It was Thoreau who said, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Look around on any bus, subway or expressway on a Monday morning and you will see the quiet masses making their way to jobs that no longer meet their needs. Jobs that are necessary to pay for material possessions. Possessions that have never succeeded in making them happy. If you could listen to that long ago silenced song inside their heart, you would hear a yearning for something more. Yearning for freedom. Yearning for adventure. Yearning for travel and excitement. So, what keeps them tethered to a life and a job that does not feed their soul? What holds them back?
Many of us grew up watching our parents trapped in the proverbial rat race. It has been ingrained in us, from an early age, that this is just the way life is. We have been conditioned to see the big house, the two cars in the garage and the pool in the backyard as symbols of success. In order to have these things, the day-to-day requirement is work. Work that often does not spark joy. Work that often compromises our principles. But, in the end, work that pays the bills.
And, it is the bills that keep us grounded. How many of us have fantasized in one moment about how good it would feel to quit our jobs, to sell our things and to take off out into the vast world full of adventure? But just as quickly as that momentary thought appears, how many have thought: How will I live? How will I eat? What about retirement? And it is these “what if’s” that keep us from truly living. It is a powerful thing, the human brain, and its ability to think of excuses and reasons not to follow the heart are vast.
If the heart does dare to dream, there are plenty of forces at the ready to wake it from that dream. People will question you, say you’re crazy to quit. They will tell you just to hold out a few more years to get that all-important pension. They will remind you that few people love their jobs and that is just the way it is. They will try to dissuade you. But, ask yourself why. Is it because they truly want the best for you? Or is it because seeing you break free of the chains of drudgery shines a spotlight on their own hopelessness?
And so, dear reader, you have a decision to make. Do you continue down the path of security and shared misery with your fellow commuters on Monday morning? Or do you turn your quiet desperation into an audible hope? Choose wisely. Don’t go to your grave with the song still in you. Sing now.