So, I don't necessarily agree with everything Mark Morford has to say in his article Why Do you Work So Hard?, but it certainly mirrors some of the same thoughts I've been having lately (on and off for the past year or so).
Mainly, its the usual sort of post-adolescent "Is my life fulfilling?" kind of crap that I'm sure everyone goes through, but its hard to ignore. The temptations of caching out my artificially-inflated Southern California Real Estate Equity and carving out a low-impact, high-quality existance keep manifesting in my daydreams. Though I'd hardly consider myself an "artist", the idea of being able to spend some quality time doing something physically creative is really appealing right now. To build a home, to manufacture a lifestyle, instead of purchasing one, strikes a chord with me. How much more would my home mean to me if I had crafted it myself, rather than simply signed a promise to hand over the better portion of half the take from thirty year's labor in a cubicle?
The other advantage to this daydreamed lifestyle is the absence of people in it. Don't get me wrong, I'm as social as most folks, but at the same time, I don't love having neighbors, or commuting in traffic, or fighting crowds. I guess this would bother me less if I had quieter neighbors. Maybe I don't really need to trade in suburbia for absolute isolation, just someplace a little farther away from booming stereos and squealing tires at 2am...
I fantasize about living off the grid, or nearly so, in an Earthship somewhere. Not because I need to "buck the system" or stick it to "the man", but because living low-impact seems like the right thing to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm no hippie, nor a luddite, but it occurs to me that I should be able to build my own home on a quiet 10 acre plot, have highspeed internet, satellite TV, and a cold beer and still not have to suffer the hoards of my fellow man for the privelidge.
I supposed the real problem with Morford's article is that it leaves out a proper comparison of the alternatives. As romantic as a wholesale change in favor of an "alternate path" might be, it might be a bit extreme. Perhaps the best baby steps are the ones I've already taken: Try to find creative outlets I can exercise an hour at a time. Step away from my job as often as my responsibilities allow.
The other question is the real cost of such a change. While I might be willing to give up many conveniences and accomidations in exchange for a simpler, quieter life, I don't know if my wife would be willing to do the same. What I do know is that she is the one thing that I certainly wouldn't give up for anything. So unless she wants to go with me, I guess I'm staying put.
And I guess that's the answer. We work so hard because, in the balance, it means keeping the things we really can't give up. Not the paid healthcare, not the 3bed-2bath in suburbia, and not the BMW, but a Life with the ones we love.