Why We Enter The Workplace — Ahem, Rat Race — With Open Arms

by Liz Kaydanovsky

With two diplomas in hand, I stand proudly next to my peers. Energy engulfs the auditorium as everyone erupts in cheers.

There are smiles so contagious, they spread like wildfire, and we are all overwhelmed with feelings of both excitement and fear. As we leave the confines and comfort of college, the city awaits and our futures are looking bright.

Upon graduation, we unlock the door to the ever-enchanting adult world. Our first jobs are just the beginning, as they mark the start of our professional chapters.

On our first days of work, the distraction begins. Our minds wander and all the shiny objects blind us. Besides the glossy business cards marked with our names and fancy titles, there’s the flashy laptop and chic iPhone 6. And, don’t forget the Amex corporate card.

We’re all set: Big boys and girls embarking on our professional paths for the next 40-plus years.

We go from sweatpants to suit pants in a matter of hours; a zero to positive bank account balance in a matter of weeks. And, as our new lives accelerate, so do our wants.

So it begins: the rat race. It’s a vicious, unfulfilling cycle, and yet, we welcome it with open arms.

When that paycheck arrives, we’re in a frenzy like sharks at the first drop of blood. This first taste of earning money is so enticing, all we want is more: more money, more things, more “success.”

We rush to trendy stores well outside of our nonexistent budgets. Waltzing around like we own the place, we pick out clothes without so much as a glance at the pricetag. In fact, they are the stores where pricetags are not easily visible, and of course, fumbling through the fabric to find it isn't classy, right?

We’re like kids in a candy store, unable to peel our eyes off the colorful abundance.

After buying our new outfits, we figure if we’re going to dress to impress, we might as well be more convincing all-around. Bring on the luxury car. Yes, a leased Mercedes is not only a self-esteem booster, but new-car smell soothes the soul.

It’s a never-ending game of catchup and we all bring our A-game. We outdo ourselves and everyone else, and before we know it, we’re swimming in “things” but drowning in debt.

We trap ourselves in the idea of bigger and better. Eventually, our jobs or paychecks become irrelevant, and we want more, upgrading left and right.

We keep earning and buying, filling our lives with meaningless clutter. If we set the pace for the hamster wheel, why are we running so fast, killing ourselves to keep up?

Do not compete with each other in this race; it’s a lose-lose situation. It’s a guaranteed disappointment; someone will always land the newer, shinier object. Do not get lost in the glamour.

The best way to avoid the bottomless pit that is the rat race is to be conscious of it. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the fruit of your labor, just be sensible. If you think it’s too expensive, it is -- and you don’t need it, anyway.

Set goals; our personal, professional and financial goals are heavily intertwined. Make sure your job, money and happiness are in line with said goals. An abundance of shiny things makes our existence limited.

Limitless is choosing to step off the hamster wheel because, in that moment, we are free.