How my job shapes my lifestyle: a reflection

“We buy stuff to cheer ourselves up, to keep up with the Joneses, to fulfill our childhood vision of what our adulthood would be like, to broadcast our status to the world, and for a lot of other psychological reasons that have very little to do with how useful the product really is. How much stuff is in your basement or garage that you haven’t used in the past year?”

This quote stuck with me after I read it. It’s a quote from an article written by David Cain titled, “Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)“. I’ve always been a minimalist but I’m starting to realize there is a ton of stuff I simply don’t use or need sitting in my drawers, under my bed, and at my parent’s house post college. I tend to hold onto things for sentimental value which makes letting go of what I do have tough. I have this strange belief that keeping these small sentimental items or an old soccer tournament t-shirt will help me stay in touch with my former self by helping me remembering things that would otherwise stay long forgotten. I’m not entirely sure why I place so much value in remembering my old self but I think it serves as motivation to keep developing who I am.

“I’ve only been back at work for a few days, but already I’m noticing that the more wholesome activities are quickly dropping out of my life: walking, exercising, reading, meditating, and extra writing. The one conspicuous similarity between these activities is that they cost little or no money, but they take time.”

Yikes. This scares me. Since working at Automattic for the last 5 months or so, I’ve realized just how lucky I am to be there. I’m home for the holidays and just yesterday I modified my day to go work out with my mom for an hour and a half. Earlier this week, I took some time off to write up half of this blog post just because I was in “the writing mood” (we all know when that mood strikes we must take advantage of it). This statement scares me because so many of my friends and loved ones fall into this. Both my parents work from home now (my dad is self employed and used to have an office he’d go into) but I never grew up in a culture where these things were left behind. I have memories of my dad taking days off for “mental health days” where he would just read, nap, or play video games. My mom would often let me do this with school but I can only think of one time when I actually took her up on it. Perks of having older parents is that they know how important it is to take care of your body and yourself. The things that take time are the important things. It’s so easy to drain yourself all day working, come back after it’s already dark, and not have any time to do those wonderful things that re-energize you. When do we ever have time to be re-energized? The little time we do have seems to be spent on optimizing that time or to forget the fact there isn’t a lot of time but a lot of money in our hands. I think that’s why lyft and uber have become so successful in Silicon Valley where there’s lots of money but a shortage of time. If I take a lyft to the airport, it’ll take 15-20 minutes. If I take BART, it’ll take 45 minutes. If I take BART and take a book on BART, these 45 minutes are now transformed from a waste of time to a good use of time. That small example is one way I’m trying to save money and truly optimize my time in a way that brings me meaning and efficiency instead of just efficiency.

“The last thing I want to do when I get home from work is exercise. It’s also the last thing I want to do after dinner or before bed or as soon as I wake, and that’s really all the time I have on a weekday.”

I love working out. It’s my main escape besides candy (weird, I know). When I worked at a startup for four months, I found myself having neither the time nor the energy to workout. Sometimes I was able to drag myself out in the morning for a run but most of the time I found myself just trying to eek out some basic exercises before going to bed. This was drastically different than my college rugby playing and lifting self that I so loved. Having a job without a set schedule has allowed me to do that again but too many people don’t have that option. It’s absurd the more I think about it that that’s the case. I see more and more people biking to work just to try to go a workout in but what if you loath biking? I sound like a worrying mother but I think the extreme freedom I have with my schedule at such an early age has made me realize how precious it is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fairly routine person but I’m able to make my own routine. I’m able to design my own life in a way that this article shows that most can’t.

“Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.”

I know that feeling of being unambitious outside of work and I hated it. I didn’t realize what it did to me mentally and emotionally until I switched jobs. I used to get a small headache for about 15 minutes right after I left work at my former job at a startup. Every day this would happen. It almost felt like my brain was overheating in the same way your computer does.

So what does this all mean? Time is all we have and I try to balance quick activities like snapping some pictures with longer, time intensive ones like writing letters. At the end of the day, the goal is balance for me. I want to lose track of my time at work and completely exhaust myself because of pure exertion and love for what I’m doing to impact others. I also want to end the day, shut my computer, and jump into an activity that develops me for who I am. We spend majority of our time after college working. It has such a huge impact on you and it’s actually quite strange when you think about it. Why do we spend so much time making money so that we can take time off and then spend the same money? The whole system is incredibly out of whack and leaves us overworked. I am in the rare minority when it comes to freedom of time but my weeks still consist mainly of working. I wonder if the 40 hour work week will change in the future. Is that the next step for man kind?! Time will tell..


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