I agree absolutely with Johnny Rotten. I don't want a holiday in the sun. I refuse your paltry offer of two weeks on a beach (boring leisure) as a break from fifty weeks in the office (boring work).
It’s been about a week and a half since I’ve gone in to work and I feel great. Not being confined to a rigid schedule has done wonders for my mind and body. I’m not spending my nights with that small bit of dread about going to work the next morning. I’m not forced to try and cram my life in to the small stretches of free time that are allotted for me. One of the first major changes to have taken place since I quit working has been the end to my perpetual sleep deprivation. See, my body’s natural sleep schedule has never lined up with traditional work hours. I have trouble going to bed early, so with an early wake up time I never had enough sleep. Every morning started miserably, as my cell phone alarm would play the same tinny music that I've woken up to for years now. As a rule, I started every day tired and pissed off. I carried through my mornings in the office like some sad creature-- the most telling description I can think to offer is "irritable zombie". Now I stay up until about 2 and wake up around 10 or 11 am. After doing this for about a week I no longer spend my days feeling tired and lethargic. In fact I have so much extra energy it’s almost become a problem—I have trouble sitting in a chair to read and write during the day. I played a soccer game last night where, even though I haven’t run for a week, I had some of the best stamina I’ve had in a long time. And I’m starting to lose weight without having made any significant changes to my diet. I get the real sense that this sort of self-driven method of living is healthier for the body and soul.
After all, I think it makes much more sense for a person’s “work” to be varied and interesting. People were not meant to be chained to desks, shuffling papers and staring at screens all day long. I’m still working to refine my schedule and come up with a routine, but here is how my day looks so far:
-wake up anywhere between 9 and 11
-eat fruit or drink juice
-go for a jog
-eat a real breakfast (eggs, milk, etc.)
-do some sort of work until a normal work day ends
-play soccer, lift weights, or play rugby
-grab dinner and/or drinks with friends
-do more work
-read until I fall asleep (usually between 1 and 3 am)
It’s not anything perfect, and as a rule I don’t stick to any sort of schedule too strictly if I can help it. For instance, an old buddy is in from out of town right now so I skipped rugby and spent the better part of the day barbequing and drinking beer and talking politics with him (actually he's Cuban, so we yelled at each other about politics). But that’s the beauty of this sort of self-driven life: I can change the rules when I feel like it. When circumstances arise, when “life happens”, I can just change course and adapt.
At the end of last week I made a short notice decision to fly out to Albuquerque to stay with Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. He was gracious enough to invite me, so I jumped at the opportunity to do some travelling and work for an organization whose cause I believed in-- I didn't have anything holding me back. I actually spent most of my days out there doing work to prepare for an awards banquet, but I didn’t end my days feeling beaten and abused. I was working hard, voluntarily. You can read more about that weekend on my more “serious” blog, American Commentary.
Speaking of work, I give myself work to do. It may sound counterintuitive, but I don’t think I would be happy with a never ending vacation. Work makes people feel productive, useful. My “self-assigned” work doesn’t pay, but it’s work I enjoy, in support of causes that I feel are under-supported in society at large. After all, there’s rarely a paycheck for doing the right thing—but there is a payoff. You carry yourself through your day with so much more vitality when you are the master of your domain, working on your own schedule, for things you believe in. I am working with Iraq Veterans Against the War to help reconstitute the Montgomery Peace Project here in Alabama. I also spend my time writing for my two blogs and reading. It’s a life that works for me, but it won’t be sustainable in the long run. Right now I’m living off the last few paychecks the Air Force will give me. After that I have saved up a small sum of money to keep afloat for awhile—so I will have to find that dreaded thing that everyone has to find: a job. But I’ve known for a long time that I would eventually have to make my way back in to the mainstream world of working for some rich guy to survive, and that’s why I planned ahead. See, debt is a prison, it forces you into places that you wouldn’t ever choose to go otherwise. I have no debt; in fact I have a little extra cash, so I can really take my time looking for a job that's enjoyable and fulfilling. I don’t know where I’ll end up, or how much I will make, or even if life will be easy, but I can guarantee this: I won’t be trapped in a contract for years at a time, I won't stay in a situation I don't like, I will be doing something I believe in, and I will have as much control over my life as possible.
This blog, The Search For the Good Life, will chart my journey outside the bounds of the pre-planned life, in search of a more satisfying existence.