activism, personal essay

The Business of Life

My mom turned 70 on Friday. She’s nimble and full of life and when I spoke to her on the phone earlier last week, she was understandably having a tough time wrapping her head around that number. I decided to write her a letter listing the “70 Reasons Why I Love You”.

It was a spur-of-the-moment idea that I knew would lift her spirits. When I hung up the phone, I stopped everything I was doing and worked on that list so I could get it in the mail in time for her birthday. Writing it became this epic journey of joy, nostalgia, tears – all of it. Best of all, it made me stop and really take notice of all the beautiful nuances that make her special to me. It took about three hours to finish and when I was done, I was feeling restless. I was way behind on all of my career goals for the week and now, here I was, finding some new way to procrastinate, letting this frivolous letter eat up half my day. A familiar, prickly experience of shame began to wash over me.

Then I quickly woke the fuck up.

Welcome to Capitalism 101, students, today we’ll be exploring the subtle and shifty ways it will devour you from the inside. Here I am, pouring out this heartfelt tribute to my mother, that she will no doubt cherish for the rest of her life, only to be denigrated at the finish line by some inner careerist because I spent too much time on it?

No. No no no.

Reminder: Our careers are not our lives. Our lives are our motherfucking careers.

At the end of the day, if we have managed to inspire one other human on this planet, if we have uplifted them and allowed them to know their life’s value in a way they hadn’t known before, then shouldn’t that day be considered a resounding success? Let’s call that day a promotion. Let’s call that day boss.

I say fuck your career and your little career goals. What are your life goals? What is your soul’s purpose? Hint: it’s not more money and it’s not new Instagram followers. It might just be your mother calling you back after she’s read your tear-stained letter, thanking you from the bottom of her heart.

I say let the hustler in the White House and all the rest of the hustlers keep on hustling. What they don’t understand, what will be their ultimate downfall, what you and I and every other human who’s been paying attention knows in our core, is this: we are way past the hustle; we are way past “careers”. We are now, all of us, whether we like it or not, firmly and only in the business of life. We have to channel that sacred knowledge of oneness – the left, the right, the immigrant, the disenfranchised – we are all the same and when we speak from and create from and build from that knowledge, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. 

Write your mother a letter to remind you what’s important. Take all the time you need.

Call up that friend who’s struggling, even if they’ve been shitty to you in the past.

Stop and look the homeless man in his eyes and ask him how you can help.

There is no greater success. There is no greater purpose.


Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on… So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything… The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all… We do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES. But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors…but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal… Beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life.

Hunter S. Thompson

Be the change that you want to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi
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