What 2016 taught me

2016 in review

A year ago today, I was working as an expensive assistant to two huge assholes. I’m used to working for assholes, because being an asshole is a prerequisite to owning your own business. But over time, my patience for putting up with people like that has dwindled to around none.

So sometime in January, I did the best thing I had ever done. I quit. I had never quit a job before, and I had never left a job on bad terms. But I quit in a spectacular fashion with a scathing email and never returned. Because for all the worrying I did about money and my career, I had money saved. I was going to survive a couple of months of unemployment.

So I looked for something that I thought would make me happier. And I went back to teaching, which I’ve always loved, and I started doing therapy, which I also loved. And both of those things were ridiculously frustrating and immensely rewarding.

So every day, after spending four exhausting hours in the classroom, I would spend the next 7 or 8 hours driving around Miami seeing clients for hour-long sessions of therapy. I’d come home, eat dinner, and plop down on the couch to watch a movie. Because when you work that much, you really don’t have the energy to do anything better.

And despite my long hours, I was barely making enough money to live comfortably. And I’d have to go back to school to be able to get licensure that could earn me more money as a therapist. Because I took out a mortgage-sized loan to get a master’s, but I didn’t take the right classes. Because fuck the US education system.

Of course, I could always go back into for-profit education, but that industry is so shady that I’d rather be selling drugs. That would be just as unpredictable and would make me more money. Besides, being in education in the United States is a risk factor for getting shot in the face with a semi-automatic.

So eight long months ago, I did something drastic. I quit both my jobs and I left. And I know I’ve talked about this at length in the past, but now I have the perspective of almost an entire year behind me. And I have to say, that was the best decision I’ve ever made.

My savings has seen better days, and I work part-time for a third of what I was making at the beginning of the year. But I have never been happier. In hindsight, I was wasting my life convinced that I needed to make more money and be busier. Even now, when I come home, I get a chorus of family members asking me why I don’t just go back to school so I can get a real job. But my family, like so many other people, just don’t get it.

The point of life is not to work; it’s to live. Since I moved away, I live in a wonderful, comfortable apartment that I can afford. I wake up with the sun, and I have time to make breakfast and relax before work, because my office is at home. I make my own schedule every week, and I leave myself enough time to do the things that really matter.

I have time to learn to make a meal from scratch. I have time to write books. I have time to go outside and just appreciate how beautiful my city is. I have time to meet new and interesting people. And for the first time, I feel truly productive. Because this blog doesn’t seem like much, and it certainly doesn’t make me a dime. But it’s a catalog of all the wonderful things I’ve gotten to do with my life. And even if it’s just a random person in Tel Aviv or London, I like to think that I’m providing something useful for someone out there who is looking up how to plan a trip to Europe. Or at least a smile.

And in this increasingly terrible world that we live, is there anything more meaningful than that? I’m not saying my solution is right for you. But find what is and do it. Be a great parent. Perfect a recipe for your grandchildren. Travel the world. Discover a new religion. Share something important to you. Make a difference in someone’s life. Sponsor a starving child. Help build a home. Plant a fucking tree. Make music, make art, and make your life meaningful. But take a risk on something you love.

We’ve mourned a lot of amazing people this year: David Bowie, Prince. And as I write this, I read about Carrie Fisher’s passing. But you know what’s sadder than people so great dying so young? People like you and me living to 90 and doing absolutely nothing with our lives that we’re really proud of.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being lazy and relaxing at home, but you’re never going to get back the hours you spent watching shitty movies and TV series on Netflix. Find something that gives your life meaning and, for fuck’s sake, do it. Because you’re dying. We’re all dying. Some of us are just dying sooner than others.

So make the most of your time. Give a shit about what matters. And nothing that doesn’t. Take risks to get what you want before you realize you wasted your life slaving for something you didn’t. Make time for the people that are important. Stop wasting time with people that add no value to your life. We’re a society of people that work hard to provide a good life for family that we don’t have any time to actually see.

If 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that every breath I take could be my last. Death is inevitable. And I could die in an accident in infuriating gridlocked traffic on the way to work. Or from a heart attack from stress in a job I hate.

So when death comes for me, I’d rather be at a concert in Paris. Celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. At a gay club in Orlando. At a Christmas market in Berlin. Or hiking Rainbow Mountain in Peru. If you’re living a life that makes you happy, you won’t even mind. And to quote Carrie Fisher: “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action.” So I think I’m gonna keep living this crazy life in 2017. We’ll see where it takes me (and my gnome).

And if I can impart anything on you as we welcome the new year, let it be this:

A life poorly lived is worse than a great life cut short. Live your life so that when you die, the whole world will feel it.