in Everything Else

I needed to write a blog post this morning…

…I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s something to do with self-actualisation. While I use 750words in bursts, the words I write there are private. There’s something about writing for an audience that’s qualitatively different. I guess it’s a different form of communication, even if the means we use to get there are the same.

While I write my weeknotes regularly, they tend to focus on ‘hard’ stuff, the things I’m working on, the places I’ve been. What I often let slide are the things I’m thinking, the things that have inspired me, the relationships I value. So let’s rectify that a bit. Apologies in advance if this feels a little stream-of-consciousness.

I’m writing – or, to be more precise typing – this in my local library. I walk my son to school most mornings and then come here. And then,  until ~10am I ‘work’ on things that are important to me. Whenever I talk to people about money and salaries, these are things on which it’s impossible to place a numerical value.

Until very recently, I checked my work emails as soon as I got up. I knew it wasn’t advisable, but I wanted to ‘be prepared’ for the day. Now I’m learning once again that there’s better ways to do that preparation; getting something under your belt in the morning is important. It’s about doing something that emanates from your own thinking rather than someone else’s. I’ve seen people talk about taking their ‘emotional temperature’ for the day, which I think is a great idea:

Finding my baseline is like checking to see which version of me showed up. There’s some thing which some of us aren’t so good at, but we’re good at other things. Restless me isn’t so good at sleeping, but he can read like a motherf***er. Yelling at him isn’t gonna get him to sleep any faster. (Zefrank, via Vinay Gupta)

Some days I wake up bouncing, and ready to get ALL THE THINGS done. Some days I wake up melancholic. And some days I wake up angry. On days where my emotions are sub-optimal, I find it’s helpful to keep myself to myself and read some Marcus Aurelius or Montaigne.

A couple of people on our team (Michelle and Laura) are based in Germany, so are an hour ahead of me. However, like me, they tend to time-shift their working day to overlap more with the bulk of our Mozilla colleagues located in places that use Eastern Time (GMT -5) and Pacific Time (GMT -8). While I enjoy the slower start to the day, I do find it awkward to balance the need to have meetings between the time my children come home from school/nursery and the time they go to bed.

Working from home isn’t what I expected it to be. It’s better in lots of respects, and worse in others. The thing I find hardest is being ‘present’ but not ‘Present’, if you see what I mean. I have an office in a converted garage separate to the house, but I need to pop into the house now and again to grab something, go to the toilet, or get a drink. Having to turn down playing with your kids on these occasions sucks, but it’s the nature of the beast.

The great thing about working from home is the lack of commuting time and the ability to work from places you choose. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m currently in the library, and I’ll switch to my Mozilla work before heading to the gym later. On Friday I’ll work from places in Newcastle after dropping my wife off at work.

I know some people struggle with the performativity of remote working, but I’ve found that, in general, people treat you in ways that you allow them to treat you. Things that help with that are over-communicating things – “I’m going to be…”, “I am…”, “I was…”. At Mozilla we ‘ping’ each other a lot. If the other person doesn’t respond, then we use an asynchronous means of communication (or find someone else to ask). Setting my IRC status and Skype status to ‘Away’ when I’m having lunch or at the gym helps manage my colleagues’ expectations.

Routines help a lot. As I’ve written before, habits are things you get for free. Every lunchtime we can, upon returning from the gym/swimming, I make eggs and coffee for my wife and we do the crossword together. It makes me feel old saying it, but I can’t tell you how much pleasure that brings me.

One thing that feels a bit odd having just bought the house we’ve been renting for the last few months is that, unlike previous places we’ve settled, this time it feels like we could be here for a long time. I’m not great at sustaining friendships, and I’ve previously been able to justify that by knowing that I tend to change jobs (and move house) every couple of years. But this time feels different. I’m pretty happy in my current role, and everything’s set up for us here in Morpeth to put down some roots. I need to make the effort.

A colleague of mine got married recently and on return from honeymoon said that they had “done some thinking about what [they] want to do with their life”. Someone else on Twitter who I hadn’t heard from since leaving teaching said that they were “still looking what to be when [they] grow up”. It’s an interesting dilemma, as on the one hand, we want to reject the ‘job for life’ approach that previous generations had. We don’t want work to define us. But yet, on the other hand, we struggle with our place in the world, our identity, because the transient nature of our ‘knowledge work’ doesn’t define us.

No matter how many amazing trips we go on, no matter how many letters we have after our names, no matter how happy our family lives are, there’s always something missing. Part of the problem, I think (and I honestly think this) is that we over-educate ourselves. We’re forever analysing situations that should just be experienced. The other thing is that knowledge work tends to be collaborative, but you don’t tend to get the feeling that you’ve crafted something into being.

Since moving house at the start of the year, I’ve started going back to church. The rest of my family never stopped. To be honest, it’s not that I’m a believer and that I’m going for the biblical teaching. I’m going for the community, the feeling of being part of something that’s not your work and not your family. I know there’s other outlets but, for men at least, they tend to be competitive. I’ve put our names down for an allotment, so perhaps there’s an answer there, too. There’s definitely something cathartic about gardening and growing stuff.

So there we are, a blog post of >1,000 words. If you’ve made it this far I’m not sure if it’s enriched your life in any way, but I feel a lot better for having written it and knowing that, at least potentially, other people have read it. :-)

 

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  1. Absolutely nothing wrong with writing for its own sake. I’m pretty sure that’s where most of my blog posts have come from over the last seven years; I always feel a sense of accomplishment after I hit publish, especially if I’m in the midst of a lot of uncertainty or incompleteness in other areas of my life, personal and professional. Even if it takes me away from other tasks at hand (actually, that’s when it’s most helpful), it gives me a little emotional boost that is hard to describe. The audience piece that you mention is what spurs me to continue blogging semi-regularly, even whilst in the throes of completing my dissertation.

    Even if nobody reads it, blogging is cheaper than therapy. :-)

  2. Loved your words – it´s really an inspiring reflection. I never thought about the fact that what I do is knowledge work. Reading your post I realized why I find so much pleasure in cooking and embroidering. I´ve been thinking a lot about how important it is to (re)connect with materiality and how much this is linked to what we´ve been doing to the planet. Your post fed my philosophical whirlwind!