What Are We?

What are we?  It’s a good question.  Are we what we do for pay: an engineer or school board trustee? I don’t think so, if I lost my job I’m still me. Or are we what we are called by others: son, father, husband?  Again I don’t think so, since you don’t have to father to be a dad or I don’t stop being a grandson after my grandparent dies.  Or are we just the sum of our memories?  I’m going to have to disagree with that as well, since I get the strangest impulses to do things that have nothing to do with a memory of a place or an event.

Are we perhaps just what we are?  Names, titles, past or present don’t really define us.  Rather we define ourselves minute by minute and day by day by our thoughts, actions and feelings.  On one hand it’s a rather simple concept, yet on the other the implications get complicated.  Because if you really understand that fact the world always has unlimited potential.

You don’t have to work somewhere where you hate your job or stay in a relationship that is giving you no happiness or joy.  You don’t have to settle for what you are told is right for you.  Instead you can always live out your dreams, not tomorrow or next week but rather right now.  Because once you realize your define yourself and others don’t define your by their expectations or wishes everything becomes just a choice.  You can either conform to the life you are told to live or live the life you want.

Will it be a scary thing to do? Yes.  Will others be upset with you? You are almost guaranteed to piss off someone.  Yet the reality will be this: you will never be happier than when you are being yourself as defined by you.  It will take some time to determine what is really you, rather than your old habits from what others expected of you.

I’ve personally been at this for years.  I often ask myself: is this what you want or what you were told to want?  So the other day when someone asked if I was interested in getting an MBA I told the truth: ” No, I have no interest in that.”  Why?  I won’t use it all that much (after all I’m retiring in less than 15 years) and the fact is I don’t have much interest in most of the courses.  I certainly think some people would expect me to get it, but I don’t really care.

So before you assume much of anything about your retirement plans such as when to stop working, with how much money and  what you will be doing in retirement.  You need to ask yourself “is this what I want?”.  It’s a rather simple question, but the answers could drastically alter your plans.

8 thoughts on “What Are We?”

  1. I think asking myself what I want is what lead me to strive for an early retirement. I don’t mind working, I like my job and what I do, but I don’t think it defines me as a person. Early retirement is an available option for me because I don’t have anything overly extravagent I want to do later in life – I don’t need to travel, own a cottage on a lake, or really anything that is overly expensive, which means I can do what I want to do, rather then having to get up and do something that someone else wants me to do.

    I was in the middle of conforming to a life defined by others up until 4 years ago, then I made a drastic change that is continuing today (which included the end of one relationship and the start of one with my wife). It was scary, but at the same time, it has worked out very well. If happiness could be measured on a scale of 1 to 10, I probably went from about a 4 or 5 up to about 8 or 9 over that time – scary yes, but totally worth it.

  2. For the last few years I was working (from 2006-2008), several times a day I was at the office or, especially during my terrible and sickening commute or in the morning getting ready to go to work, I would ask myself, “Why am I still working and when will this end?”

    For me, it was simply getting rid of the big negative or working and the commute which drove me out of working. I simply waited until my company’s ESOP reached a certain value so I could leave and take it with me (along with finding an affordable health insurance plan).

    Being able to come and go as I please every day, not only the 4 or 5 days I was not working, is very empowering.

  3. I came to this conclusion late last year too. I was quite depressed and hated what I was doing (still doing for just a few more months). I finally realized I had choices and if I didn’t like my current situation, I could make different choices.

    In May I’ll start looking for a job as a junior accountant with a hefty pay cut. I’m actually really looking forward to it.

    A few years later and I’ll be a CGA. Life seems good again.

  4. Very good post. I really like the way you wrote it. I am currently asking myself lots of questions about «Do I really want this? Or am I wanting this because this person has it, or I saw it in an add, etc.»

    The hardest part is asking this question about my carreer, my family life, all theses things that money can’t afford. And realizing that the one you thought you were/are/becoming, you aren’t anymore.

    It’s hard not being influenced by others expectations, but it’s always possible to find a way to be yourself, be happy… even if someone get pissed off on the way ;-).

    Again, great post, I really like it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

  5. Very insightful. I think most people ignore the many choices they have for two reasons: it increases the complexity and it forces you to take responsibility. Once you have taken responsibility, you can make your life whatever you want. I just wish schools gave kids an opportunity to figure who they are and what they want out of life, instead of continually force-feeding them what they *should* want.

  6. Great Post CD.

    The first thing that came to mind for me was the phrase: “I think, therefore I am” Really that’s the only way to define who, or what you are. You are only a thinking being. You may function as a father and an accountant, but that’s the icing on the cake that is you. You are a thinking, conscious human being. You can put different icing on that cake if you like etc…

    Have you read the book Happiness? Not sure of the author off the top of my head, but it really hits on what you’re talking about.


  7. @ Adam,

    I’ll have to check, but I might have read Happiness or something like it. Too many books from the library these days. *sigh*

    @ Mr Cheap,

    Well I suppose if thought has mass and therefore can directly effect reality and you got several billion people to ‘believe’ you were taller it could happen…at the very least your driver license would say it. *grin*


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