I wasted a lot of time over the past few years. In fact, I nearly drove myself mad. I looked at the people I admire and looked for the common denominator. I saw that so many of them left their old life behind to start something new. They burned the ships and changed their everything. They escaped cubicle nation in order to start something incredible. For a good long while, I thought that was what I was supposed to want, what I had to do. That I had to dream big, so big that my reality would no longer suffice. I began to believe that I had to find a way out. I tried to make that fit, I began mentally escaping from something that I didn’t really feel all that trapped in. I thought my story had to match theirs. I thought I had to heed some call. I thought wrong.
I spend every day of my week sitting in a cube, in fact, I share it. Inside that box, we do our job, we laugh, we think, we grow, we fight. We do it all. That box is heaven. It’s friends; it’s comfort; it’s safety; it’s challenges. It’s also hell. It’s smack dab in the middle of everything; it’s loud; it’s in a busy intersection at the office; it’s the kind of space where no one cares what you’re working on; it’s my ADHD’s worst nightmare. It’s a space I’ve known for 12 years now.
Don’t get me wrong. That cube isn’t enough and it probably never will be. Even if it one day leads a corner office. It’s not the entirety of what I want from my work. In fact, I doubt any one thing ever could be. I love what I do, but I want to do more. I love the industry I work in, but I have interests and ambitions beyond it. I also have no intention of leaving it. Likely, ever.
Now I’m fortunate. I come at this from a place of enjoyment, but it also comes from a place of circumstance. Without my cube, my family’s life would be much harder (at least it would be in the short term). It would be less comfortable. And while there are parts of me that would easily risk my own comfort, there is no part that would risk theirs. I want my kids to see their father chase his dreams. I also want them to learn to put others ahead of themselves, something I’m not always great at.
You can’t let the cube box you in. It’s far too easy for it to become the excuse for everything you never do. Don’t let it be. Truly embracing it isn’t resigning yourself to it. It’s no longer letting yourself be limited by its walls.
You don’t always have to destroy what may seem like an ordinary life in order to make it bigger, at least you probably don’t have to yet. The day might come where you have to choose, where you’re truly maxed out and need to pick a direction. But just as often, if it’s what you want, you can have your work, you can have your family and you can have your own thing as well. You just have to choose wisely, make the right sacrifices and plan like mad. You have to know where you want to go (and that very well may be in several different directions) and act accordingly. You also have to find that sweet spot between your unbridled ambition and reality. You have to learn what you can really do and then continue to press your own limits.
For some, the answer lies in letting go of what was and starting something new. For us, the answer to pursuing our passions just might be embracing what we have and building something amazing alongside of it. We have to stop wasting our time dreaming of what it could be or struggling through what it might be if we burned it all down. We have to take all of that time and use it to build something exceptional instead.
Maybe, just maybe we don’t have to get out of the cubicle and all we really need to do is let ourselves out of the box.
I’ve never actually read it, so for all I know, it may even cover similar ground. ↩