Sitting in buildings until midnight.
I spent the last 25 years of my life sitting in buildings until midnight. I did it willingly because I believed that was what it took to do great work.I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say that I had some really amazing and fun times during those 25 years I spent in those buildings. But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last 14 months it’s that I didn’t have to.
I have to say, I feel pretty stupid. 25 years of sitting in buildings until midnight. That’s what I did with my life. Willingly. Happily. I Face-timed with my children. I placed unnecessary stress and resentment onto my now former wife. And I wasted a ton of time sitting in unnecessary meetings, chit-chatting with co-workers, waiting around for decisions to be made or feedback to be received and physically turning into an unhealthy, diabetic mush ball that over the last 14 months has turned into a rather lean, non-diabetic mush ball.
And here’s the real kicker. My work has never been better. My writing has never come easier. And putting in 50 – 60 hours of work per week has never been less impactful on my personal life. Heck, I don’t really even notice it until I do my timesheets. What’s more, I’ve become prolific. I used to struggle to come up with the standard three options on an assignment. Now I generate dozens. Quantity yields quality, right? Well let’s just say that quantity is no longer a problem. I can work on something for a few hours and then take a break to do some laundry, help my kids with some schoolwork or tool around in my workshop. Then I get back to work with a completely fresh mind. One that is free of all the stress that used to accompany being physically separated from my actual life for 12 – 15 hours a day.
It’s all very strange because I used to love the office. It was my refuge. It was my happy place. It was my escape from the rigors of home life. But I was so filled with guilt. I knew I was using it as an escape. Some nights I didn’t really even have to stay. But I did. Because I didn’t want to go home. When you’re a parent you basically have two jobs. During the day you’re working for the company. And then as soon as you get home you’re taking over for a tired spouse and dealing with kids who want all of your attention and energy which by that time you’re running extremely low on.
Now, I have one job. It’s called life. Sometimes it’s working, sometimes it’s parenting and sometimes it’s building a two-story guinea pig habitat for my six-year old’s furry little friends. But it doesn’t matter because it all runs together. And everything gets done so much easier, better and with so much less stress when I have the freedom to work when, how and where I want.
Will I go back to those horrible buildings if I have to? Of course I will. I gotta pay the bills and make sure those kids and those guinea pigs have everything they need. Plus, I really like what I do. So if that’s the only way to do it then I’ll have no choice but to toe the line.
But here’s the thing that scares me most. After a month or so of getting used to going back into the office again, I’ll probably enjoy it. I’ll have those nice chats with co-workers about what's hot on Netflix. I’ll spend the first 10 minutes of every meeting listening to gossip about upper management. And I’ll keep an eye out for the platter of Jimmy John’s that was supposed to arrive at 7.
It makes me sad to think about returning to that life. I’ve gotten so much out of the last 14 months. I even got remarried to a wonderful woman who I’ve been able to eat lunch with every day and occasionally enjoy a little nookie between zoom calls.
My heart truly aches for the damage that this horrible pandemic has brought to the lives of so many people. But it also yearns to keep this new way of working going. I don’t want to spend another 25 years of my life sitting in buildings until midnight. I did my time. I was a model inmate. I’ve been good while on parole. And I really don’t want to be sent back to the big house.