If you have checked your social media feeds, YouTube or any part of the Interwebs in the past couple of days, then you probably came across the David Foster Wallace graduation speech turned short film. If you haven’t had the chance to check it out, or simply hear his speech, then you should take the time.
As a freelancer, there’s a certain element of his speech that touches my heart. One of the main reasons I chose to move out of the 9-5 workforce was in part, as Foster calls it, “water.” The water that surrounded me included the travel to work, the constant need to try and appease someone else’s vision, the fight for the slightest recognition, the fear of slightest failure, the need to stay in one spot all day long, the ever-glow of the computer that I couldn’t escape and on, and on and on. I felt I needed to work for myself, and find ways to battle this “water” that was killing me softly.
And while Wallace’s speech tries to describe what a person’s life who’s graduating college will be like as they head off into that 9-5, there’s relevance no matter what you do. I chose to quit my job because I wanted to reduce the amount of unneeded water in my tank. But it didn’t eliminate it. In fact, some new problems arose, while similar issues continued to fester. And it’s never a good time to head to the grocery store after work, no matter what you do for a living.
Yet, I can’t help but think back on what Wallace said (Not sure if it’s in the video, but you can read his full speech here):
If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important — if you want to operate on your default-setting — then you, like me, will not consider possibilities that aren’t pointless and annoying. But if you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. [Emphasis Added[ It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars
Part of my interpretation of his words is that everyone will have these issues, these annoyances, these distractions. It’s how you react to them that really makes you who you are, and how creative, kind and imaginative you can be. And, although, I have those annoyances, I’m no longer stuck thinking that the solution is just another version of the problem. Meaning, I don’t need the 9-5 to help me fix my issues. My new version also has concerns and I’m constantly looking to fix them. Whether it’s still sitting too long in front of the computer, or handling client questions or whatever. There’s always something that comes up, but now I see options that I never saw before I quit my job.
So this is for those who have contemplated a similar move. A move to remove yourself from the typical workforce, the corporate setting, the drab decorated building; don’t let minor concerns keep you imprisoned. Also, don’t think, just because you have left your job that the problems will fade away. You need to figure out in what setting can you create better than any other because that will allow you, above all, to more clearly see through the mess that’s everyone’s life. It’ll show you what’s most important and keep “problems” in perspective.
It’s dependent on you and only you to decide what will make you happy. But don’t shy away from the unknown out of fear because the water around you is only becoming more invisible if you continue on that path. And once you can’t acknowledge it, your true pain – or sadness – will set in.
“But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.”
Fight for the freedom that matters. Fight for your consciousness.