Yesterday I made my own muesli. It’s not hard, but it made me feel extremely accomplished. I make muesli. I don’t even have to buy my own cereal now. (Also: it tastes kind of great.)
It’s not the kind of thing you can talk about during a review, unfortunately.
Boss: So, we’ve checked your Internet search history and I have a few questions. Why did you spend 20 minutes Googling the phrase ‘extremely tall dogs’ when you were supposed to be conducting follow up calls?
Me: But…but…I make muesli in my out-of-work life! I’m capable, I swear.
Making things from scratch is a reminder that we choose what we do with our time. I have a choice: either I can play Alphabears in a fruitless attempt to earn a Legendary Egg Bear, or I can spend those minutes making muesli, something that will continue to reward me every morning of the week. (In case you missed the memo, breakfast is important to me.)
There’s a reason this blog is called Lateral Movements, and that’s because I sometimes have to go back and forth, to repeat experiences in order to learn a lesson. Life is not linear. It’s more like a giant scribble on a page that crosses over itself more than once as time passes. I used to cycle through similar jobs in a search for one that was right for me before realizing that it doesn’t have to be a process of elimination. In my 20s I was constantly on the lookout for my ‘job soulmate’ – now I focus instead on being in the right job at the right time.
I continue learning what works for me (independence and deadlines) and what doesn’t (putting in hours for the sake of being seen) and use that knowledge to avoid getting sucked back into a profession that I hated in the past, such as telemarketing. What’s consistently important is that my work strikes a balance with my life; that I can come home and pursue other interests, whether that’s toasting cereal or doing a puzzle. That’s why I leave the 9-5 lifestyle, then return to it. Sometimes it suits, sometimes it doesn’t.
My current role has some serious pluses, the most obvious of which is international travel. I decided to cut out all extraneous sources of income that was previously derived from freelancing, because juggling an office job and self-employment was draining. I was left with extra time to do things like develop skills in breakfast cereal creation, but I’m ashamed to say that a large chunk of my time during 2015 was frittered away on the Internet. I read scores of other people’s writing but I was hardly creating anything of my own; I realized that when I cut back on writing my overall motivation waned.
This year my goal is to close the gap between what I like to do in my free time and what I do to earn money (I can’t bring myself to say ‘for a living’ because that gives too much power to a job title). It’s also to spend less time on my stupid smartphone – another job perk that sometimes strikes me as a minus. How both of those goals will play out isn’t clear right now, but I’m working on it. When the same themes emerge time and time again – writing, travel, family, flexibility – it’s probably an indication to make them a priority.
What’s in store for you in 2016?