“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”
This line is from a poem by T.S Elliot called “The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock”.
The man who speaks this quote is one who carries deep regrets.
Prufrock is a middle-aged man who tries multiple times to ask out a women but never has the courage to do it. Every night he goes home, sits on the couch with his cat and his cup of coffee and calls it a day. This sad man measures out his life in coffee spoons, which makes me wonder, how do I measure my life?
Do I measure out my life by the amount of friends I have? The money I rake in? Or the amount of stuff I accumulate? Think about it, how do you measure yours?
In my recent past, I was laid off from my job, the one that meant the world to me. One day I am a professional with a title, the next day I am a nobody. Getting laid off is one of those experiences that make me measure my life.
Previously, all of my focus were placed on my job. It kept me busy enough that I never wondered to explore anything else. When that was taken away, it felt as if my life went with it. The couple days that followed were brutal. I had no idea what to do with all the free time. Fortunately because of this uncomfortable gap, I was able to take a step back and reflect on how I ended up focusing entirely on my job. The biggest reason for my over-focus was my search for meaning. My job was a place where I learned about the world around me through what I do. My job was a place where I worked with people from different backgrounds and built something beyond myself. My job gave me meaning.
Now that meaning is gone, I was left with two things of incredible value: the experiences that I’ve accumulated and the relationships that I have built along the way.
I don’t just want to measure my life with work, I want to measure out my life by the richness of my experiences. There are plenty of activities I want to experience- pedaling on the undulating waves of the Amazon River, trudging through the fluffy snow of the Whistler Mountain, and sliding down the hot and burning sand of the Sahara desert.
I don’t just want to measure my life with work, I want to measure out my life by the time I make for others – weekends dedicated for family bonding, spontaneous coffee chats with a stranger, the evenings immersing in a philosophical discussion with a dear friend.
The day after I was let go, I received a dozen messages from my co-workers. Surprisingly, none of it was about my work. They were of the memories we had shared together and more importantly of how I had made them feel. I want to measure out my life by the impact I have on others.
Thanks to my recent experiences, I have refined my core values. Every step I take forward will be focused on creating rich experiences and building long lasting relationships.
I don’t want to be like the man with the coffee spoon who runs away from life. I want to live my life with purpose and meaning. Meaning from and beyond work.
Imagine if you were to pass away tomorrow, what would you consider as your legacy? What has your life been, what do you regret, and what are you proud of? How we measure our lives is the way we should live because we never know what will happen to us tomorrow.
I would like to leave you with this question: how do you measure your life?