I’m back in Portland for a few weeks, refilling my savings account with a short-term contract job that was too good to pass up (which made the Frugal Franny voice in my head SHUT UP for the first time in months). And while the work itself is not any worse than it was five months ago, the experience of working is a seriously unpleasant shock to the system.
I was exhausted for the first few weeks – a combination of greatly increased mental efforts (finding and fixing a crazy quilt of errors on the project) and not having adjusted back to a work-supporting schedule.
I said yes to all the social invites I received – as I would when I was just here visiting – and as a result did not have one day in the first ten where I got enough sleep. I had a lot of fun, but I was wiped out.
I make jokes about the oppression of work and the rigid schedule it imposes on your life… but it’s not really a joke. Most people are just so acclimated to that schedule as a way of life that it seems normal, and therefore unavoidable.
I spent months with no particular schedule on a daily or even a weekly basis. Other than having payroll deadlines to be meet twice a month, my hours, days, weeks, meal and bed times were my own, to organize or ignore however I liked. Often, those would be heavily influenced by the people I was living with and travel I was doing… but all of those things had also been chosen or determined by me.
I don’t think I have the words to properly convey the joy I took in reminding people that – while they had to go to work tomorrow, go to bed early, leave before the show was over – I did not. I’m quite certain a few people were sick of my shit, and I don’t blame them. But it was often as if I was realizing it for the first time. I DID NOT HAVE TO PLAN MY ENTIRE EXISTENCE AROUND THE NEED TO BE AT MY DESK AT 9AM MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY.
Because it really does take up WAY more time than those 40 hours to be a good worker bee. Commuting time, wardrobe maintenance, meal planning, hygiene, daycare or pet care – the time to manage all of these activities is greatly increased (and sometimes only made necessary) by the demands of a job outside the home. Not to mention the additional work many of us bring home and the stress induced by all of the above.
So now, here I am, week three of this project, and I’m right back where I was in March. Not ‘what do I want to do today?’ but ‘what do I need to do this weekend so I can go to work on Monday (grocery shopping, laundry, etc)?’
But I don’t have to work Monday – I’m off to Montana for a week. A fact which has been virtually invisible to me for the last two weeks as far as daily planning is concerned. Vanished. Overwhelmed by the unaccustomed demands of the work schedule.
A schedule I have to remind myself will be gone again very soon. Intellectually, I know I’m running off again in early October – but viscerally, I feel like I’m back to working a real job again and next week will look just like this week, and on and on forever. And, having recently been removed from that mindset, its return looks like the tyranny that it is.
A rat race most of us have acclimated to. A thing I’m hoping to leave behind forever.