Remember the old story about the grasshopper and the ant? The ant spends the pleasant days of summer working hard building a nest and filling it with food, while the grasshopper enjoys the lovely weather and plays. The two encounter each other one warm day and the grasshopper asks the ant to come and join the party; the ant declines. A few months later, snow covering the ground and a cold wind blowing, the hungry, freezing grasshopper shows up at the ant’s door and begs to be let in. The ant, sitting in front of a roaring fire with a larder full of food, turns the grasshopper away with a stern lecture about the value of work before play. The ant was clearly a total douche.
I’ve always identified with the ant (although I would share with my grasshopper friend.) Years ago I made the decision to change careers to something that would give me more financial security, but less day to day satisfaction. I decided my compromises would be made at work, not at home. To me, money means choices, and the more choices I have the better I feel.
My plan worked well; while I never loved my job, I always liked it, and more to the point, I was able to have that good life. However, over the last few years my enjoyment of work has steadily declined to the point where I really and truly don’t want to be here anymore. I’m at the age where looking for a new job is limited; few places are interested in hiring someone over 60. That leaves retiring, which brings me right back to that darn ant. What the story got wrong is that the ant would never spend winter relaxing by the fire with a good book. A real ant type would be nervously pacing back and forth, thinking how safe is the food supply from being ruined by pests, and that there probably isn’t enough to last the whole winter anyway, and getting ready to go out and forage some more as soon as the storm died down.
That’s the reality of being an ant: worrying more about what might happen instead of enjoying what is happening. The battle wages within me, but I’ve come to a decision.