01/24/2012 07:07 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2012

Is Your Job Dictating Your Happiness?

I have a full-time writing job in addition to the freelance writing and teaching I do... it's the whole clock-in-and-out 40 hours a week thing. The other night I went to my boyfriend's after work. He lives in the Valley. For those of us Los Angeles people, you know the hell that is getting over the hill to the Valley in rush hour traffic. Honestly, I think instead of grounding their kids, parents should punish them by having them drive to and from the Valley in rush hour traffic. Not kidding.

Anyways, I realized that by the time I got there -- a) there would really only be just enough time to eat and MAYBE fool around before we went to bed so that I could get enough sleep to function the next day and b) I was so brain dead from staring at a computer screen for eight hours and then sitting in deadlock traffic for two hours that I was incapable of having a coherent, intelligent conversation with him. My brain felt like mush... I was exhausted. Yes, exhausted from sitting on my ass for eight hours. I really wanted to just plop down in front of the TV and be brain dead and not talk to him or anyone. Because I didn't feel like I could even form a sentence. Then... wake up in the morning, sit in another two hours of traffic, and get to work to start the whole cycle over again.

This is NOT a way to live. I know, this is how our whole society lives. I know, this is how we think we're supposed to live. But let me ask you -- really, are you living? Living to what -- living to make money so that we can pay rent or a mortgage on a place that we only really sleep in? Pay for a car that pretty much only transports us to and from work? What has the point of working become -- to pay for the things TV and the media tells us we should want to make us feel good about ourselves. Because let's face it, most people these days don't feel good about themselves internally. They base their worth on external things -- like their material goods, their jobs... So if we're not feeling good about our jobs, the one thing we can try to feel good about is what we can BUY because of our job.

It's a vicious cycle. Spend our days (our lives) at a job where we most likely feel we're not living our purpose. Come home too wiped out to get to work on our purpose, or volunteer, or study, or work on our spiritual growth, or make some kind of difference in the world... come home too wiped out to experience true connection with our loved ones (um, no wonder the divorce rate is so high! Couples don't communicate after a long day's work -- they'd rather just veg in front of the TV and have a drink).

We come home and see ads on TV for things we should buy to make us feel better about ourselves. So we wake up the next morning with the thought that at least we're making money to buy that new outfit which will make us look good. But then we get the outfit, and guess what? We may feel good for the first few wearings but then that feeling goes away. So we seek something else. And the cycle continues. Because nothing external will ever be able to truly make us feel good about ourselves.

I'm not saying we shouldn't work. That's not the issue... I love hard work. I encourage hard work. There's nothing better than the feeling when you work your butt off, overcome challenges, and really accomplish something. I've pulled all-nighters, worked 24 hours for a deadline, and man, it felt amazing. Working hard to accomplish something is one of the things that DOES make us feel good about ourselves because it gives us pride.

So not working isn't the issue. The issue is the way we work. The issue is why we work. Unfortunately, I have gotten caught lately on the hamster wheel, and it doesn't feel good. I have to make a change. To me, this is not a way to live. I don't want to work to live. I want to LIVE. I want to come home and experience true connection with my man, and have real conversations and laughs with my friends at happy hour or on the phone, and talk to my mom about her day and share with her my day. THAT'S what life is about -- connection. People. Relationships. Don't let your job ruin that. A job is just a job -- it's not our life, regardless of what anyone else, society, or the media may tell you. A job allows us to live, yes, and for that we are grateful. But it doesn't need to dictate our mental state and the quality of relationships in our life.

But how do we change what's so solidly put in motion? I really wish I had an answer. I sometimes think as a whole, we might be too far gone. I think the answer lies with each person individually -- how badly each person wants a change, how far each person is willing to think outside the box, how much each person is willing to believe that things CAN change, how much each person can shift their perspective and priority. Because maybe all you are capable of doing right now is to shift your perspective. It is tough. It is a battle. There may be opposition or scrutiny. But if you know in your heart and gut how you want to live your life, then you'll figure out a way to stop letting your job dictate your life... and start really living it.