Friday, June 20, 2008

Fridays Make Me Want to Watch a Movie

I'm guessing that many of you out there have to find a pretty darn good reason to say you've had it with this crazy week, you're spent, it was fun and all... but see ya, I'm heading home to watch a movie. I, of course, without boss or coworkers to answer to, may do so if I so please. After all, I was a champ this week. I got some serious shit done, and so much in fact that my assistant (iPhone) says he can cancel my appointments for the rest of the day. That means I get to lay around and watch a movie this afternoon, guilt-free, in my underwear, thankyouverymuch.

Having a flexible schedule is the custard-cream filling of any freelance existence, and the reason we put up with the epochs of poverty and blows to our fragile self-esteem. In my ex-job, I remember spending hours just staring at my computer, too fried to even move or decide what to do next. I don't know if it's the field I used to work in, a phenomenon of the nonprofit world, or a hiring stipulation of my then-company to work to the point of delirium, but I did it. And so did my friends. We could be found in the building until 7, 8pm... which is to say we were either working too hard or taking too long to get things done.

I can admit that now, in retrospect, because there is a crucial part of understanding personal productivity that comes with working your own gigs on your own schedule: Time is money. No, actually, it's something else: It's easy to do what you love. Or wait, I think it's more that: Many full-timers perform nonsense to fill certain 8-hour days, work like maniacs until midnight on others, and still can't take a goddamn afternoon off once in a while just because they feel like it.

Also, oxygen and sunlight are pretty nice things to have. My health collapsed at one point last year, and I had horrible back pain, headaches, I slept a lot during the weekends, called in sick, and experienced some depression, I think. Nothing was happening in the rest of my life--my life was work. A chiropractor informed me I spent too much time looking at my computer which was just a hair to the right. He gave me a shot of steroids and a prescription for more activity during the day, especially outdoors. Since I needed to be at my desk in case a supervisor came by ("Where were yooou at?" they'd say, with an accusing smile), I didn't take the daily walks I should have and things got worse.

I recently learned that lower-class monkeys who were given the option of high-fat foods overindulged while the leaders, despite being given the same choices, took the healthy, low-calorie snacks. Scientists believed this was a sign of stress eating, since the lower-class monkeys often had to submit to the whims of these rulers, and give up their cozy patch of grass or food on demand. There were no other variables to explain the different eating habits. Just that stress had pushed them to an eating disorder.

I went to see an acupuncturist who undid the damage of the steroid shot and restated that if I didn't get daily activity and fresh air, that I was the one to blame, I had to make the time, and to just do it already. So near the end, I started going for tea, like, 5 times a day and went to the gym at lunch. Telling my boss I had gone for a "walk" was out of the question, but tea and even the gym were things that other workers were doing, so I could do them, too... kind of like the way I've heard people smoke for the guilt-free outdoor breaks.

The kicker is, I went back to work so energized that I was unbelievably productive, and I got out of there at a more reasonable hour as each day went by. So let's see: I was taking breaks during the day, I was leaving work "early"-er than before though still full-time, and I was healthy, happy, and not only finishing my work but coming up with new ideas. Every reason for a boss to hate my guts. If I was not working the same amount or more hours than my boss did, than it was easy to believe that I was not "working hard." I guess this was probably like those monkeys asking for their patch of grass back because they need grass too, you know.

Which brings me to the problem here: Guilt. Worker's guilt runs rampant, it's serious, and it needs to be acknowledged for what it is: Unwarranted, toxic and a contradiction in terms. If you work hard and find a little balance in your life and you become even better at your job, it seems crazy that you should feel bad about it. And you probably don't... Unless someone is telling you should be.

Now, when I feel guilty, it's because I'm slacking, I know it, and I deserve it. Because I say so. So I'll watch a movie this afternoon... and I hope you can, one day, too.

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