Life was made for living

All it took was two years in the corporate world, and most of my soul, decayed and rotting to its core, to realise that life was made for living.

This thing that we were all doing in our glass tower blocks wasn't it. And we spent more time there than anywhere else on this planet. It was more like a play. We got there each day, donned our costumes and acted out the parts we were given so we could earn our fee at the end of it all. No one ever played themselves though, that was one part that never needed casting. 

They warned me before I started, told me it was no good for me, but staring at an object so shiny and with a youthful arrogance that always knows better, I pricked my finger on the spool, only to fall asleep for the next two years. I would sit in the tower, staring out through the glass and wish to god my hair was long enough to throw down and somehow, someone, would climb up and take me away from it all. Or that maybe a prince was going to kiss me and wake me up (I would have even settled for the frog). Of course there wasn’t. The slicked hair in suits were living through the same nightmare as me and they didn’t know how to get themselves out of it, let alone the damsel in distress. My prince was trapped in pinstripes and power points as he testified to his colleagues as to the size of his balls.

It would have to be me. Which was daunting, but the realisation of the cesspit you're sitting in is half the battle to changing your landscape. So I did what you're not supposed to do and decided to step my toe out of the system. It would carry on without me just fine. They had plenty of souls to gorge on and I decided I was having mine back. I wanted it. I needed it.

So I did what any creative, self-respecting mac owner who hangs out in coffee shops does; I went to work for a start-up.

And yes, I realise this is the point in the story I’m supposed to march off to distant beaches in Thailand to write my novel while sipping milk out of a coconut in various yoga positions I can’t pronounce. But honestly, I’ve never liked yoga, coconut milk isn’t that nice (yes I said it and I regret nothing) and I have this strange addiction to electricity, so while constant beach sunsets are nice, the glow from my fully charged phone is an equally spectacular sight.  

So until they invent a phone with unlimited battery life, and I somehow inherit a fortune that lets me travel around the world without sweating the small stuff, like food and shelter, the working world is still calling my name. But it’s now a world that I’ve chosen to be in and one that lets me breath again. The line between ‘life’ and ‘work’ has blurred and the two begin to melt into one, and that means everything. When you’re in a start-up, creativity happens everywhere, hierarchy doesn’t exist and no one cares about suits and ties. Wear whatever you work best in, and if you’ve got an idea, grab the Founder and tell them all about it, probably as you both ride on hover-boards to a meeting room that has a Harry Potter quote on the wall. Because why the hell not, and plus, Dumbledore was exceptionally wise.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all beanbags, foosball tables and constant giggles. It’s actually incredibly hard work. Everyone is gunning for 14 hours a day, people argue all the time and if that one colleague whistles the same tune one more time, you might throw the damn beanbag at their face. And yes, you’re still in a system of work instead of globetrotting across Africa. But you’re working your ass off because you love it. You’re arguing with your colleague because you’re both so excited about the idea you’ve just had and if you want, you can throw a beanbag at someone without ending up in a drearily dull meeting with HR and 6 months of ‘disciplinary procedures’. In essence, people give a shit and love what they’re doing every day. I couldn’t remember the last time I sat in a room in the corporate world and there was one person in the room who loved what they were doing, let alone the whole bunch.  

We’re part of a generation that doesn’t believe in the big corporates anymore. We stood on our graduation podiums and watched them crash, the corporations we were supposed to blindingly trust, and now we’re making way for a new type of business. A style of business that shifts away from constrained and archaic methods, because after all, since when did sitting for 12 hours a day in an uncomfortable suit at a meeting you’re not allowed to speak in ever get any good out of anyone. The corporate world isn’t reflective of how humans engage, interact and innovate, so why are we all forcing ourselves into a template that intrinsically goes against human behaviour. It’s painful for everyone, like trying to squash yourself into someone else’s skin; unnatural and should never be done. Who’s got the time to live a life in which you’re going against everything that you are anyway. The suits and the rules and the big shinny tower blocks can kill you, and any creativity you’d managed to cultivate over the years. Find something you love, and your life begins to quite seamlessly roll into one. It’s no longer work and life. It’s no longer pain and pleasure. It’s just life, and it was made for living.

Salma El-Wardany