This week has been a tough week. One of the toughest in a while.
Nothing major has happened, but perhaps that is the problem.
Let me explain.
In 1996 I left school, I finished my exams in July and started work in August.
That was 27 years, 1 month and 6 days ago.
In 2014 I started a PhD, working hybrid – some days I’d go into the lab and other days I’d work from home.
In 2017 I started at Spencer Group. This time I went into the office 1 day every 2 weeks and for the remaining days, I worked from home.
In 2019, I packed up my home office (and home) and moved to Ireland to work at Meta. During the first year, I would work full-time in the data centre but then COVID happened and I spent the next 3 years working from home, from my home office.
About 8 weeks ago I got made redundant and didn’t need to sit at the desk in my home office anymore.
After taking those 8 weeks off with the family, I sat down at my desk on Monday with the intention of figuring out “what is next”.
By Wednesday I was struggling.
Now for a random example…
Have you ever seen or met anyone who says something like this – “If I won the lottery I’d still go to work”? They are rare enough but be assured they exist.
Apparently, Luke Pittard did just that. He won £1.3m and “went back to flipping burgers at McDonald’s because he missed his mates”.
Nothing against Luke, I’m sure he is happy and all that – but I find that crazy.
Back to my story…
I didn’t win the lottery, I do have to eventually go back to work and get a job.
But I did get one thing…
I got some breathing space.
After 27 years, 1 month and 6 days of walking along the well-worn path, I have been given some time to figure things out, to do something different.
And this is part that hit me on Wednesday.
So what happened?
In 2014 I started working at home at my desk.
In 2017 I was almost full-time at that desk.
In 2019 I moved the desk over to Ireland but had a break from it for 1 year.
In 2020 I sat back down at my desk.
In 2021 I was sat at my desk.
In 2022 I was sat at my desk.
In 2023 I sat at my desk until I was given the option to not sit at the desk anymore (the big tech layoffs).
And later in 2023, I had the opportunity to do anything – and guess what I did on my first day – I sat back down at my desk.
This time by choice, and by Wednesday I started to doubt that choice.
So what’s the problem?
I, perhaps like many others, want to have a good life.
I guess for everyone that might look very different.
For Kevin, that meant going back to McDonalds and hanging about with his friends.
Well here is the problem.
I’ve spent two decades getting good at computer science-related stuff. And I’ve spent the last decade getting really good at data science and machine learning.
The downside is that you typically need to be sat at a desk to do computer science, data science or machine learning stuff.
This is where my 27 years, 1 month and 6 days of working have led me – to sit at a desk.
You haven’t told me a problem yet!
A while ago I wrote about role models and in there I mentioned two of my role models, Casey Neistat and Alastair Humphreys.
Both are very different people. But they do have some commonalities…
They are both creative. Casey is a filmmaker and Alastair writes books – to say the least. Both of them are adventurous, as in – they do things which are exciting.
Both of them work hard and spend some time at their desks. But they also manage to have adventurous lives too.
And here is my problem…
I can give myself 3 months to not worry about work.
I could give myself 6 months.
And if I really want to push it, I could give myself over a year.
And what did I do on day 1? I sat back at my desk.
Like Kevin, who could be living a totally different lifestyle – I too returned back to the routine.
Now during these thoughts, I am reminded of the many “live your life” style quotes (above).
You know the ones, things like…
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” – Helen Keller
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
And I realised, on Monday – a time when I could have done anything, I did nothing. Nothing had changed. I was like Kevin.
If Helen Keller asked me “Is your life a daring adventure?” – I’d have to say “Not really”. If Eleanor Roosevelt asked me “When was the last time you did something that scared you?” – I’d have to say “It was a long time ago”. And if Gandhi asked me “What actions are you doing?” – I’d say “sitting at my desk”.
But let’s be honest, how many people do we know who would have had better answers?
It boils down to two options, try to design the life you want to live. Or live the life that was given to you. The one that evolved with you over time.
The former, designing the life you want to live, doesn’t have to be revolutionary, but it does involve effort.
For me, I haven’t figured out what that means.
I’ve had a couple of opportunities to do some projects at my desk, and guess what? – I’m good at them.
But given the opportunity to make changes, changes to live more lively – then yes – I would spend less time at my desk.
So if you’ve read this and are thinking that all this seems too absurd, or a waste of mental thought – the good news is – I have made you a list of alternative motivational quotes to live by…
For me, I’m not sure what to do with this yet.
The realist in me knows I may end up having to sit at my desk for extended periods of time. But perhaps I need to figure out the other parts too.
Below is a video, I think you might like it. It partly inspired this post.