My alarm goes off at 7.30am, I press the snooze button for half an hour, sometimes more. I drag myself into the shower, often leaning my head against the tiles. I get dressed, I walk to work. I sit at a desk for 8 hours, sometimes more, staring at a screen. I get the bus home. I eat, I watch a movie or write, I go to bed. This is my routine (and countless others’) 5 days a week. I don’t hate my job, most of the time I enjoy it, but I am not passionate about it, and committing the biggest part of your life to something you are not passionate about can be horribly depressing.
Carpe Diem! Is what Robin Williams liked to say in Dead Poet’s Society but that’s not always easy when you have a mortgage and bills to pay. I would love to wake up one morning and declare that I am off to seize the day and everything else be damned, but I have responsibilities and am maybe not as free spirited as I like to think I am. However, there are other ways to seize the day and, as I have recently re-learnt, it is all about perspective. I had a teacher at school who actually made us stand on our desks one day to get a different viewpoint, to remind us to look at things differently, just like Robin Williams had. We all thought it was ridiculous until we did it, and strangely everything did look different from that perspective. The familiar walls of the classroom didn’t look so familiar, the view from the window was completely different, and, in turn, we felt different.
I forgot this technique for many years and before I went on sabbatical last year, I was working on average 10 hours a day, 5 days a week and regularly lamenting the fact that I didn’t have time to do ANYTHING! No time to go to a yoga class, no time to catch up with friends and family, no time to write, or go to the cinema, just simply no time. And what was worse – a lot of the time I spent at work, there wasn’t actually a lot for me to do, I just had to be there in case anything happened so I could sort it out. When I look back at myself now, I am flabbergasted by my attitude. The truth is I had so much time but I just didn’t know what to do with it. In my downtime at work I would spend hours learning about the world via the ‘random article’ link on Wikipedia (of course I don’t remember a thing), or on Facebook. In the evening I would go home and watch TV. I watched hours and hours of soap operas and told myself I had no time. When I returned from my sabbatical I promised myself I wouldn’t get stuck in the same trap, but of course I did…then I remembered I had something special, my sabbatical had taught me a way of looking at life from a different angle, I had even remembered my teacher’s advice and had taking to doing headstands when the mood took me. I reassessed my daily grind and realised it wasn’t so bad. In my usual geeky way, I did some sums. There are 168 hours in a week. Most people work for between 40-60 hours of them, and sleep for an average of 6-8 hours a night so if we take the average of 50 hr work and 49 hrs sleep, that leaves 69 hours in the week to play with which sounds like a lot of time, and fun, to me!
I have now almost stopped watching TV, except for The Conversation, of course, and I avoid surfing the net aimlessly. I have achieved so much. I now write every night so I actually have something to show for my free time and meeting up with friends is much more of a pleasure because I feel as though I have earned it. I can’t believe I’m about to admit this but I also have a technique for dealing with boredom at work. I look to my working role model, CJ Cregg from the West Wing, and simply ask ‘what would CJ do?’ And then pretend I am CJ, I’m certain she would always find something productive to do.
For the first time in my life I feel as though I am living deliberately, making use of the precious time available to me and striving to achieve a goal. I am also making more time for family and that is making me feel more alive and grounded than ever. All these things and making the most of every opportunity afforded to me, speaking to people I don’t know at a party instead of shyly cowering at the back, accepting invitations, even doing some exercise has given me a new perspective and joie de vivre. So, oh captain, my captain – myself, I salute you.