There Are Other Ways
When I left university at 22, I thought there was only one path I could take: move to London, do some work experience, and then accept the first job that was offered to me.
I knew nothing of digital nomadism, working freelance or entrepreneurship. I didn’t question whether London was the right place for me or not, or if the life I was about to start building would suit me. It was what everyone did. I just followed. I didn’t know there were other ways.
I think, perhaps, things are a little different now. I was part of the first year to graduate into the recession, and conventional employment had worked so well for those before me that there hadn’t been that much of a need to question it. And, while I think my view is slightly biased now, and I’m obviously on the look-out for it, there has been a flurry of information published in the last few years about alternative ways of working. Yet, from my experience and meeting people at co-working spaces, it still seems to be something that people come to AFTER having first tried the traditional route.
I like to think of this in terms of cheese and rabbit holes.
Bear with me.
We are all looking for cheese. If I was to have a “life philosophy”, this would be it: The purpose of our lives is to find our cheese, and to eat as much of it as we can. Everybody has their own unique cheese. Cheese is happiness, yes, but it is also more than that. It’s fulfilment. And excitement. It’s flow. It’s whatever brings a sleepy smile to our faces first thing in the morning. It’s that sparky, slightly uncomfortable, but totally delicious feeling in our stomachs. For some people their cheese is a person, or rather how they feel with that person. For others it’s their work, or their hobby, or their passion. For even others it’s a feeling, perhaps of freedom, or joy, or awe. It’s the good stuff in life, whatever that is to you.
When we leave university or school we are faced with a field of hundreds of rabbit holes, and we have to go down one. Some are tiny, other’s large, well worn holes. But one has a big sign over it saying “Cheese down here”. This is the hole that our parents, professors and older, wise people tell us about. They tell us that they found their cheese down it, and that we should go down it too. So we do. Obviously.
And some, perhaps most, people find their cheese down that hole. But others don’t. I was one of those people. And I kept going down that hole because I genuinely thought that it would lead me to cheese, even when there was no sign of it. I got stuck down there, and I kept going because the only other option was to come back up and face that field of holes again. There are so many of them, and none of the others have a sign over them. If you go down another one there is no guarantee that cheese will be down there either. It’s overwhelming.
Yet if you don’t come back up, if you continue down that empty rabbit hole, you will never find your cheese. And for me, eventually, the fear of that happening began to outweigh my fear of trying new holes.
I haven’t found my cheese yet, but I am down a rabbit hole littered with crumbs of it. I know it is down here. I just have to keep following the crumbs until I get to the big slab of gooey, pungent cheese.
And this isn’t just about work or employment. It’s about life as a whole and the conventional milestones that lives are often measured by: “settling down”, getting married, buying a house, having kids. It’s about the mindset of building your life around your work and where you live, rather than the other way around. There are other ways to do it. Other yardsticks to measure your success by. Other ways to build a life. And I wish I had known that at 22.
[If you are at university or just graduated and keen to explore other options then I can’t recommend Start Me Up enough. It organises internships at start-up hubs like Ubud in Bali, and is a fantastic experience]