Thursday, March 27, 2008


You know what really bothers me? It's people who act no better than hamsters.

You know, hamsters, those little furry rodents that people, usually children, keep as pets. They live their whole lives in a cage and nothing much changes from day to day. They hit the little valve on that water bottle and water comes out. They hit the food bowl and someone has put the pellets there for them. Sometimes they engage in a lot of activity, making their little wheel go 'round and 'round or scurrying through their little tubes, but they're not really going anywhere. And they eliminate all over their habitat knowing that someone else will eventually come and replace all the filth with fresh, clean wood shavings.

Lately, I've been seeing hamsters everywhere I look, sometimes even when I shave in the morning.

For example, when it is 70 degrees and sunny outside, what would you call a bunch of human beings who are inside a gym loping on a treadmill or an elliptical machine because that is what they always do? Hamsters. They were even in there yesterday morning on the elliptical machines when the gym had no power and the machines therefore had no resistance. All they needed was a little water bottle and a bowl of pellets. Hamsters.

And what do you call someone who weighs himself every day for three years, and by all appearances is just as overweight as always because there has been no change in the diet or the routine of reading the paper while slowly peddling a recumbent bicycle for 30 minutes three times each week. Bring on the pellets. That is a hamster.

And then there is the phalanx of waddling office workers, arranged in a cue outside the building before work, at lunch, and at two breaks during the day, breathing nicotine off-gas along with assorted carcinogens until 4:59 when they shut off their computers, hit the road, and go home to eat and smoke on the couch in front of the television before repeating it again tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. Looks like a hamster to me. Indeed, it looks like a hamster whose health care I will wind up paying for--sort of cleaning out the wood shavings, if you will.

Pointing a few less fingers and looking a little more in the mirror, what do you call someone who does the same commute to the same job and to the same house every day, but expends little or no effort to improve or change the things he finds unsatisfying, settling instead for predictable pellets that will keep him fed but bored. Classic hamster.

Sure, hamsters can be cute when they're rodents. But people aren't pets. We weren't meant to be taken care of by children or "kept" by anyone else. We aren't suited for cages. We are built to seek our own food, to go places outside the cage, to take risks, conquer challenges.

Sure, the Ironman part of my life is not hamster-like, and in large part, I may have taken on challenges and pain like that in rebellion to becoming a hamster and in an effort to feel really alive. But I have said it before and I'll repeat it now. I want that adventure and conquering spirit to infect the rest of my life. I want to NOT settle in any part of my life.

No more pellets.

No more habitrails.

Now what do I do?


BowserTheCat said...

For me it's all about comfort and risk avoidance.

It's easy for me to go to work every day even though my job at this point is not particularly fun or interesting. There's little risk as well.

But, over the last couple of years my wife and I have worked to position ourselves such that we both don't need to work. So one of us has the opportunity to expand our life. Assuming we can overcome the fear of the unknown and uncomfortable we will have the opportunity to move on. I just hope we have the strength to do it; to just do it...

Brent Buckner said...

Hey, treadmills have TV, no traffic (dangerous), conditioned air (chance it may not be as polluted as running next to cars).

Trying something new requires foregoing one's current favourite. One can overspend on search costs.

Kim said...

that's why i have sex with strangers. get out of the norm. live a little ya know? ;)

Curly Su said...

hmm....don't have sex with strangers. you're married. :) but...that's a really freaking hard question, and i guess what you have to do is figure out what exactly it is you're unhappy about, and then figure out what you want instead...and then figure out the quickest way to get from A to B.

sounds easy, right?

Bigun said...

C'mon Grey...snap out of it! While it may have lost some of it's luster, your career path is not for lack of challenges, before, and now during. Your family is great. Your fitness is great. I doubt you have an "extra" full hour in any given day - set the anti-hamster-standard!

Robyn said...

You're not alone in the "Now what do I do?" sentiment. I think becoming endurance athletes teaches us that the boundaries of possiblity really are limitless -- and that new knowledge makes settling in any area SO much more unsatisfying. Just like that first run, bike, swim, taking on the new challenge in other areas of our life is scary!

Donald said...

Of course, the advantage we have over hamsters is that we recognize our cages for what they are. The desire to break out of them is what makes us more highly evolved. Good luck in breaking out of yours.

Liam O'Connell said...

that is my favorite blog you have ever written.

It is all true, I think you need to quit your job, and move to fiji, and never where clothes again !

TJ said...

i hear ya my hamster brother.
the walls of the office do begin to close in at times. but there is a bit of comfort/stability there as well.

21stCenturyMom said...

Most of those people aren't hamsters - they are Cleopatras - Queens of Denial!

That whole 'comfortable job - not exciting - in a rut' thing is hard. You have a nice life. Big house, money for triathlon, money for vacations, nice community, best health club in the world. Who would want to give that up? Making work work and life life is pretty good hamster avoidence. If your job bores you then that's another story. It's a big world full of needs and you have skills and you have interests. You just have to match them all up and toss in a pinch of passion for what you are doing and voila! New life!

21stCenturyMom said...

ps - nice touch with the Andy Rooney pic. Talk about a hamster - is that guy EVER going to retire? Probably not. He has access to a huge audience to kvetch to and kvetching is clearly his thing. So hamster or happy man? You make the call!

Andra Sue said...

I might point out that hamsters are cute and fuzzy...but the people you describe are um, NOT. Hamsters may be feeling a little insulted right about now! :)

My perspective on your question at the end is this: part of the human condition is that you have to work on changing the things about your life you're unsatisified with, yes, but perhaps more importantly you have to work just as hard to feel content with all that you do have.

People like you and I (and probably most of the rest of everyone here) are really blessed and lucky to live the life we lead. The way I look at is that my weekday office life funds all the really fun activities that I do. Without one, I couldn't have the other.

Don't forget, happiness and conentment comes from within, not from without...and one could say that with regard to either having "stuff" *or* pursuing adventure I think. And I know you're not all about having stuff. :)

"If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?" (Dogen Zenji)

Taconite Boy said...

Is andy rooney a hamster? Who Knew

Is left leaning politics are always predictable though...hmmm

monica said...

i bet you've read it. i try to read it at least once a year. i think it's time to pick up coelho's "the alchemist."

Lana said...

I got behind a little over here...but what a treat when I came to catch up! Wow - I love this post! LOVE IT. I second it! I continue to find areas in my life that need to be revamped.