“Don’t be afraid to be weak,
Don’t be too proud to be strong,
Just look into your heart my friend,
That will be the return to yourself –
The return to innocence.”
– Lyrics of Enigma’s ‘Return to Innocence’.
While still in the university I had the opportunity of coming across materials that warned of the impending rat race. From my readings, I could infer that it wasn’t a race to be proud of, that it was a race to get out of as soon as possible and that it was a race that ran parallel to purpose. What I can’t remember reading of is that the rat race can be alluring and appealing, but I found that out for myself.
I love putting things in context. Let’s look at what the rat race is so we can be on the same page. Dictionary.com puts it this way:
“any exhausting, unremitting, and usually competitive activity or routine, especially a pressured urban working life spent trying to get ahead with little time left for leisure, contemplation, etc.”
The Urban dictionary on its part explains the rat race thus:
“It is a lifestyle that is lived by countless people, oblivious to the very nature of it, to a degree that even when called upon, vehemently deny it. To summarize the Rat Race, It involves subjecting one’s self to a time-consuming job…forcing the individual to continue busting his or her a*s at that same job.”
The picture looks clearer now, I believe. The dictionaries give us a list of items to look out for if in doubt of whether what we are in is the rat race or not. As you look at the definitions, did you tick all the components or almost all? If yes, you know you’re in the race.
Like I said earlier, the rat race has been polished to make it look appealing. You now have pecks and fringe benefits that make running the rat race look like living THE life. Hard truth is, the rat race is not the real thing, hence the saying – the trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat!
I observed that many take the pecks offered in the rat race and flaunt it, creating a pseudo appearance of THE life. If you look from afar, you’d envy the life but when you move closer, you’d discover its a mirage just like the “fake water” on a tarred road on a sunny day.
Those painting the pseudo show of the rat race are like the proverbial farmer that planted fifty tubers of yam but claimed he planted hundred tubers, my people say when he is done eating the real fifty tubers he will feed off on the imaginary fifty. Simply put, even if you’re deceiving the world, you can’t deceive yourself. You can’t hide from your thoughts when you’re alone more than you can hide from your shadow during the day.
The problem is not being in the race, but in not knowing how to get out of it. Being trapped in the rat race is THE problem. An adage says when a child slips he looks forward but when an old man slips he looks backward. The old man’s act of looking backward is not out of regret but to gain hindsight. In life we sometimes need to look at where we are coming from to gain direction on where we are going. Sometimes we need to do some sort of on-site assessment – get back to the place we were before the problem started. And our tool for that assessment is our mind. As the best of God’s creations our minds as humans are amazing tools of unlimited magnitude, with it we can travel across miles, terrains and worlds in nano-seconds and without leaving a spot.
One of the things I do with my mind is take a journey back to the time of innocence, back to the period before I got cares and fears, to the time before I had bills to settle, to the point where all that mattered was purpose. If you aren’t living THE life yet, you can fix it with your mind. One of the things you must never allow to happen to you is to have your mind redundant. The rat race leaves you little or no room to develop your mind and that’s pretty dangerous.
Once in a while, create time to wander in your mind, take a return journey to innocence, a journey away from the hustle and bustle of the city, away from the hassles and harassments of your job. That’s the point from which you can connect with purpose. You’ve got to find that period in your life when you truly wanted to live and connect with your purpose. The journey is in reverse mode.
For me, when I take this exercise I take my mind to as far back as 1992, then I was a boy of 6 years and I was new in Lagos.
The exercise helps put my life in focus and helps me escape the allurements of the rat race. Every time I connect to that boy, I get a fresh deal of vigour to get out of the rat race and do what I was born to do. I recommend you do the same.
I am @seunalade