Out The Other Side

I am pleased to say that after almost three weeks of non-stop work on the project I talked about two posts ago, we are coming towards the end of it.

It has been a difficult life for some time anyway, but I do now feel like we can look forward to better times…

Being on the other side of such a project is often an interesting feeling. You think that you’ve worked incredibly hard, and you’re proud of your efforts (usually) and the coming financial reward for it also makes you feel like it was worth it.

But, if you’re anything like me, with no real job security and no possible alternative, your joy is short-lived. The immediate question, the one posed by Jed Bartlett so often in The West Wing: what’s next? – springs straight into your consciousness.

I wish my brain activity towards things like this – a near-permanent state of activity – was matched in the physical realm, which is, these days, an increasingly longer and longer time spent in front of the computer screen. I didn’t think that was possible, but it is. I could now be in front of a screen for 15 hours a day, on and off. That can’t be healthy.

Something else which isn’t healthy is my diet, which I’ll probably come back to in a different post.

Emerging from this tunnel-like gloom, which was deepened by the Hair Crisis of September 2014, one immediately begins to see another tunnel. What we’re currently in is the brief glimpse of light prior to going back in again.

I write this post, freezing cold, in my home. I haven’t written a post at home for ages… mostly instead writing them in sheer repetitive strain agony on the train. This is much easier, except for the cold. Did I mention it’s cold? I’m not sure how we instantly went from summer to winter, but it was around about this time last week. There, too, we are out on the other side. I buried my head in the sand for the last month, basking in September’s warmth, with the continued t-shirt wearage. It came to a crashing halt last week, and it’s not coming back.

But I must resist the lure of the central heating. The energy companies, too, want me on the other side, but it is too soon. Last year I survived until November before first use. I must do the same this year. It costs too much to heat such a small space. The difference for them is that we are currently out in the sunny outdoors, but know we are hurtling straight long into a six month long tunnel of frigid gloom. Are we allowed to use that word any more in that context?

Who knows. Who cares. Language is fun.

Alas, it is early morning on a Sunday, and I’m wide awake. I also have to go into work in a few hours so that we can stay on top of things. Rubbish.

I don’t care much for what I’ve found on the other side after all.

Still, only 73 days until Christmas

The Easter Working Weekend

It’s Easter Saturday. It’s currently 5:41am. I have been awake since 5am.

What is my life?

It’s a question that, when enunciated with an American accent, can sound incredibly irritating. Indeed, it’s not even a question I would dare to use in public, for fear of rather odd looks in return. But, at the same time, it is actually quite accurate.

My life, as I have known for the last few years, is basically split into the work and non-work sliver. In the non-work sliver I read political websites, playing increasingly less and less guitar, listen to Radio 1, and watch programmes I missed on catch up TV.

The Easter Weekend gives a brief window to change that. And, this year, I decided to give myself an extra reward. I told myself for several weeks in advance that I’d be having the Thursday before Good Friday off too. This would give me five consecutive days off. Wow, wow, wow. My brain said. I don’t get many of those with no consequences. OK, Christmas can be up to two weeks off, but Easter is at a nicer time of year. And the weather certainly has been good so far.

After two days of my five day weekend, how is that shaping up?

Well, on the Thursday I ensured I was “working from home”. The main reason was to sit around all day and await delivery of my new Virgin Media super hub (cost £6.99). In return, I really did sit around all day. Little did I know that the courier’s rule of “between 8 and 6pm” was almost literal. The delivery finally arrived at 4:30pm. This stressed me out incredibly.

Why? Because, after all that waiting, I had to go and do some work anyway. 4:30pm arrived, and I immediately rushed into the office to do a mail merge for my business. This involved a hefty queue in the post office, a ludicrously priced purchase of stamps, a run back to the office, printing, folding, sticking.

Then at 5:15pm my carriage awaited. To go off to my next job, which had been sitting, waiting, all day.

Back home at 8:30pm, I then proceeded, for the next two hours, to do some remote technical support for a new client I have won, which I had promised to do after 6pm (best time when the computers are not in use…). Along with the bits and bobs of work done during the day, I think I managed to still do a full day of work, even when I said I wouldn’t.

Good Friday. In the office at 8am. Having an informal discussion with someone we want to take on but don’t know if we can afford it. Then doing more work, general discussions, tidying, a small amount of fixing and minor catching up.

Home for 3:30pm. Back out again immediately because I had to do shopping. Back home to do more remote fixing for new client, who seemed to be working on Good Friday properly. This is not good.

Easter Saturday. The plan is to digest my company’s “Quality Management System” today, and do all the things I should have been doing over the last several months.

This is not a non-working weekend by any stretch of the imagination.

The problem is simple: work is my life. Work is my identity. Work is where I will – hopefully – continue to make a decent return on the time I am investing. Not that I have any time to spend what I’m earning…

In the meantime, some of my customers, both home and work, continue to send me e-mails. I do not reply to them. I cannot show to them that I do not use my holiday weekends as holidays. I cannot open the door. The problem, though, is that some of these e-mails are urgent, and leaving them till Tuesday will probably cost me business. That’s not fair on me at all, but it does seem comical that I try to maintain a strict outward show of protecting my holiday time jealously, while secretly working all the bloody time.

There is something wrong with modern life. We are entirely responsible for remoulding our work culture into an ethos of “(s)he who works longest, looks best”. We have had our evenings and our weekends invaded with e-mails and text messages and now WhatsApp and other conversations. We are all guilty of replying to them, let alone just reading them, and allowing our work to also take over our alleged free time.

Part of this influence is just the nature of capitalism – and how it slowly is engulfing our very identities – for the pursuit of more and more. It’s starting to twist to the point that now the people who say bold statements as “I do not answer the phone after 5pm” or “I do not read my e-mails at weekends” are looked at as a bit weird. We invest bizarre justifications such as “But why not deal with it, because if you don’t it will only make the morning 100 times more difficult!”

I also know people who set an out of office autoreply just for the weekend. Imagine that… we have degenerated so much as a work culture now that we have to have an actual system that reminds senders that their e-mail sent at 9pm on Friday might not get a response until Monday…

Maybe – just maybe – Easter Sunday will actually be a day off.