It’s a Thursday morning, this feels like it would work better on a Monday morning and I’m still hoping for the magic moment to come when I feel like I’ve got my shit together. Not really holding my breath, but you’ve got to have hope.
So in conversation with a friend this week, it was suggested that the logical next step in this journey of mine would be to actually define some goals. I think in my own roundabout way this is what I’ve been working towards, it’s just taken me a while to realise. I’m still pretty new to the long term planning business, but I’m fairly sure it’s difficult to make progress towards a goal without actually knowing what it is. I’ve enjoyed some luck on occasion, but that would probably be pushing it a bit far. Which is largely what I’ve been doing. Which may go some way to explaining why I don’t live in a space castle doing mad science. Swings and roundabouts. Or not, as the case may be.
In a moment of what can only be described as convenient timing, I was having a conversation with another friend along similar lines. It started as a conversation about work, but it became about why they were happier in a new job than they had been at their old one. The thing that surprised them that it was for a reason they hadn’t expected it to be, namely Security. It led me to an unexpected realisation of my own. It’s not something I’ve ever craved. I’ve always been pretty lucky and never really lacked for it, but I’ve never been scared by changing circumstances. When I moved up to Nottingham a few years ago it was with a bag full of stuff, a few quid in the bank and the goodwill of some friends to put me up for a few weeks.
Even as recently as just before Christmas, I was ready to leave my car keys and badge behind and sinply walk away from my job. I’m mostly glad I didn’t, it’s definitely better to be in work than out of it. It’s something I’ve always been wary of, as my Dad has done just that several times over his working life. It is said that wisdom is learning from other people’s mistakes, but there are times I wonder if qctually he’s right and I’m the one making mistake. I suspect he might say otherwise.
All this hardly makes fora tale of tragedy, I know. Just by virtue of being able to spew forth on the internet, I know that in the grand scheme my problems are relatively trivial. The issue comes in that I’m always sub-consciously looking for a problem to solve. I half jokingly say that by the time I can speak about a problem, for better or worse I’ve already solved it in my head. For day to day problems this has worked great. Now I seem to be moving into the bigger questions about life it seems to be showing it’s weakness as an approach.
I have an attitude that I think has broadly served me well. I’m not sure if I’ve always had faith in my own abilities or just an astonishing level of ignorance about the severity of potential consequences, but I’ve never been phased by the unknown. One advantage of not investing too much in any particular plan is that there isn’t too much trauma when a plan doesn’t work out. The downside to this is that I’ve never pursued, over the long term, something that I’ve really cared about. My thought processes have always revolved around the idea of ‘now’.
I think the thing that has made the biggest contribution to my discontent recently is my general work life. There’s been a few issues that I’ve been able to put my finger on recently, but in reality it’s a much more fundamental problem than that. I don’t want to work a 9-5 job for the rest of my life. I’m normally a big fan of technicalities, so I should point out that I work 7/8-3/4ish, so whilst I’ve met the requirements of the goal the spirit is somewhat lacking. Some work to do on this. I read Factotum by Charles Bukowski a couple of years ago and at the time I thought it was quite defeatist, even by my cynical standards. I still think it’s pretty negative, but I’m beginning to see what he was getting at. I still want to drive forward to something better, but I think knowing where I am now is important for when it comes time yo measure progress.
I’ve spent the majority of the last 14 months working on a particular project at work. It’s been pretty intense at points. To illustrate, at one point I submitted a timesheet clocking 97 hours in a single week. This project was practically completed before Christmas, but the paperwork has just been finalised. I wasn’t really expecting much by way of thanks, but the whole team received an email that started with “Good News!” I’m not sure if that was a deliberate understatement, a lack of understanding or a lack of care. Either way, it annoyed me. It wouldn’t take much for someone to say that they appreciate how much work actually went into a piece of work. Suffice it to say I won’t be in a rush to go above and beyond in the near future.
My approach to work has always been that I work to live. I’ve never really questioned the shape this would take. A full time job is 40 something hours a week where my time isn’t my own. With this as one starting premise, no particularly specific qualifications and no single driving passion I’ve defaulted to seeking as much money as I can for the time that I spend at wherever I’m working.
Money for it’s own sake has never really bothered me that much. Don’t misunderstand, I’ve always preferred having it to not having it, but it has never been about the money. Money to me is the freedom it gives me to do what I want to do with the time I’m not selling. I’m sure there are people that genuinely love what they do for work, but if such a job exists that I’d love it I have not found it yet. And I’m pretty sure it won’t operate on a 9-5 basis!
I started this blog because I enjoy writing, for a variety of reasons. Does this mean I want to be a writer? I’m not sure. A friend once joked that if all men were guilty of collecting something, then I collected skills. I’ve got a history of getting to the point of being able to do something vaguely competently and then getting bored of something. I may not be Jack of All Trades, but I’m definitely Alex the Attempter of Many Things. I think the closest thing I have to mastery of a skill is getting myself out of weird situations. My downfall is that it’s normally entirely my own fault that I’m in them.
Having come to the realisation that I don’t simply want to chase money further and further up the ladder, I have to ask myself a fairly innocuous sounding question: What do I want instead? The simple answer is more freedom. The more difficult answer is thr one that includes what I want that to look like and how I’m going to make it happen. For now, to paraphrase slightly, ‘Freedom means Freedom’.
As always thanks for joining me on what appears to be becoming a voyage of self discovery. As some of you may know, I’ve never been the best at self-awareness, so if you feel like you’ve got any insight it would be more than welcome. Some of my best self-development has come from other people. Leave a comment, drop me a message, send me a letter. Whatevet you prefer, it’d be great to hear from you.
Alex, The Self Awarestranaut