Recently I read this quote in Entertainment Weekly magazine:
“I just really want to work when I want to work. Life interferes, you know. When you’re young and all you have is your career, some of your life can be in second place. And then you want your life to take first place, and other people don’t see it that way. They see it that your life has to take second place, and it’s hard. Life is really hard, and it’s the only one you have. I mean, I like doing what I do, and I know I’m supposed to do it, but I don’t have anything to bring to it if I don’t live my life” – Bill Murray
Gosh I can relate to this. It brought me back to my early 20’s, when I read the similar refrain of “life is hard” in that famous book “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck. Back then I was looking for my path and purpose, and so that line hit me a little differently than it does today.
For today, I now have the benefit of almost 30 more years. And I can read Bill Murray’s line “life is really hard” with a huge emphasis on “really“.
It was true. Peck was right. Murray is still right. There’s always going to be a sturm and drang element to our lives, whether we want it or not. So the question is always going to be – what do we do about it?
Bill Murray answers it by saying “my life is in first place“. But he adds something worth paying particular attention to, which I will paraphrase here:
If I can’t bring my life to my work, I’m not going to do that work. Life is hard enough.
Let’s stop there for a second. That’s an easy thing to say when you already have more money than you can possibly need, and the main tangible output of work (read, money) isn’t an issue. Mr. Murray certainly is in that category.
How does it play out for those of us who aren’t in that situation? There’s the rub, as Hamlet would say.
The reconciliation of “making a living” and “living well“. Working just to live, and living through your work (and all your other passions).
The answer is, we can make this choice, and succeed, in many, many situations. Not all of them, unfortunately. All you have to do is read the papers and you’ll know which ones I’m talking about.
If you are reading this post right now, however, I would surmise you are one of those lucky people who can make “Bill’s Choice”.
Turning the life/work axis 180 degrees can be as scary as jumping off a 1,000 foot cliff. Without a bungee cord.
But the choice must be made. And here’s the really, really good part. There are thousands upon thousands of people out there, on the Internet, who bravely decided to put “life in first place“, took a huge risk, chucked their old job and way of life, and started over.
We can all learn from and be inspired by them. All you need is the Internet, and Google (or your favorite search engine).
For we cannot succumb to the fear, or the frustration, or the seeming hopelessness or impossibility that we can take control of OUR lives and live them to the fullest.
Because yes Bill, it’s the only one we have.