I have a newsletter — have you subscribed, yet? If not, here’s a sample of what you’re missing. It’s an every-so-often brief compendium of items I’ve read, or written, mostly about quitting/leaping/reinventing, etc., sometimes about other things. Sign up via the link on the homepage — I promise you won’t regret its appearance in your inbox (if you do, you can always cancel). Today’s edition is below.
Taking Time to Enjoy… Time
I was watching an episode of The Getaway on Esquire TV last night — the one with Aisha Tyler in Paris. First of all, I love how she puts away food. She’s in Paris, and she eats with gusto. She even comments on that fact, saying while home in LA basically all she eats is salad because she’s on TV. But in the City of Lights, she does it right. No salads. Just all the cheese and dessert and… near-raw pigeon… she can force down her gullet. That’s a dame I want to hang with.
But something else she said struck me as well. She was talking about how the French place such a value on leisure time. I didn’t remember this from my only trip to Paris back in 1999, but everything pretty much closes down on Sundays. It forces everyone to sleep, to read, to take a walk, to have sex, to drink lots of wine (not necessarily in that order) — to do anything but something. Tyler made note of it because Americans will often become frustrated with the pace of life in Europe, instead of embracing it while traveling. If you’re dining out, you won’t get the check until you ask (beg?) for it, because it’s assumed you want to stay and hang out and enjoy the experience. It’s the same in my favorite country in the world, Argentina. They still close up shops in the middle of the day for siesta. Dinner doesn’t start until after 9 pm, and if you leave a restaurant in under three hours there’s something wrong with either the food… or you. It’s an entirely different way of living. And it’s lovely.
Fast-forward to the next day, and I run across two articles that discuss this exact subject: the beauty of slowing down.
A friend on Facebook belatedly posted this article, “Why We Humblebrag About Being Busy,” written by Greg McKeown in June in the Harvard Business Review. In it McKeown talks about what he calls the “more bubble”:
This bubble is being enabled by an unholy alliance between three powerful trends: smart phones, social media, and extreme consumerism. The result is not just information overload, but opinion overload. We are more aware than at any time in history of what everyone else is doing and, therefore, what we “should” be doing. In the process, we have been sold a bill of goods: that success means being supermen and superwomen who can get it all done.
There’ve been plenty of articles, and entire books, written about why everyone feels the need to tell everyone else how busy they are. This is a compact version of that, and provides good advice on how to become an “essentialist” — someone who unclutters life, not just the closet.
And in the Los Angeles Times this past Monday, an op-ed by Sara Horowitz, “America, Say Goodbye to the Era of Big Work.” This is mostly about the rise of the freelance economy, but she points out that this is happening not just because people can’t find jobs… but because people want to get off the hamster wheel.
For the past century, in other words, remuneration defined success. For many workers, it still does. However, among the growing ranks of independent workers, labor itself is increasingly its own reward, as is the opportunity to establish a work-life balance that was unthinkable during the Era of Big Work. Millions of freelancers are working when they want and how they want. They’re building gratifying careers but also happy lives.
When I quit my job, it was NOT because I wanted to simplify my life, get off the hamster wheel, and live with less. I never would have imagined I’d want, or enjoy, ANY of those changes. In fact, I’ve felt bad at many points over the last two years for the fact that those three things have happened. But oddly enough… when you’ve lived with that change for two years… it starts to become normal. And you start to enjoy it. Maybe someday I’ll want to go back to permanent 9-5 work, maybe someday soon, even.
But for now, I’m really starting to embrace the fact that I can take the dogs to the beach in the middle of the morning when there’s no traffic and nobody else there. I’ve stopped trying to make excuses for myself when people ask me what I do all day with all my “free time” now that I don’t have an employer (and yes, people ask me that, even though, yes, I have work).
I know how profoundly fortunate I am to be in a position to take this time away from the hamster wheel. I’ve worried on and off if I’ll get too used to it, lose my ambition. But then I get out my camera and go for a shoot on an overlook above the city while everyone else is commuting. I’ve given up a lot, including money and prestige, vacations and dinners out. Still — I think maybe I’m finally starting to think more like a Parisian. My life is likely more than half over, and I’m really, really glad that I’ve discovered before it’s too late that leisure and down time are just as important, if not more so, than than the pursuit of Big Work.
If you like what you’re reading so far, please do pass it along via your favorite social media!