Wednesday, November 19, 2008
BACK TO WORK
Well, the savings account is finally running out and so it is finally time to head back to work. I started at my former job last week, but am only doing 3-4 days a week there, since our billable workload is not all that great right now. (While I was in the woods all summer, it seems the world economy has collapsed...) Part-time is really fine with me - gives me a little more time to finish the kitchen project and can better concentrate on my teaching gig at Penn too. Plus, I’ve become convinced (it wasn’t hard) that we Americans work way too much. Compared to the rest of the developed world, we get the least amount of vacation time and work the longest hours. As a result, we suffer the worst amounts of stress and sickness. I’m not against hard work – I’m all for it actually – but I want to have a life between bouts of intense work. My real complaint is that work takes up way too much time. Not just the 8-10 hours at the job every day, but the hour or two getting ready, and the hour or two afterwards it takes to unwind. And lets be realistic – its hardly necessary. Those of us in office jobs are lucky to get 4 or 5 productive hours each day, with the rest of the time spent distracted by the internet, phone and email interruptions, snack breaks, and conversations amongst the cubes. We even decorate our cubes as a result, trying to bring our lives into the space where we spend most of it. All this time spent at work hasn’t really earned us much either. Thirty years ago, when working-aged women often stayed home, a single salary could buy a house, one or two cars, three or four kids, and a vacation. You are fortunate if you can do that with both parents working today. And technology doesn’t help – despite all that has been invented to make our jobs more productive, the “curse of work” remains unrelieved, despite the promises of its inventers. If anything, new technology just promotes work-creep, as people are spend nights and weekends emailing and laptoping work. A friend of mine once worked for a huge accounting firm that favored this kind of over-work, promoting only those employees who fully gave their lives over to the company. How sad. The worst is that this overwork then ruins your “free” time too. You get home each night, you’re exhausted, and you zombie out in front of the TV. The weekend (all two days and one night) is spent mostly on ignored chores, and if there is time, squeezing in the sleeping, family time, exercise, cooking, dating, sunbathing, learning, drinking, sex, hiking, reading, volunteering, hobbies, worshiping, thinking, doing nothing, and everything else that makes life wonderful. Family time is minimal, and time with extended family is squeezed into the whirlwind holiday tours which are often more stressful than pleasurable. Once or twice a year (when you can fit it in to your work schedule), you squeeze in a vacation, and often these are spent doing some hyper-active travel, sightseeing, and sped-up relaxation. What goes missing is Play. Play is the anti-Work. Play isn’t video games or movies or sitting on your butt. Play can be hard work, but play is never Work. I consider myself an expert on Play, having spent the better part of 7 months at Play this year. I will write more about Play next.