Why Do We Stay, When We Know We Should Go?

Why do we stay in situations that we know are slowly sucking the life out of us?

Year after year, we stay in bad relationships, unhealthy living situations and jobs that don’t embrace our passions and strengths.

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A store clerk in Kathmandu takes a quick smoke break as the afternoon slips away. Photo by me from the Freemium Photo Love collection.

Are we seeking external validation that the appropriate time to leave will present itself, through some act of God or nature?  Are we looking for someone else to make a decision for us? Is change such a scary prospect that we keep doing the one thing that we know, deep down, is driving us to an early grave?  Or at least making that precious journey through our lives a miserable experience.

Over the years, I’ve had conversations with dear friends regarding their lives and the situations they can no longer stand.  We talked about options for a different life, reasons why it’s time to go and what that leaving should look like.

But the move toward action doesn’t seem to happen, and year after year, we repeat this conversation.  We talk about how shitty their current situation remains.  We brainstorm about how to make it better and we make a few suggestions on implementing change.

Yet, nothing happens. And I silently prepare my brain for the conversation when this dear friend(s) has their “come to Jesus moment”.   Because that shit is not going to be pretty.

Why is that?  Is change so scary that we just stand there frozen, allowing our lives and situations to bitch slap us about like a helpless rag doll, so far gone that no amount of yoga, Prozac or whiskey will help us?

Are we so afraid to let go of our jobs that we make up a myriad of excuses as to why it’s not a prudent action to take at this moment?  We use things- actual material items- as reasons to stay in this job that sucks out our best juju. Mortgages, cars, shopping and vacations- all used to justify the thing that is causing us to consume and “vacate” our lives in an attempt to cope.  We cling to the distant hope that if I just bust my ass for 60 hours a week now, I’ll reap the rewards in 30 years when I’m sitting on a beach, basking in the sunlight.

I don’t believe it.  I think there’s another way.  I’ve seen it, I’ve seen others pursue their true passions, their own way.  Beholden to no one and walking down a path of their own making.  Don’t take my word for it, people have written excellent books and manifestos.  Entire blogs are devoted to this phenomenon.  The major ones that come to mind are The Art of Non-Conformity, the 4 Hour Work Week, Career Renegade, Itty-Biz, etc.  I can keep going.

We are essentially fooling ourselves that this behavior of being a slave to our wages and our material possessions is justified. And we use that as an excuse to keep doing the one thing that we should be working with all our heart and soul to change.  We use the excuses to comfort us as we pop that Prozac, plow through our 10 hour workday and wait anxiously for the weekend to roll around so we can try to undo the damage caused by 60 hours of stressful hell.  And we give ourselves only about 20 hours to do this.

Does any of this seem logical?

We dread Mondays- wish away a whole damn day!  And spend a good portion of Sunday dreading Monday.

We use drugs (prescription or otherwise) alcohol, shopping and television to soothe us after a particularly rough day of being a slave to our paycheck.

We piss away the best years of our lives- our most productive years- for a paycheck.  To pay for things we probably don’t need.  And then, during those “golden years” we’ve got nothing left to give ourselves.  We’ve spent all our creative juju and best personal mojo on someone else.  Why?

And what saddens me the most, is that none of this is necessary.  There’s no golden manual we’re given at age 19 that says here, this is how you are supposed to live and this is what your work life should look like.  You should have the house, the car, the clothes, the job and all the things that look wonderful on the outside and hide the fact that you aren’t truly fulfilled on the inside.

There’s no reason why you can’t still have your mortgage and do something that lights a fire under your ass every time you wake up in the morning. Absolutely no reason why instead of popping some meds to help you cope with your life, you actually change your career or job and do a little yoga to balance yourself.  No one said you can’t have total control over your workday and live each moment as an organic manifestation of your innermost self.

And that’s what change boils down to- YOU.  Taking action.  Recognizing that we each have a finite number of days on this planet and you- YOU- are the only person with the ability to change your situation.

When your costs out weigh your rewards, will you have the ability to change your situation?  Will you take action now to fix the life you’ve built that is taking over your juju?  Or will you wait until your “come to jesus” moment and find it may be too late?