The question of the week is: what is your quality of life?
This has been a topic on the forefront of my life ponderings. As Americans, we love working and we love making money. The more we work, the more money we make, the more nice things we can afford. We get our paychecks, we get excited about how much money we made, and we work even more to make even more money. It’s a vicious cycle.
I am completely guilty of this. I worked at a golf course on tips all through college. As anyone in the service industry knows, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are the best shifts. I am motivated by money, so I would work all day, every day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Most weekends, I would probably pool between $500-$600, which, as a poor college student, is very attractive. My family would take trips to Iowa, my friends would want to go to concerts, and I would always turn down those opportunities because I had to make money; taking off a Saturday night could mean the difference between me buying 100 thread count or 400 thread count sheets for my dorm bed. Or, the difference between me eating at Whole Foods, or Sprouts. And, as I graduated and starting my first job, I had this same exact mentality; Despite the fact that I had a salaried job, I could not give up those incredibly lucrative weekend shifts because it was all about making the money. I would teach all week, work at the golf course all weekend, and start my Mondays completely exhausted, unprepared, with no good weekend stories to share. I was constantly eating on the run, because I didn’t have time to go to the grocery store, my dad to do my laundry to save me from wearing dirty, wrinkled clothes because I didn’t have time to do that either. I had to lesson plan during my bev cart shifts and forget ever sleeping! I worked all day, all night, and was never able to enjoy the proceeds, because I was always working; my bank account surely grew, but my quality of life did not. This is the American way of life.
I think this is partially why Americans are so addicted to substances: coffee, alcohol, fast food, etc. We live in such a fast paced society and we feel the need to constantly be on the go, constantly be working, constantly one-upping everyone else, that we don’t take time to enjoy our lives and we have to rely on other substances to get us through our days.
The Italians, on the other hand, live a much slower lifestyle. The Italians value their quality of life. I remember visiting Italy a few summers ago and feeling very perturbed that I could not do my tourist-y stuff during the afternoon. No business or learning occurs approximately 11-1, because everyone goes home to have lunch with their families and take a siesta before returning to everyday activities. As an American, this didn’t make sense to me; why close when you could be making money? But, then I noticed all the men sitting in cafe’s, laughing and telling stories–enjoying each other’s company and acting as though there is not a care in the world. Sure, their economy might be tanking and businesses might be suffering, but there is something to be said about this slower-paced lifestyle.
Since my existential crisis, I have been re-evaluating my life and my priorities. It is very easy to get caught up in wanting to make as much money as possible. But, what is your quality of life if you are working fourteen hour days, constantly exhausted and having to run on twelve cups of coffee a day because you get up early and get home late, and spend your one day off catching up on things, such as bills, grocery shopping, and laundry? What happens when you work so much that you can’t even enjoy the money you are making? It just sits and collects dust.
Our new teacher contracts came out this week and let me just tell you, my “pay raise” is meager at best (sometimes, I wonder how I even afford to live). They say one of the biggest regrets of people on their death beds is that they wished they worked less. So, this summer, I am making a commitment to improve my quality of life. I am trading in a full bank account for a life full of adventures and new experiences.
What are ways you can improve your quality of life?