Which of your lives is real?

Get the RSS Feed

I got this email from a book reader today. He was kind enough to let me post it, with a tiny tweak to the “from” and “to” cities to protect his identity.

This is why I wrote the book.

Hi Pam,

I was traveling today on return flight home to New York from Indianapolis.  I was working on one of the exercises from your book, writing a draft for my sports blog and listening to Reggae on my MacBook. I was in my own element. The flight attendant even stopped by and grabbed Escape From Cubicle Nation and told me her story; about how she quit her job at a law firm in Dallas to pursue a career as a flight attendant so she could see the world, meet people and to live a life she loved.  Her name was Neila.

Anyway, I then realized I had to edit my corporate expense report.  I took out my corporate laptop to redo an expense report because I put a personal charge in cell 51, I put a flight that I expensed in cell 24 when it should have been in like 19 and I needed to find a receipt that was emailed to me for a dinner. (Aaahhhhh!!!!).  I was doing this on the flight home at 9pm because I have an unfulfilling meeting at 9am tomorrow and need to get this to the corporate watch dog first thing in the morning.

So I looked to my right, where my real life was, MacBook, Apple Sac for it, personal phone, diary of ideas, Escape From Cubicle Nation, and then looked straight forward where my fake life was, a crappy lap top with blackberry in tow.  I took two pictures (attached).  I’ve saved my real life as the background on my corporate lap top to remind me to get out!  And I saved my fake life picture on my personal MacBook to remind myself, how much I detest this life style.


(Name withheld to protect day job until he escapes)

His “not my real life” picture:


His “real life” picture:


Thanks for writing — we know how you feel, right guys?

Keep doing the exercises, build your business and you will get out. Your version of “real life” is the only one that matters. Trust yourself.


Filed Under: Uncategorized

37 Responses to “Which of your lives is real?”

  1. […] you identify with something so strongly it almost makes a ‘thud’ when it hits you? This post from Escape from Cubicle Nation had just that effect… Published: June 30, 2010 | Tagged: […]

  2. John says:

    I was too, I’d recommend, Antonio, that you start planning your exit strategy. Start doing the “record-breaking” for yourself instead…

  3. Antonio says:

    Great comments and do they hit home. I work for a Fortune 100 company as a SW engineer and I just had it. I am tired that for the guys running the company is never enough and are never satisfied with the results even if they are record breaking. I am tired of the ranking sessions every year and the stress they produce for everyone. I am tired of the games played by the company when it comes to compensation and benefits and the limits they put on peoples incomes while those running the company pay themselves millions in bonuses every year while the rest of us are asked to do more for less and with less. Very, very tired!

    • Irishfan says:

      The worst part is that for all the effort you place in the job, they seem to always make you feel like it is not enough or you should feel guilty for not giving every second of your life to the ‘corporate cult.’

      You are ready – like so many of us – to blaze a new trail.

      • Elise says:

        So true! I’m noticing more and more that the more you do the more they expect. I no longer stay back but I’m forced to do the ‘walk of shame’ when I leave and noone else is. Despite the fact that I HAVE to work min 9 hour days, in my contract it states that I have to do my hours ‘plus reasonable overtime that won’t be compensated’ – all so I can make someone else rich. No thanks, my escape plan is fresh but I can’t wait until I get freedom in my life! Maybe if more people get up and leave companies with recognise the need for work/life balance? hmm doubt it.

  4. Tammy says:

    Whoever you are, keep at it, it’s so going to happen!

    There’s one conversation that I seem to have over and over, and it starts when someone calls me “lucky” to be able to live the life I do, running my own business, working from anywhere in the world (today, Dominican Republic!) Yeah, my life is awesome; I recognise that, but I MADE it awesome. Pointing this out to people gets one of two reactions:

    1) “You’re right. You worked your butt off and you paid your dues. It’s great to know your lifestyle’s a possibility.” (Or, you know, words to that effect!) These are the people who recognise and accept they have the choice, like I did.

    2) “Yeah, but I was written in the stars for you, it was your fate.” Depending on what mood I’m in, I’ll either have a lengthy debate about how you make your own fate, or I just tell them I found a lamp, rubbed it, and someone called Gary Vaynerchuck popped out.

  5. Mark R says:

    Wow, great capture. Could label them as now and future. Funny I take my MacBook and iPhone to corporate meetings and the looks I get! You would thing I was from a different planet. Andy thanks for the link, spot on!

    Heres to the near future, may all of out now and future pictures be what we envision.


  6. Andy Pels says:

    This great story reminds me of a Hugh MacLeod piece I just saw. Here is a link so you can see the art http://bit.ly/957JhC but if you don’t want to click, the words are “I work very hard doing what I love to ensure that I won’t have to work very hard doing what I hate.”
    Congratulations on identifying each!

  7. cp says:

    Just perfect. Those pictures look exactly like my current, but hopefully soon to be ex-, way of life. I cannot wait for the day my real life becomes more than working lunchtimes, early mornings and late in the evenings. My “fake life day job” is incredibly unsatisfying and the day I leave it behind simply cannot come soon enough.

  8. Tamara Pickens says:

    AWE INSPIRING POST! I am just starting my escape from cubicle nation even though I’ve had the “Escape From Cubicle Nation” book and have lurked on this site for quite some time. I can hardly wait until the day where I am truly living my REAL life instead of drudging through the fake one everyday, lol.

  9. Amber McCue says:

    This was just the message and the motivation I needed in this moment:

    Keep doing the exercises, build your business and you will get out. Your version of “real life” is the only one that matters. Trust yourself.

    Thanks, Pam!!!!!

  10. Samantha Bruno says:

    WOW!! What a great letter!!! I recently took the plunge and “Escaped From Cubicle Nation!!!!!!!!” I had wanted to escape for so long and it took me a little over a year to do so, first I prepared mentally, then I started to put things into place. I have not looked back and I do not EVEN think about going back – I feel as though a 100 lb weight has been lifted off of my back. It is an INDESCRIBABLE feeling to work hard at something and see things starting to come to fruition…stating your goals and your direction help keep you in check and MAKE accomplishing them much more rewarding!!!

  11. […] read a great post on Escape from Cubicle National.   Someone shared picture of their real life (the one they wanted) and their fake life (the one […]

  12. Barbara Saunders says:

    Hmmm….question for Pam:

    What are your suggestions for when the “fake life” is actually a drain on credibility. For example, what’s a person to do when his calling is “I coach people to leave their corporate jobs and start their own business,” 🙂 yet he’s working a corporate job to pay the mortgage?

  13. Barbara Saunders says:

    Hmmm….question for Pam:

    What are your suggestions for when the “fake life” is actually a drain on credibility. For example, what’s a person to do when his calling is “I coach people to leave their corporate jobs and start their own business,” 🙂 yet he’s working a corporate job to pay the mortgage?

  14. Barbara Saunders says:

    I love this! I had a similar realization recently. As much as I want to “be my own boss,” I also want to have control and authority over my mundane business systems. As a contractor for multiple customers, I juggle different email addresses, PC and Mac, time sheet systems, etc. This is a kick in the pants reminder that contracting isn’t enough. I need to control my own administration and deliver service from the computer, wiki, email account, payment system, tracking system, etc. that work for me.

    (Gotta say – I’m no “Apple fanboy”, but OMG, I appreciate not having to spend up to two hours a day engaged in battle with my computer as I recently have had to do on my PC!)

  15. John says:

    I turned in my corporate gray Dell & Blackberry when I left my corp job about 3 months ago. And, interestingly enough, now work on a Mac & iPhone. I felt at the time that this change somehow was symbolic of my life change.

    I am one of those who was given the gift of time (and finances) to be able to reinvent my life and career. After reading the first couple of chapters of Escape… I realized how common my experience was for the last several years. Now, I am seriously considering starting a small software company of my own – after 27 years of doing working in and ultimately managing one for others why not?

    Pamela’s book came at just the right time for me, it’s been so encouraging and helpful. And, during this time, I hope I have a chance to help others along the way…

  16. I love it when a couple of images can capture everything. Thanks so much for sharing.

  17. Julie says:

    Monday morning. Trying to gather the energy to start my work here, at the fake life job… Reading this conforts me that I am not alone. And reminds me to keep doing all I can to one day quit. My freelancing is actually going well – and this double life is a little frustrating. It’s hard, it’s demanding, it’s exciting too… and it’s totally freaking me out at the same time, but it’s real. Thanks for the monday morning boost. Now I’m happy it’s the beginning of the week so I can take a few steps more towards my own path.

  18. […] 3, 2010 · Leave a Comment Saw a recent post from Pamela Slim over at Escape From Cubicle Nation, in which she posts a note from one of her readers. I really loved the first paragraph: Hi […]

  19. Irishfan says:

    This totally connects with many of us. I work for a ‘Big 4’ accounting firm and have been called to jury duty. Instead of my boss saying we understand and we will try to help, he instead volunteered that I could work nights and weekends to our clients. I always knew that most corporations were soul-less, but this takes the cake.

  20. […] taste of my  what my future worklife could be (was I happy with what I tried or do I want to change it, based on what I now […]

  21. These photos are classic! They really capture the duality of life so many of us are living(…and are looking to escape!)

    Comforted to read that many of us could take a very similar pair of photos.

    Inspired to hear that escape is possible!

  22. fas says:

    Awesome stuff man. We all need to escape. Is this book available in India?

  23. Wow. I’m not kidding when I say that my “real life” and “fake life” pics look identical. Seriously, my work laptop is the exact same boring corporate HP and my personal laptop is a MacBook Pro. This gives me hope that I too can escape!

  24. Pam says:

    Oh my! There truly are NO coincidences as Todd W points out. I’m reading this on my lunch break, as I contemplate – ruefully – my all day travel from Seattle to NYC this Sunday, so I can attend a 90 minute client meeting on Monday. Then on to Arizona for three days before heading home late, late Thursday night. I’m old enough to remember the days when business travel happened during the work week and work hours. Not on “my” time. (Do I even have my own time anymore?) And shouldn’t we be far enough along to not have my manager comment that maybe I could just “squeeze one more customer in” while in NYC – as long as I wasn’t getting a “pedicure?” He obviously hasn’t seen my feet lately!

    • Irishfan says:

      I guess it comes back to taking control of our lives. No company is going to ask you if you would like some time off or would like to have a life. I have found that if you want this – work/life balance, etc. – you just have to take it and do not accept less. Accepting the life they (companies) are offering often means getting less.

      • Pam says:

        Irishfan – agreed. We all have choices about how to spend our time and ultimately, our lives. Thanks for reminding me that feeling sorry for myself is not as helpful as actually doing something about it. Think I’ll get a massage in AZ later this week – on my time. 🙂

  25. Good luck to him, I hope he gets what he wants!

  26. Richard says:

    This is a good example of what happens when you look for the work you love. Eventually you don’t have time for your “real” job anymore. Your other life somehow transfers from your unconscious dream world and to your conscious real world. Since I left my corporate world I don’t know how I had the time to in a cube!

  27. Great post. Reminds me of where I was a few weeks ago. In a job I hated. Quit! At least you have your principles then.

  28. This was me about two months ago. Sending good thoughts your way, reader.

  29. Matt C. says:

    you would have thought he staged the picture, the lighting is so perfect. I think this person will do very well someday.

  30. LoJo says:

    I’m so glad you were able to share this e-mail. Sure it hits home with many of us. I can tell you that those two pictures could have been mine two months ago. Literally!

    To the writer of the e-mail… I look forward to the day you join us all over here, on the other side! 🙂

  31. Chris Mower says:

    Thanks for sharing :)… it can be pretty stressful and unenjoyable to worry about work all the time, especially on a plane ride. Plane rides are for good books, great music, and thoughtful meditation–not work. 🙂

    Best of luck pursuing your true life!

  32. Todd W. says:

    One last refresh of the newsreader before I shut the computer down and begin packing for the trip home after work tomorrow. Don’t want to leave anything in the hotel room. And this is the only post that shows up.


    No. Not a coincidence.

    A sign.