Boxes

I left a profession I loved a year and a half ago.  I left to save my life, because in my final months of teaching, I felt utterly boxed in.  I spent a lot of time thinking about boxes.  A little box would sound an alarm every morning at 4:55 and I would get into a bigger box to shower.  Then I would get into my moving box and drive alongside thousands of others in their mobile boxes to get to the box that was my job, spending hours in a small box – actually called a cubicle – and a larger box – my classroom.  If I wasn’t in front of kids, I was in front of an electronic box doing planning and communicating with parents and administrators.  Lunch was even in a box; my life was in a box.

For a nation touting the need to “think outside the box,” we sure do box ourselves in.  Despite studies that suggest more well-being when we take vacations, Americans do not even use the meager days allotted annually.  Even though we know that we need a certain amount of sleep each night to be healthy, sleep is low on the daily priority list for most people.  We even take unnecessary risks when driving – just to get to our destination a few minutes earlier.  We maintain a frenetic pace to make our livings and still we ultimately end up in – that’s right – a box in the ground.  I know that this was my life before I quit.

So I left a box where I was making a living in order to start making a life.  I left while I still had the chance to live, because I was increasingly certain that the way that I was making a living was in truth killing me.  I now live more purposefully, take my time and focus more on even seemingly mundane tasks.  There is a lovely fluidity to self-employment.  Sometimes I write or edit all day; sometimes I take breaks to make some bread or go for a run.  I read, feed the birds, do some cleaning.

While I still live in a couple of boxes, they no longer dictate my life.  I do not claim to have figured it out.  I am still trying to find a way to make a living outside the box.  Shedding boxes is not easy, and I sometimes still find myself pressed up against a wall.  But I feel far more creative, more free today than I have in years.

Here is the challenge: if you want to make a change, write your masterpiece, create something profound, do not just think outside the box.  Live outside the box.

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4 thoughts on “Boxes

  1. I appreciate your words, and can most certainly relate to them. What I can’t relate to is being able to leave my job to pursue my life and a different, likely lower paying career choice the way I’d like to be able to do. I am my children’s financial provider. There is no one else to pay the rent, and nobody else out there who can will pay a mortgage for a home for us to live in, buy the groceries for us to eat, keep the car insured and filled with gas, so I can take them where they need and want to be. I can’t move into a tiny home on land in Eastern, Oregon or, even more drastically, live in a tent, even, to keep expenses down, because I am responsible for them. (And trust me, on my own, I would!). There are ways I can live my life, and create while I work a full time job, but invariably, I lose momentum, energy and focus. I don’t know how some people manage to do so many things at once. I don’t seem very good at that. In short, I envy your path and the support you have to pursue it more than I care to admit! Good for you, though – I would do exactly what you’re doing if I could.

  2. Take a break. After 23 years in my “box” of a classroom, I decided to go into the Peace Corps. There were boxes there in training, in my new, university classrooms teaching English, in my new campus dorm room, etc. but they were different boxes than before, and there were newer explorations into a foreign language and culture and friends. I was 67 years old when made that transition and have never regretted it.

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