If we define the modern urban rat race as an endless, self-defeating & pointless pursuit of material wealth through a busy unsatisfying career ending in a bored retired life, many of us can identify with it.
While the race may have its moments of excitement & rewards, I suspect very few of us can truly admit to be enjoying (or have enjoyed) it.
What happens when we quit the race?
The thought of quitting may not even occur to many of us, as we keep running with blinkers on. A few thoughtful souls may bump into the idea, but drop it because of various reasons. Very few take the bold step to quit the race.
Quitting the race requires boldness because its a compromise. A compromise not on the quality of life, but on the many material, psychological & emotional comforts the race bestows on us. Quitting means we may have to make do with less material goods & services. We detach ourselves from the crowd which dances to a different beat, but had so far provided us the psychological comfort of being with the majority. We go through an emotional turmoil when we think of quitting, as doubts & threats – big & small, self-imposed & from outside – assail us.
Two questions loom before us – is quitting feasible and is it worth it?
Quitting requires material, psychological & emotional strength. We need the psychological courage to take the road less travelled and the emotional courage to wage war on doubts & threats along the way, both of which are largely a personal struggle and a little support from outside can help. But the bigger courage we need is to overcome material comfort. Can we live in a smaller house, subsist on a smaller income or corpus, make do with lesser material goods & services, reduce our needs & desires?
Assuming we quit, is it worth it?
Like with many things in life, the joys of quitting are best experienced, largely. We can think about it, read about it, watch other people do it, but we need to quit to experience it. The smart person may choose to quit for a while to figure out its worth. But if she has been too involved in the race before quitting, she may soon feel listless and get back to the race. The joys of quitting are gained only when it is well thought out. We need a fair (if not exact) idea what we will do in a post-race life. We need the same material, psychological & emotional strength even after we quit, to pull us through the initial periods of doubts & threats.
The biggest joy of quitting is we are not in a race anymore. We are not in a race to earn more. We are not in a race to acquire more. We are not in a race to sacrifice our dreams to fulfill somebody else’s dreams. We are not in a race to pursue unsatisfying activities & goals. We are not in a race to destroy ourselves and the world around us.
Once we quit, we start living. We live the life we want. We don’t have to envy. We don’t have to compare. We learn more, better & faster. We understand ourselves better. We understand the world better. We can improve ourselves & the world. We may still choose to run a race, but that will be a race with rules & limits we set for ourselves. That will be a race more satisfying & enriching than the modern urban rat race.