Mr B and I went to Lyon for the weekend, our first getaway since our honeymoon in October. Lyon’s airport name is Saint Exupery, which was vaguely familar to me. It became clear when I walked past souvenir shops: The Little Prince merchandises were everywhere.
It’s been 15 years since I last read The Little Prince – I remember when I first read it, I was too young to understand the symbolism. The Little Prince is an innocent kid who traveled the galaxy and landed in different planets and met weird adults doing their weird adulty things. Recently there’s a sequel movie on Netflix where the innocent Little Prince has grown up into a “Mr Prince”, a janitor with typical dull adult life.
On the plane back to London, I was reflecting on my vague recollection of The Little Prince story and it is surprisingly relevant to my situation (the TL;DR of my situation is: my job has always been my source of energy and joy, I don’t have a life outside work, now my job is… less satisfying, let’s put it that way, and my life is miserable because of that).
The Little Prince and His Dear Rose
The Little Prince has a rose that he loved dearly. It’s an ordinary rose. The rose told him that the reason she’s special for him is because the meaning he attached to her. He could’ve treated her as any other roses. But he chose to give this rose a special place in his heart, he chose to invest his time to take care of the rose and it made him happy.
Isn’t it the same with me and my job? I chose to give it an important place in my life. I gave it the power to make my life miserable. And as it’s my choice in the first place, isn’t it also my choice now to not let it happen? To lift the label on the rose and treat it as any other roses. As John Green said in The Fault in Our Stars: “You don’t get to choose whether you get hurt in this world, but you have a say in who hurts you.”
The Busy Businessman Without Actual Purpose
The businessman was so busy that he didn’t even lift his head when The Little Prince came. He was busy counting the stars that he supposedly own.
TLP (The Little Prince): “And what do you do with these stars?”
BM (Businessman): “What do I do with them?”
BM: “Nothing. I own them.”
TLP: “You own the stars?”
TLP: “And what good does it do you to own the stars?”
BM: “It does me the good of making me rich.”
TLP: “And what good does it do you to be rich?”
BM: “It makes it possible for me to buy more stars, if any are discovered.”
When I was a teenager reading this chapter I always thought the businessman is silly. Never did occur to me that I’d be one.
My anxious, spiralling thoughts about my performance review and promotion is all about FOMO – fear of missing out. I’m worried to be lagged behind. I’m worried to lose in a competition I created in my head to be the the leader, to be recognised in my field, to be on Forbes’ 30 under 30. And then what?
Back to the Businessman who owns all the stars, nonetheless can’t do anything with them apart from owning them as a status symbol.
“And what do you do with them?”
“I administer them,” replied the businessman. “I count them and recount them. It is difficult. But I am a man who is naturally interested in matters of consequence.”
The little prince was still not satisfied.
“If I owned a silk scarf,” he said, “I could put it around my neck and take it away with me. If I owned a flower, I could pluck that flower and take it away with me. But you cannot pluck the stars from heaven . . .”
“No. But I can put them in the bank.”
“Whatever does that mean?”
“That means that I write the number of my stars on a little paper. And then I put this paper in a drawer and lock it with a key.”
“And that is all?”
“That is enough,” said the businessman.
I know the quote “The journey is the reward“, but often times, I forget to embrace it. No point to rush to the top – the view there will be just meh if you don’t enjoy the journey. Maybe not everyone needs to go to the top to enjoy the view.
Mr B and I went to Patagonia, Chile for our honeymoon. We stayed near Las Torres. This was the view that we could’ve seen if we hiked to the top:
We tried to hike – but I didn’t enjoy it. There were too many people as it was a famous hiking route. Physical activity was not my forte so I needed to rest every few minutes, and I got embarassed by people who walked past us while I was resting. I didn’t enjoy the journey and I knew I wouldn’t be happier by reaching the top, so I decided to stop (and Mr B grumpily agreed).
The next day, we went for a walk in a completely different route. It was mostly flat and serene, as most people went for the most popular hike to Las Torres. It wasn’t boring either – there were hills, lakes, and small rivers that we crossed while singing The Sound of Music.
I enjoyed our walk a million times more than the mainstream hike. Is this what “the route less traveled” all about?
So now I’m thinking, what’s the point of stressing myself over FOMO and rushing to get to the top when happiness can also be found here, walking my mostly flat route with beautiful lakes and chirping birds?