Enjoy, don’t Endure.

“I want to create a life I don’t need to take a vacation from” I don’t know who is originally quoted as having coined this phrase, and it’s been reused and rephrased so many times across the recycled and plagarised side of the internet that it’s almost vintage at this stage – yet in essence, it’s message remains the same. There are many things that many of us could say, and many an hour to be spent talking in circles about the need to enjoy life. Many things that many people would relate to, derive solace from, and ultimately aim to engage with in their day-to-day life. A ‘vacation’, or holiday, in it’s more European form, is defined as a ‘specific trip or journey, usually for the purpose of recreation or tourism’. This being said, it is only within the last two centuries that ‘vacation’ time has become a common form of recreation, the luxury of which was previously reserved only for the very wealthy artisocracy. The concept of taking a vacation has only crept into our own society in direct correlation to the expansion of the business class high-flying and bustling lifestyle. I automatically think of HBO’s Mad Men when I say this, Don Draper jetting off to L.A. every few episodes and spending every other segment half-cut drinking ‘old fashioned’s’ in his office . The development of the need for ‘vacation’ calls into question the very benefits of this so-called upper class lifestyle, a 6-figure paycheck often being pumped back into the system through crushing medical bills later on as the life of excess finally catches up on the protagonists and leads them to ruin. Mad Men obsession aside, it remains that in the way we live today, we can still observe work and responsibilities too often taking precedence over fun and self-realisation, downtime and enjoyment too often being interlinked exclusively with one another. They are something on which everybody thrives, when given the chance – who in their right mind is going to choose to spend the day in the office over a day being carefree and having the ability to be spontaneous? Yet is it necessary for them to be so closely related? Is it possible to enjoy the things we don’t necessarily have much choice in, those things we speak of and so often complain about having to ‘endure’? Not only work-related commutes and draining meetings, but also rites of passage such as family gatherings, school reunions, disappointing meal-choices, or movies that we don’t particularly want to see yet find ourselves in the cinema before, purely to satisfy the majority of the group? We enjoy our weekends. We enjoy the sunshine. We enjoy certain foods, and our own little respites and hobbies. We enjoy that long sought-after glass of wine and takeaway after a long weeks’ endurance. The two always seem to come together. It’s almost as if they co-exist side-by-side in some sort of twisted symbiosis that leaves us numb to the misery of endurance while it’s actually happening, in the knowledge that some little tiny piece of enjoyment is on the way. Ok, sure, enjoy your downtime, but is there some written rule of thumb or hidden guideline that says you can’t or shouldn’t enjoy your worktime too? In my working life I have too often wished days away and switched to auto-pilot in an attempt to persist through hours without thinking about the lack of fulfillment and authenticity of my actions for myself. In doing so, not only was I merely existing, zombie-like and emotionless, but I was failing to enjoy and appreciate the moment as it happened, numbing my creative and constructive urges by the necessity of tasks that no matter how hard I tried to make them, simply did not stimulate me enough. It’s upsetting that in today’s society people are forced to settle in jobs and positions that stunt the expansion of their minds and talents, purely in order to put food on the table. I am in no way trying to condemn those of us who work the 9-5, and who have done for years- hell, I wouldn’t be here today if my own parents hadn’t done the same. But for the sake of our mental health and wellbeing, for the sake of those few minutes’ respite of a tea or coffee break, there is a lot to be said for shifting our mindset from mere ‘endurance’ to passive ‘enjoyment’. You don’t have to be having the time of your life to ‘enjoy’ something. The essence of mindfulness is the acceptance of things as they are at any given moment, and so why waste any mindful second being preoccupied with the dread of enduring the rest of the day, instead of just aiming to make the best of what you are presented with in that moment? It may not be a particularly enjoyable or fruitful task, but I think I speak for most of us when I say that how we perceive and respond to things generally has a massive affect on our mood and overall wellbeing. Why put yourself through the misery if it’s not necessary? A simple shift in your mindset could mean the difference between a day spent flatlining on any sort of emotional activity, or a day spent relatively content with your lot, in the knowledge that you are where you are in that moment, and cannot immediately do anything to alter it. Even the word ‘endure’ evokes a sense of dread, a withdrawn and lethargic effort of will that in it’s naming becomes a negative experience . And negative experiences are things we seek to avoid, aren’t they? I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I am ultimately the only person with the ability to drag myself and my own mind out of the gutter, and I have grudgingly begun to make myself enjoy things that before I would have merely endured, and found a kind of twisted solace in complaining about. It’s not to say I don’t appreciate the caring friends and family who have been there from the beginning, and who remain there to this day, stable and cautious in their presence. Yet there is a relief and independence that comes with being able to get rid of the stabilizers after years of enduring the embarassment of their necessity, and finally enjoying the sense of freewheeling adventure and potential that comes from being able to balance on my own. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them, and it’s not to say I’ll never fall over or wobble again, but for now, my pink flowery bike with the white wicker basket is being tested for the first time, and successfully has made it’s way out of the front gate. The cherry blossoms falling down along the road don’t hinder my sight or pose any danger – rather they celebrate, falling confetti-like as endurance and frustration have finally paved the way and been substituted for enjoyment, taking a chance and balancing alone for once, as I ride off in search of the next adventure. Just enjoying the scenery as I go.

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