Quality of Life Is Really All that Matters


By Troy Headrick

Exactly two weeks ago today my grandmother died.  This past weekend, I received a text from Robin, a wonderful person and the most senior tutor in our writing center, letting me know that her elderly father had passed away in small-town Ohio, so she has been gone from work these past three days.  Then, just yesterday, Michael, another one of tutors and a fellow who’s busy at work on a master’s degree, informed me that his favorite uncle had just departed from this life.  Death, it seems, is going around.

With the passage of all these individuals we are reminded that life is short.  Our end is just around the corner.  Death is out there, waiting for its moment to pull us away.  None of us will be able to resist this pull.  This makes death the great equalizer.

This raises an important question:  How are we to live NOW given that none of us have forever?

At the root of this question is the notion of “quality.”  If our quantity of time is finite, how are we to best manage those days, months, and years we have in front of us?  I would argue we need to begin thinking—right this minute—less about quantity and more about quality of life.  (I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t eat well, get plenty of rest, and exercise regularly as a well of enhancing our health and thus prolonging our lives.)  I am arguing that we need to think more about how we want to manage our time so that we feel like we are living well—that we are living lives which feel meaningful.

I have been thinking about quality of life a lot lately.  That’s likely mostly due to the fact that I don’t feel perfectly happy right now.  I’m in a job that I like but that pays very little, too little, in fact.  My wife has a business that is slowly growing, but we don’t have terrific financial security.  Call me weird if you want, but I’ve always been the type who needs to make enough money to feel untroubled by financial matters.  If I feel financially secure, I have peace of mind.  How much is peace of mind worth?  Answer:  a lot.

Also, I have almost no time off which makes it difficult for me to be as actively engaged in creative pursuits as I’d like to be.  This lack of free time also makes it virtually impossible for me to travel internationally.  (My wife gets to go to Egypt once a year to see her family, but I’m constantly stuck in the United States.)  If traveling enlarges a person (and I believe it does), then I’m just getting smaller and smaller right now.

And lastly, because we are so outrageously busy, I have very little time to simply unplug—to meditate, to read, to spend quiet time pondering things.  I have always enjoyed residing in my head, and unfortunately, I am so busy chasing the almighty dollar that I’ve almost no time to be alone with my thoughts.  If I keep going at this rate and in this direction, I fear that I’ll simply become a body without a mind.

So, here’s what I’m doing about all this.  My wife and I are thinking about throwing in the towel and doing something really different, perhaps even risky.  We have the possibility to go “off the grid” in rural Egypt or we have the chance to do other equally interesting things, mostly in foreign countries.  All these options will help solve the quality issues I mentioned earlier.  Right now, neither one of us is very happy.  And we know it boils down to us not feeling very empowered or free (and certainly not very secure either).

How much do you think about quality of life and the sorts of things I wrote about here?  I’d love to get your feedback on what I’ve said and about the plans I’m making with my wife.

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.



37 thoughts on “Quality of Life Is Really All that Matters

  1. I think everyone wants to lead a good life but there are so many circumstances that dictate it and we are compelled to live the life we may not want to…

    1. You’re right, meenawalia. But here’s the deal. I’m less and less willing to allow myself to be “compelled” by external circumstances. My wife is where I’m at in her life too. Where does it say we have to live by others’ rules? I hear what you’re saying, but I pointed out that sometimes one has to risk doing something different. I’ve lived experimentally before and have done really well doing so. I feel like it might be time to live experimentally again. Thanks for participating.

  2. Money cannot buy happiness but it can relieve a lot of stress! Just when I felt I could start pursuing creative interests my husband went on disability, my paycheck was cut in half, and an adult daughter and grandson came to live with us. I dream about sneaking away in the middle of the night and leaving it all behind…then I wake up and do what I “should” do.

    1. When we dream, it’s a sign that the subconscious is trying to communicate with us. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. For your own psychological health, try to find a way to fit that creativity in. In my case, I’m ready to take a bit of a risk to move life in a new and better direction for the two of us. Thanks very much for your comment.

  3. I think SOOOO much about my quality of life! I’m in such a similar situation as you and your spouse and I wish you all of the best. It is so comforting to not feel so alone!!!

      1. Well honestly I feel so stuck, too! I am not really happy in life and I feel like I am just existing rather than living. I am in a job that’s so, so SOOO draining. And the sad thing is that I decorate cakes for a living! That profession has such good potential for being fun and rewarding! but where I work is not. I feel like I won’t get anything better than what I have, so I stay where I am at in fear of being more unhappy if I leave! I have health insurance and 401k and I feel like I’m just trading my happiness for future security if I quit. it’s like I have this idea in my mind where my life has only the potential to get worse and not better. I feel like I should just suck it up and appreciate the benefits but I am so unhappy. work drains me so much that I honestly just work, cry, and sleep. I hate being stuck in such a tiring culture of people killing themselves 5 days a week and getting 2 days to recover. only we can’t recover! we have laundry, dishes, pets, children, family, doctor appointments, home improvements, and just soo much more that we have to use those two days to catch up on. there are honestly no real days off. I don’t want to live a free life where I do nothing and get everything I want, but GOODNESS can I have some time to enjoy something??? Can I be paid a living wage so I don’t have to Uber on the side??? I’m stuck similar to the way you are, friend, and I don’t know how to get out of the rut. but letting it out in this way has been helping. Thank you so much for inviting me to share and I’m sorry if I babbled too long!

      2. Thanks for sharing. By the way, I didn’t feel that you were babbling at all. It seems like you’re ready to start thinking outside the box. Have you thought about opening your own small business? (By the way, my wife owns a home bakery business and does Mediterranean breads and such.) Have you thought about teaching cake decorating? (I know someone who worked in the food industry but then opened up her own tiny culinary school and is doing well.) Have you thought about leaving the US and taking your talents abroad? To be quite honesty with you, living in the US is draining. I have lived in five countries and I find the US the most stressful place to live, hands down. I often find that I am very frustrated and angry here. That’s not good for the mind, body, or spirit. Plus, in other countries, people don’t put so much emphasis on work and making money. They know how to enjoy time and they don’t feel guilty not being productive. We can continue this conversation if you’d like. Let me know and I’ll provide you with an email address.

  4. Life is too short to spend time in an unhappy occupation, especially when there are so many other choices out there to be had. I expect money is not a controlling interest for you and it is not as important as fulfillment found in daily occupations. Find something that makes your heart sing and gives you a good reason to get up in the morning. It will probably turn out to be something allowing you a liveable income. Maybe even more than a liveable income. It may not even be an easy occupation but if it fits with your unique giftings… it will seem easy. There is no good reason to stay in an unhappy occupation. Move on.

    1. Thank you so much for the advice and encouragement. There’s only one complication here. I really like my job, but I don’t like that it pays so little. I think I would feel better about things if I didn’t live in the US, a country, sadly, that’s becoming more and more a place that caters to the wealthy while the rest of us struggle. Yes, I’m just about ready to move on. It’s just a matter of time and putting the plan together.

  5. I think about the quality of the life I’m living a great deal, both in good, “let’s make the most of our time” and bad, “did you earn your air today?” There is an underlying push in society to not only be productive but to be productive and follow the societal plan. So I struggle to live a life I feel has value in the face of that.

    One of the things I find most annoying about counselling is how it takes you to someplace you know. When I ask questions that have some depth and difficulty, I usually already have the answer inside me somewhere. I’m struck by all the reasons you outlined to go. Life will happen whatever you decide, but it sounds to me like the choice to go, To make big changes, to be able to live the lives you want would feed something vital in both your and your wife’s soul. And, if it doesn’t work, there is always tomorrow and something else.

    1. Thanks for your comment, and I apologize for my delay in responding. I sometimes get so many comments that I find that one or two fall through the cracks until I go back and look again at things I might have missed.

      I have learned to trust the voice inside me when it insistently tells me that I need a change. That voice is speaking very clearly to me now. I totally get what you mean when you talk about already having the answer inside you. Many of us do. We just need to have someone push us a bit to cross the threshold or a moment comes when the time is perfectly right to bolt and so we bolt.

      Yes, life will go on one way or another. But I’m no longer satisfied with having life simply “go on.” I want to be in a place where I feel invigorated, recharged, and wake up every day curious about what’s going to take place. I think I simply find life in America so hard, so draining. I don’t do well in dog-eat-dog environments. That’s because I don’t want to play the game, fight the fight, or push against the immovable object…

  6. Troy
    I greatly enjoy your posts because you always hit the nail on the head. I think of life quality as a fine dance between time and money. They are not compatible for most of us. I had a job once that exceeded my financial needs, and it did make life so much better. I also like not thinking about income. I had time to study, write, meditate, and exercise. It was great, but I lived in an unlikable place and we moved back home. Now I’m back working at 40% less. It is depressing and worrisome if I let it be that. I have plans for a better job, but it will mean less time. I live frugally but am so grateful to have home and family. It’s a tough trade. I hate money actually, because it’s not really life. It’s a game. Why can’t we live peacefully in our world without these endless stupid worries? Frustration. I hope you go and try it. What do you have to lose? Makes for a great blog as well! Cheers and good luck.

    1. You’ve described my situation perfectly. And my feelings about things (like money) as well. I think there is a deep part of me that feels vulnerable. This could be rooted in my chaotic childhood because of my parents’ unstable marriage. So I feel really financially vulnerable right now and I don’t like to feel that way. I’m working on a plan–I’m a planner and a problem solver by nature–that will hopefully be able to both provide us with more financial security as well as give me more creative time. We might have to leave the US, though. But I miss my international lifestyle a lot. Thanks for share your story and for participating in this conversation.

  7. That is something I think a lot about too, especially lately. I have been thinking that I want to pay more attention to myself rather than pursuing external goals. It is not that I don’t have time for mediation, hobbies etc. But when there are too many things going on, I tend to not add anything else. That is why I sleep whenever I am free and I want to change this.

    1. When I feel overwhelmed, I sometimes get sort of paralyzed. I can’t make headway at all when I feel that there are too many things pressing in on me. That’s why I try to remind myself about how important it is to stay focused. When there’s too much to do, too many responsibilities to easily take care of, it’s important to prioritize. Thanks, Betul, for sharing your story and for the comment.

  8. This is a good post. Everywhere I look today people are ignoring their mortality. They are only interested in temporary pleasures. Despite of all these technology, the quality of time and life is reducing significantly. There is no depth in most people I see. They appear to be happy on surface.
    I like your idea of traveling. I think that is the best thing one can do with their time. To see the beauty of the world. Going to various places will make one wiser. Because as we see more of the world, our perspective widens. We start understanding our place in the world. We start seeing how tiny our problems are and how big we make them in our minds.

    1. I often tell Americans that they should try to leave the US. Life is so complicated in America! And so stressful too! People, elsewhere, it seems, care less about their jobs (and thus money and status and such) and more about quality of life. I truly miss the fact that I no longer live so internationally. I have a feeling that I’m about to put a plan in place that will free up more time for us to truly experience life rather than being pushed along by really strong and external forces. Thanks so much for your insightful comment.

  9. It sounds like your dream is a lot like many Americans – be stable financially, have some time with friends, family and self (not in that order) to be able to appreciate the gifts that don’t have a price tag attached. I’m there, my friend – so there – and if there were options that included the healthcare I need and being able to move all my pets, I’d be gone.

    To be blunt – the “American Dream” is gone. You can’t live off minimum wage. Hell, you’re lucky if you aren’t in debt that’s more than a year’s wages, and that’s IF you have a solid job with benefits. Let’s not even gt into housing, antibiotic laden foods, commutes, and the contant “cramming it down your throat” advertising. I don’t intend to sound negative, there are some really amazing parts about this country as well. It’s just that we’re losing them as we cater more and more to the people who don’t appreciate them.

    Honestly, I would hate to see you go. I think we need more people like you to speak up and be here. BUT – I’m one voice and I’m not living your life. Do what your heart calls for, and find a more peaceful way to live.

    1. My parents, who are retired, have pensions and live very comfortably. How many of us Baby Boomers have anything like that to look forward to? To live the sort of life we’d like to live, we’ll have to think outside the box–retire elsewhere or live more communally to share expenses. We have a Trump in the White House because there’s so much anger and frustration and bitterness out there. I worry about the future of the country. Don’t worry. Even if I go, I’ll still write and publish here. With the internet, it doesn’t matter where people physically reside. I always enjoy your comments and this one is no exception!

  10. I’ve always said there are two types of people: those that find happiness where they are and those that seek happiness where they believe it is. I would’ve lived a different life if any of the details would have changed. I’m facing a similar decision and I am torn. Good luck.

    1. If you’d like to share the details of your situation, we could discuss it here. I also believe there are two types of people, but my categories differ from yours: Those who are too timid to do anything really unconventional and those who are risk takers. I’ve a risk taker by nature. When I feel that I have to have a change in my life, I make it happen. That’s how I ended up living in five countries. Who knows, maybe my wife and l will be living someplace else in the near future? Thanks for your comment. And good luck to you!

      1. I retired at 41 several years ago and my youngest child moved out. We live on a big ranch and the isolation is too much. I want to be closer to an intellectual community and city with more medical services. Additionally, the climate up
        North is better for my physical ailments. Then… My grown kids are here, as are my parents, who have always been close. I’m a risk taker while he is not. I’m a gypsy he says, which seems fair.

      2. You’re describing a tough situation. You seem very conflicted. I feel a little reluctant about advising you on which path to take. I will say this, though. Perhaps there is some form of compromise? Could you live in two different places? I mean part of the year in one location, perhaps away from your husband and family and closer to those things you feel you need to have, and part of the year closer to those you know and care for? I’ve long dreamed of being able to spend half of the year in America and the other half in some other country. I think finding a solution that gives you the best of both worlds would be fantastic. I try to avoid thinking in either/or terms. I try to avoid putting myself in all-or-nothing situations. Just my two cents. My thoughts are with you. I can really relate to your situation…

  11. I think you answered your own question in your title. Your quality of life MUST be your top priority. If you’re stuck in a rut and need something different, do it and never look back. It doesn’t mean that change has to be forever – the only thing that’s forever and unforgiving is death. If you died tomorrow would you have lived life to its fullest?

    Financial security is great and all, however it’s not worth giving up life in all of its beautiful mess of risks and lessons that you give up by staying in your comfort zone.

    Something that has helped me and many others is an exercise called fear setting- a way to visualize the worst possible outcomes that could happen to you so you’ll be less afraid of taking action. What if you move to Egypt and after 6 months you want to move back? You’ll never wonder “what if?”

    Thank you for your post as many of us are considering these same things everyday. I wish you to find clarity this week. Namaste.

    1. Namaste to you and thanks for your comment. I won’t have to worry about moving to Egypt and not liking the place. I lived there for seven wonderful years and am married to an Egyptian. The thing that might be different this time is that we wouldn’t likely be living in Cairo. When I look back over my life, the most wonderful times have been those when I took a risk, moved off to some far-flung spot, and used the opportunity to learn much about myself, the world, and other people. I feel that such a moment is coming again. I don’t know. I lived too long outside the US. I’m an “American,” I suppose, but what, exactly, does that mean? There’s a part of me that needs to periodically shake things up. When I stayed in Egypt during the uprising of 2011 when all other non-Egyptians were leaving, I never felt more alive, more invigorated. I understand your “fear setting” technique. Most of us generally overstate the danger that some action we might take entails. Most of imaginatively envision the worst when, in the vast majority of cases, nothing like the worst ever takes place. By the way, I’m going to read some of your blog. Your comment suggests that you are a good writer and are interested in the type of things this blog covers. If you’d be interested in doing a guest post and maybe even becoming a regular writer and would like to discuss all this, reach out to me at troyheadrick@gmail.com. I assist Bogdan–the blog originator and “owner”–find new writing talent and we are currently looking. Thanks, again.

    1. I totally agree. There are times when we have to throw caution to the wind and just go beyond our comfort zones. We only go around once. We want to end up having felt like we’ve demonstrated at least a little courage. Thanks for your comment.

  12. “Right now, neither one of us is very happy. And we know it boils down to us not feeling very empowered or free.” Dang, this resonated with me, as my husband and I are in a similar space right now. There are situations that need to be resolved before we will be more free, and taking even the tiniest of steps toward those resolutions helps pull me out of my funk. I wish you all the best in 2020!

    1. Hi, Janet. Sorry for the lateness of this response. I decided to mostly live “offline” during the holiday season and was quite successful in achieving this goal. Unfortunately, being off computers has made me late on a few things.

      Fear motivates so many people. It’s fearful to do something that seems weird or unconventional, but we have to get past that fear. Once we get to what feels like a dead end, we have to do something different–even something risky, like taking a chance on a new way of living. This takes courage. (I haven’t written anything here for a couple of weeks or so, but my next piece will be something on living courageously.)

      Yes, make steps forward to where you want to be and go even if those steps feel very insignificant at the moment. It’s taking steps to move in a new direction which will energize and embolden you and your husband. If you’d like to go into more detail here about your situation, I’d be happy to listen.

      I wish you and your husband all the best in the new year.

      1. Thanks so much! I’m laying groundwork for some big, bold changes. Don’t know if those changes will come this year or further into the future, but they will come.

      2. Excellent! I truly believe that we all need to “reinvent”ourselves from time to time as a way of keeping life fresh and ourselves flexible. Rigidity in outlook and behavior is really unhealthy for an individual.

  13. I’m reading the post almost an year later 🙂 but I can still relate to it.

    I think teaching English or writing isn’t a lucrative career in some countries, including mine. Teachers in my country, especially those teaching Arts and Humanities don’t make enough money from one job. They need to do something along with their full-time jobs to keep the ball rolling. I also write, edit and proofread as a side hustle.

    I think the more we run after money, the more it runs away from us lol. So, after reading a book “The forty rules of love” I’ve come to an understanding that life is unpredictable, hence one must not think of the future too much. Some matters must be left in the hands of our destiny and the One watching over all of us. You can travel and still make enough to survive in the world like minimalists do. If you’ve seen the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” you’ll understand how Julia Roberts presents an idea of just enjoying living in the moment. A lot of poor people who live day to day life with no financial security at all are the most relaxed sort of people I think.
    It is good to save money for the rainy days, but it is also good to spend it on things that make us happy.

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