Twenty past eight

You know, it seems very hard here. Harsh. All the time, work, work, work, money, money, money.” She turned to Andreno. “You are retired, no? You have this pension. Yet, you travel hundreds of kilometers to work on a job with no future. Why is this?”

Better than sitting on my ass,” Andreno said.

She nodded. “This is the thing. In the rest of the world — maybe not Japan, I have not been there — people enjoy sitting on their asses and talking, dancing, playing games. Here, there is no time. You are all too busy making signs.”

— John Sandford, Hidden Prey

A few weeks ago, I went to a business “networking” meeting. One of these things where you spend time talking to other people who run their own business, in the hope of making “connections” and getting more work.

A breakfast meeting, I should note.

Anyway, we’d had something to eat, and were in the middle of a very earnest discussion about how you can increase your client base by networking or something similar, and… my phone alarm went off.

Oops. I’d put the phone on silent — important breakfast meeting, after all — but alarms ignore silence, as they should.

Anyway, I got an exceedingly fishy look from half of the room. I thought at first that this was because I was gauche enough to disturb the power networking flow with a mobile phone noise, but then I took a question from the meeting leader.

Is that your alarm?”, she asked.

I nodded, mildly embarrassed.

She checked her watch. “At twenty past eight in the morning?”

And I nodded, again. “Yep.”

There was disgruntlement evident in the room. As if the whole audience were suddenly the word “harrumph!” made flesh. I waved my hand dismissively, and the outpouring of business networking tips continued as if no interruption had ever occurred. But this conversation came up again, and again, and a third time once the gathering of minds was over.

This got me to thinking. There was a distinct odour of displeasure. Of my getting up at half eight being clear evidence of my lack of moral fibre, of some upstanding characteristic that I lack by not forcing myself out of bed early on, of how being unprepared to work from before the sun rises demonstrates some missing yet vital backbone.

Now, let’s be clear here. I run my own business. Most people reading this aren’t in so lucky a position: you have bosses, and HR departments, and core hours, and so on. But those of you who work for yourselves… why would you not take time to enjoy your life? I don’t think anybody lay on their deathbed and ended their lives with a gasp that they wish they’d spent more time at the office. Spend time with your kids. Read books. Poke around the local market. Buy dates. Go on dates. Get up late. Stay up late when you have a project that interests you, or that you can’t get out of your mind. And when you don’t, go to the library. To the pub. To the museum. Take your kids. Your boyfriend. Your parents. Eat things you haven’t eaten. Or don’t: eat things you like, and be happy doing it. Watch films. Pick flowers. Cook steak. Whatever.

You only get one life.

You really, really don’t need to have it be occupied by stress and hassle and drama if you don’t want it to be.

Stop reading /r/linux, or the comments on YouTube videos, or Ayn Rand books. Stop worrying about whether someone might read your tweets and dislike you because of them. Stop stressing about the advance of jQuery, or the lack of advance of jQuery, or the inevitable triumph of corporatism. You don’t get to do this again. Dividing up your life so that not all of it is work or thoughts about work is not evidence of lack of moral fibre, it really isn’t. Do fun things. Enjoy sitting on your ass, talking, dancing, playing games.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

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