Sunday, October 26, 2003

Modern life is rubbish

Work has consumed my time, my thoughts and everything over the last six weeks. It’s had a peculiar effect on me; I’m not sleeping, I’m suffering from a very uncomfortable frozen shoulder, but more than the physical, it’s sucked my imagination dry and distracted me from the things that I consider makes my life worthwhile; family, friends, music, football. Even trying to write to this site, I’ve sat trying to articulate the few ideas that have permeated the fug but as soon as I sit down the ideas, the energy, and the flow of thoughts all dry up.

Some people get to have their work and their life on the same continuum. I imagine musicians and sportsmen don’t see any real divide between what they do to pay the bills and the rest of their life, but for most of us work and life appear to be very different things.

It’s not right; our lives should be our lives. A linear progression from birth to death during which we do everything we want, whenever we want. Instead, five sevenths of our time we’re diverted into the work cul-de-sac which is full of frustration, politics, incompetence, dealing with people you would normally cross the street to avoid.

It’s a peculiar thing. My ambition at work, and what keeps me doing what I’m doing, is to make something that doesn’t work, work well. It’s because I think I can achieve this that I don’t run away and live in a hole in the ground. But despite this ambition, the truth is, I don’t really care if it doesn’t work. If someone tells me I’m not allowed to see any one of my friends in the future I’d be devastated. If someone informed me that I couldn’t achieve what I want to achieve at work, I’d greet it with a shrug of the shoulders. None the less, I still follow this foolish ambition to make the company I work for, the best it can be.

I could have it all wrong. I work for a company that relies on volunteers to do a lot of its work. It has very clear ethical guidelines that ensure these volunteers don’t exploit the company for their own gain. But the rules are flaunted continuously and people are making money left, right and centre. They should be working for a ‘greater good’ but most are doing it for their bank accounts and egos. I could use the company to improve my personal wealth if I wanted to. I could increase my income by up to 50% by ramping up my expenses on meaningless meetings all over the country. I could have twice as much holiday by taking days off sick or sneaking home when the boss is away. Nobody would bat an eyelid if I did. But with me, if someone invites me to a networking lunch in Bristol, I turn it down in favour of a day in the office trying to meet the company’s objectives. It seems hopelessly naive.

I’m not a blind company man; I just think this is the right way to work. But it causes me so many hassles. My salary is my salary, I don’t claim anymore expenses than I should. So I have a little less to spend at the weekends than I might have. I haven’t had a day off sick since the half term before my A Levels thirteen years ago. So I get five weeks holiday and no more. I put a lot of energy trying to block people who are just trying line their pockets or egos in the name of being a volunteer because I don’t think it helps the company and I don’t think its right. I know some people don’t like me because of it, and I worry about what is being plotted behind my back. I wonder whether it’s really worth the hassle.

On the other hand, I’m punching well above my weight in terms of my role and responsibilities. People far brighter than me at school, who went to better universities, are not doing nearly as well as I am. By doing what I do, the way I do it, I’ve had great holidays in Paris, Barcelona, Majorca, and Italy in the last twelve months and still have Las Vegas to come in February. I watch Oxford play football, and buy records and can still afford to eat. More importantly I have the best group of friends and family I could ever hope to have. Presumably, like I do with them, they stick by me because of who I am and the way I am. If I was different I’d have a different life, with different friends. Perhaps your working life does reflect on your real life in a more profound way than by just paying for it. Given that I don’t want a different real life, perhaps I should stick with the same working life I have.

Maybe modern life is not that rubbish after all.


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