Archive for May 2012
“Rather than arriving five hours late and flustered, it would be better all around if he were to arrive five hours and a few extra minutes late, but triumphantly in command.” – Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea Time of Soul
My struggle out of the world of workaholism continues, and is accompanied by withdrawal effects.
For a long time, I have been known by my friends and colleagues as one of those incessantly late people. It’s not just an impression; I am usually a couple of minutes late, sometimes significantly more.
I am somewhat embarrassed to say that in the last couple of weeks people have actually been complimenting me for being on time.
The last fortnight has been really good. Despite being at a conference for the larger part of one week, I have managed to mostly stick to socializing, reading, worrying about being completely unprepared for the two talks I was giving and actually preparing for those talks.
For the first time in years, I have actually finished more than one book in a single week.
One of my best kept secrets is that in a previous life, I was involved in the dirty business of journalism. Together with two friends I wrote for and edited the gossip bi/tri-weekly in our primary school class.
Every couple of weeks (we promised it would be every fortnight, but that was too ambitious) for about two years we would gather roughly 5 or 6 paragraphs of gossip, interviews and other interesting tidbits of information, and arrange it neatly on two sheets of A4 paper. After photocopying all of this on the school copier we would then distribute it among our subscribers. A subscription was 25 cents per edition (each page copy was 10 cents, the 5 cents extra per subscriber was used for overhead). The majority of our class was subscribed. Years later we found out that a fair number of parents also read us because their children would bring the paper home.
After a recent evening in the pub together we dug up our archives. It’s amazing to see how much business sense and creativity we had as 11-year-olds. That said, the quality of the writing is appalling, most of the articles are as short as one or two paragraphs and the spelling makes me cry.
The stories we ran were mostly interviews with classmates and teachers, comments on general human behaviour, news related to the school and general gossip about which girls liked which boys and vice verse (unlike most gossip papers we would usually check before publishing something). One of the more daring pieces talks about the legality of one of the games we played in the weekly gym class. Apparently (or so we had heard) it was very dangerous and outlawed, but we didn’t actually bother to check whether that was actually the case.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am a workaholic. Working is my default state of mind. I pretty much do it whenever there is no particular reason to do something else (and usually even then).
It’s not about the results. It doesn’t really matter what I work on. In fact, I often procrastinate and work on things that aren’t particularly important.
I’m trying to break the habit, with mixed success. For the last week or so, I haven’t spent any spare time working on code. Usually I only manage this during my vacation, when I simply don’t have any access to a computer.
It’s been a relief in a way, but also immensely frustrating. Not writing any code makes me feel unproductive, anything else makes me feel like I’m wasting my time. It makes me feel extremely guilty.
On the other hand, it has been very rewarding to finally do some things I have been putting off for so long. I’ve finally organized the mess in the other rooms of my apartment. For the first time in years, I’ve managed to pick up a novel for more than an hour. In a previous life I was an avid reader, but for the last few years I’ve pretty much only read books when I was away from my usual surroundings.
Michael, we don’t have a lot of time on this earth! We weren’t meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about about mission statements.
– Peter Gibbons in Office Space
Don’t worry, dear reader. I haven’t been inspired by a crappy action movie (and I’m referring to Superman 4 here, not Office Space) to pull some sort of stunt on my employer.
I also don’t actually have a cubicle. My boss is still singular (if only).
But my work is starting to feel like an actual stereotypical cubicle job. It has all become boring routine. I’d rather work on something ambitious that reaches for the sky and tries to change the world, not boring middle-ware. If I was okay with working on something mediocre and non-challenging, I would settle for a stable 9-to-5 job at a local insurance company, where I have coworkers I can actually touch and hang around the water cooler with.