, and clicks it. A shiver of doubt and stress go over his skin...

How doing what you love can add to our experience of a joyful life?

Photo by Pedro de Sousa on Unsplash

The plans for the new building seem to be great. All the electricity, plumbing, roofing, insulation, and everything else is just right. He closes the document, moves his move over to the email icon, and clicks it. A shiver of doubt and stress go over his skin. “Did I check the electricity?” The project manager thinks to himself. His email has opened on his small boxed computer window, but now he closes it again. His wallpaper is a beautifully crafted skyline of New York with the use of all kinds of tools. It is a piece of creative art, and for a small fraction of time, the project manager looks at it. A smile so gentle that it can’t be seen from a meter away appeared on the man’s face. And he feels ever so slightly happy. He once again opens his file folder and checks the project again. Running through all the floor plans, every single one of them. After an hour of scanning through 80 different documents, he concludes that it was all alright. He opens his email again and creates a new email. He sends the file including some of the information off to the construction team leader so he can start working on it right away.

But opening his email box had unleashed a symphony of ‘plings’ and ‘dings’ about a hundred new emails are waiting for him to answer. His stress level rises again. The itch on his lower arm comes back. He pulls his sleeve up and a rash on his lower arm is visible. The man starts scratching it. This only happens when stress in his body rises. His body is giving up, it is showing him in every possible way that what he is doing, isn’t right. But what would he do without this job? He had to earn money, he was safe, he didn’t need to worry about money. Well not as much as someone who would be in extreme debt. He did worry a lot about his financial situation, about whether he’d make it through the month. But it wasn’t because of poverty, it was because he lived. He bought the things he liked and lived a happy life. Or at least his weekends were filled with living. Except for his Sundays because his Sundays were filled with personal finance and worrying about the next day of work again. But all of that didn’t matter. He was living a beautiful life. That’s what mattered. Even though he didn’t feel happy most of the time, he was safe. That’s the most important thing. He thought to himself.

The rash continued but he had to continue on his project. So he worked away from the entire email box full of messages in a couple of hours. Next up was working on a new project that was coming up next month. “Lunchtime!” A colleague of his came in calling him for lunchtime. “I think I’ll skip this one. I have a lot to do.” The project manager replied angrily, frustrated that he was disturbed by his work. “Oh, okay, I am sorry for bothering you.” His colleague said a bit scared of his reaction. And she closed the glass door to his office again.

The project manager spends the remainder of his Friday doing small tasks that aren’t necessary. His stress level is too high to properly function and his rash won’t stop. It keeps getting worse and worse. He’s been having this for weeks now and the doctor has told him this is a stress reaction, but he doesn’t understand what is causing the stress. His job is fine, he is making enough money, he has nothing to worry about.

“Goodbye, Jon!” His co-worker shouts from outside his office. He doesn’t even bother opening the door since he knows Jon is always busy. Jon raises his hand to his co-worker and continues on his final email rundown for the day. In just half an hour he finishes what he had previously done in two hours. He knows it time for the weekend and that motivates him to do all he can to get out of here as quickly as possible.

Playing around with cars

His wife waves from the kitchen window. The delicious smell of garlic and Mediterranean spices flows through the vents on the side of the house. Jon is delighted by this smell and grabs his keys. He opens the door and turns around. He pushes the small button with a closed lock and his car beeps and the lights flash in the same rhythm as the beeps. He was late for diner because the traffic back from work was terrific, it was Friday and the entirety of the roads back home were filled with cars. All workers commuting back to their homes. Luckily he was home. The kids rushed down the stairs almost stumbling and falling and flew right into his arms. “Hey, how are you too little rascals?” He asked them excited to see them again. “We’ve been playing with our new cars!” One of the two young boys says in a high pitched voice full of joy and innocence. His brown long hair was bewildered. “Will you play with us?” The other older boy said. “Hmm, we will see Sam!” The father replied to his boys. The two boys looked sad but at that very moment, their mom opened the door to the living room and wanted to call upstairs to let the boys know diner was ready. But she saw just in time that the two boys were already downstairs. “Hello hun, how was work today? Dinner is ready shall we?” She walked away towards the diner table. The boys rushed after her and their mom helped them up onto their chairs. “There you guys go.” And she scooped a bit of food on their plates.

Jon hung his coat on the coat rack and sat at the diner table. Munching away on his food. It always seemed as if he was on a race against the clock. Devouring his food not even enjoying them. After diner, his wife cleans off the table and the boys rush upstairs to get their cars down. They wanna play with their dad. The project manager sits down on the couch and slides down in a half hanging posture. His belly is sticking out and he grabs his phone. Scrolling through his messages and LinkedIn profile. It’s the weekend but he doesn’t seem to be excited about it. The boys come tumbling down with a box full of cars. They crash all of them onto the floor and start playing with them right in front of their dad. “Boys, could you please do that somewhere else?” He asks his two boys. “But dad…” Their eyes are both tearing up but the project manager doesn’t he this. “But dad, you sssaid you were gonna play ‘wisth’ ush.” The older boy said slurring. “No boys I said ‘I might’ play with you. But I am busy with work and making money so you can keep playing with your toys.” “HEEE!” His wife shouted from the kitchen. He looked furious at her. “Don’t you dare say that again!” She added. And Jon stood up making his way upstairs to his home office. “They don’t have to worry about anything. They can just continue with their happy lives.” He thinks to himself on his way upstairs.


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What was that about?

His wife comes up after cleaning the dishes. “What was that about?” She asks him angrily. “Why did you have to snap at them, they are only kids trying to play with their dad. Is that asking too much of you?” Her hands tightly formed into fists, she was furious at him. “Why the hell do you not change your job? You are miserable doing this and you are entirely ruining our kids’ lives. When was the last time you played with them? For god’s sake!” She didn’t swear often but in the past several weeks he had been doing this over and over again. Getting home from work in the physical form but his mind and presence was still at his office. He was constantly thinking of his work. Didn’t play with his kids, didn’t give his wife any attention, and continuously said things that made his wife and his kids feel like shit. He was constantly blaming them for his misery. But he was the worst of all of them. He was the one miserable. He was the one so stressed that his body was showing rashes and couldn’t rest at night. He was the one too scared to get a different job. He was the one making his two boys feel like they were not enough like they didn’t deserve his love unless they did something useful like study. She had been thinking of leaving him for a long time but she couldn’t. She knew deep inside her that there was hope. That he could change.

“You don’t get it to do you?” His wife asked him. He still looked surprised by the furious outbreak of his wife. “You just don’t get it!” He replied. “I am trying to get this whole family food on the table, making everyone happy and you are the ungrateful ones here!” He says to her. A tear rolls down his wife’s face. “Do you think of it that way? Do you think we are ungrateful? Or are you just finding ways to make us feel shit about ourselves? Because you are the one miserable here. You are the one doing something you don’t like and making me and the boys feel shit for that. I am fucking done with your behavior of thinking you are the sad one. You are pathetic. You can change jobs right now. You can start doing what you want. Work less, and we will gladly take it if the boys and I get our dad and husband back!” She started sobbing tears. She heard the two boys coming upstairs and they now stood on the other side of the door. She signed to him that the boys were there. So he got up and opened the door, so they wouldn’t see their mother crying. “Boys, would you mind playing downstairs for a bit? Mom and I want to discuss something. Is that alright?” He asked his two boys. “Yeah sure, dad. That’s fine.” And that rushed downstairs, two innocent children, wanting to help but quickly forgetting it.

Jon wanted to hug his wife but she pushes him away. “No, we are not done here!” She said still with fury in her voice. “I know you love creating things with your hands. I know you can be a great gardener or carpenter. You painted as a kid and teenager and would love to do that again. And you can. You freaking can. You do not have to quit your job. But you can start building away on this dream of yours. You can work less, stop stressing, and filling the remainder of your life with joy. With me and the boys, with painting and craftsmanship. I know you can do it.” And she now burst out into tears. Sobbing and falling into his arms. Holding him tight to her. Her head on his chest. She heard his heartbeat. It was fast and irregular. Alarmingly irregular. “Are you alright?” She asked worried about him. “No, not really.” He replied. “I have this weird feeling in my chest, as if… as if something is wrong with my heart.” You are going to see the doctor right away. “But honey it is 8 pm, there is no place for me to go see a doctor right now, only if it is urgent and it just isn’t.” He said looking her in the eyes trying to comfort her. “Alright then, but you promise to go to the hospital tomorrow morning first thing! And put away that damn phone and come down and play with the boys. Get some rest and listen to them. Ask them how their week has been and just play with them as any father would do.” She laughed at him, having forgiven him in her heart already. She couldn’t be mad at him for long. But she worried if he would not get the message. He didn’t seem to be impressed by it all.

A hospital visit

The next morning Jon walked into the large open hall of the hospital. A spiral door leads to the reception where he asked for an appointment with his doctor. He had called for an appointment that very same morning and had to be there at 11 am sharp. He looked at his watch, it was now 10:49 he was right on time. “You can go right up sir,” the man behind the desk said to him. Painting to the elevator on his right. He entered a white hallway that always gave him goosebumps. The hospital never was a place he liked. “Nobody likes it right?” He thought to himself. He pressed the elevator button up to the third floor, the elevator tune slightly delights him but the ‘ding’ takes him out of his delight. The metal doors open into a long hallway. He had to be at the end of the hallway, the man at the reception had said to him. He walked past a few closed-door but one of the doors was open. He glanced inside and an older man lay in his bed. Covered in a white sheet. He looked at the door and smiled. “Come in young man.” He said. “Come, come!” The project manager couldn’t refuse. This man might be dying and he was all alone in his room. “How are you, my young boy?” The project manager smiles. He hadn’t been called a young boy, since… well since he was a young boy. He liked the sound of it. “I am doing great.” He replied. “But why are you in the hospital then?” The older man asked.

“Well last night my heart was beating quite irregular and it scared both me and my wife. So we decided that I had to go and see a doctor.” Jon replied. “Oh really, that’s no good news.” The old man said with a serious look on his face. “Why” Jon now asked fearful of the answer. “You see, what’s your name?” The old man asked out of no were. “It’s Jon.” And the old man continued. “You see Jon, I started with that very same feeling. And I don’t want to scare you or anything but it got me to this place. Right here in this bed. But man am I happy to be here.” Jon looked puzzled and fearful. The look on his face must be horrific for the older man saw this and tried to comfort Jon. “Now Jon… Jon! Look at me please.” And Jon looked at the old man even though he didn’t know the man. “You see I started with that same feeling as you have right now. You know why? Because I was in constant stress. I was rushing, moving about never quitting, and continuously doing. At first, it was a small irregularity in my heartbeat but slowly and surely my heart started to give up. And I got a heart attack. And that is where we are right now. But I am still alive.” The man had made a desperate attempt to comfort Jon but failed horribly. So the older man just laughed. Jon was now completely dazzled. He didn’t know what to say or think. “I am sorry Jon, I wanted to comfort you but that didn’t work out quite alright did it?” And the man laughed again.

“What I was trying to say just then is that you have nothing to worry about if you change drastically right now. My doctor came to me this morning and said that it was a miracle to be alive. But now I know why I had to be alive. To meet you and tell you that this” and the man pointed at himself. “Is what is waiting for you if you keep going on that path. You should stop working so hard and focus on the life that is happening in front of you right now. Your kids, your wife everything that is dear to you. But most of all try to spend every damn minute you have in joy. Stop with your job if you don’t like it. It’s not worth living the majority of your life in misery when you can live every day in joy with just a little less money. Come close young boy.” And the project manager came close to the old man. “But I will ensure that if you do what you love money won’t be a problem. You’ll have more than you could wish for. Trust me on that.” The project manager wondered if this man was doing what he loved and asked him. “Are you doing what you love?” “Oh young man I am, I have done for several years but it still was my downfall. I went at it too hard and that caused a lot of stress. That is why I tell you that the experience of your life. Everything. Each moment. Is the most important thing of them all. It isn’t just about work, it isn’t just about making money. It is more about enjoying it all.” And the old man grinned and fall back in his bed looking up at the ceiling as if he could stare right through and see the clouds above. “I have to go to my appointment,” the project manager said. “Yeah, sure! Go I’ll be fine.” The man said showing a few of his brownish teeth. The project manager burst out of the room. Deeply moved by what the man had said and fearful of the doctor’s appointment.


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On his way out

The project manager made his way out. The doctor’s appointment replayed in his mind as if it were a film. But a small smile appeared on his face. The doctor told him exactly what the old man had said before. He should take a rest and find something less stressful to do. The smile on his face got bigger and bigger as he realized that what he wanted to do all along was create pieces of art from scrap. Parts laying around, wood, metal, gears all sorts of stuff. Maybe that is why he liked the wallpaper on his office desktop so much. The project manager peered into the room where the old man was before his appointment but he simply wasn’t there. The bed was there, but the man was no were to be seen. Might it be all just a dream?

On his way out he noticed that people were enjoying the hospital. The people working here seemed to enjoy, laugh, smile even though there were a lot of terrible things happening around them. But it was because they could help those people in need that they laughed and smiled and were gentle to everyone. He thanked the man behind the reception and made his way outside again. There was a man bend over, placing tile after tile, creating a new pavement. The man whistled in delight and seemed to rejoice. A big truck entered the street and the smell was horrifying. It was the garbage disposal. A man hopped off the back of the truck and grabbed the garbage cans dumbing them in the truck one by one. But the man smiled. He smiled at people passing and he too whistled a happy song. He even took the time to wave at the bricklayer bend over on the ground just before the truck took off again.

The project manager wondered, were all these people always so happy? Could he be this joyful doing what he loved? These thoughts puzzled him for the rest of his trip home and stayed with him for a long time. Until the day he died. And he knew that he too could be joyful all the time, doing what he loved, spending his life with the people he loved. The old man was right all along. It was about the experience of life not about being safe or making money. Those were fun but never gave him the beauty he was seeking for.

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