I did a lot yesterday to prepare myself for today. I kept the house clean and made lists. I did laundry and gave my skin a face mask. I went to bed at a reasonable time and set an alarm to wake up similarly.
The lists are the most important and enjoyable preparation I do. In a yellow, college ruled spiral notebook, something leftover from when I had classes to take notes in, I wrote down every goal or to-do thing that has been living in my mental space. Everything that snagged at my anxiety as I looked around my house and my mental landscape.
I came up with 32 things. And then I organized them by category—life, work, health, learning. And then I organized them by time and energy they’d take. And then I organized them by deadline. I picked a chunk of 12 of those things that felt important and realistic to do this month, with a mixture from each category and level of time commitment, and I split them evenly and organized them neatly into three boxes—one for each week left this month. I took the tasks from the first box and split those tasks evenly across each day this week, placing them carefully on days when I could foresee my future self actually, probably, hopefully wanting to do them.
Now is the hard part. I need to follow those instructions. This is where I always fail. I think of other ways to spend my time, things that don’t check any boxes or move me forward or bring me any actual joy. I need to be more robotic and go through the list step by step. I don’t need to get distracted by the weather or my feelings or a miscellaneous thought.
It’s too early to claim any real victories, but I’ve already checked two things—the easy morning time things that I can do before I’ve brushed my teeth and had my second cup of coffee—off my first list: 1) worked on knitting a scarf that has been sitting incomplete around my house for the past three years and 2) wrote something (this).
Here’s a thing I read recently that I think is true:
“We’ve created this idea that the meaning of life should be found in work,” says Oren Cass, the author of the book The Once and Future Worker. “We tell young people that their work should be their passion. ‘Don’t give up until you find a job that you love!’ we say. ‘You should be changing the world!’ we tell them. That is the message in commencement addresses, in pop culture, and frankly, in media, including The Atlantic.”
But our desks were never meant to be our altars. The modern labor force evolved to serve the needs of consumers and capitalists, not to satisfy tens of millions of people seeking transcendence at the office. It’s hard to self-actualize on the job if you’re a cashier—one of the most common occupations in the U.S.—and even the best white-collar roles have long periods of stasis, boredom, or busywork. This mismatch between expectations and reality is a recipe for severe disappointment, if not outright misery, and it might explain why rates of depression and anxiety in the U.S. are “substantially higher” than they were in the 1980s, according to a 2014 study.
I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately. It seems right to want to love your work and find intense meaning in it. Most of us spend the majority of our waking life at work. To do something you don’t care about for 40 hours a week seems crazy and self-defeating.
But for most of us, work isn’t fun. We might enjoy it sometimes, but even us freelancers have to go through the daily slog of email and invoicing and often mundane projects that don’t even attempt to light up our creative brains but do pay the bills.
The article sees the solution to our happiness as working less. Once our culture shifts enough to allows for fewer work hours, we’ll be able to spend more time on our friends, family, and hobbies. That seems a pretty long way off for many of us who have piles of debt and insane rent prices to contend with and a government run by conservatives who are the worst at worshiping Work. Are we doomed to be unhappy until the economy catches up with our humanity?
That’s bleak. I’m still going to try and love my work in the meantime, because even if I’m only doing my job 15 hours a week, that’s still a pretty hefty chunk of my life. I’d like to enjoy that time if I can.
Here are a few things you might want to know about me:
- I live in Michigan and have all 31 years of my life, but I’m planning a move to California this year.
- Related: I like to spend a lot of time doing outside things but I hate the winter.
- I have anxiety and depression and am constantly trying to figure out a better way to function.
- The last band I saw live was Cherry Glazerr and they were great. The next band I’ll probably see is Delicate Steve. I’ve seen him before and he is also great.
- I have a lot of opinions which is probably why I’m here writing a blog about things.
- Related: I think capitalism is a waste of everyone’s time. Ditto the current president of the USA.
- I’m currently reading Swamplandia! by Karen Russell and it’s making me pretty uncomfortable.
- In my day job I do freelance graphic design for social justice focused nonprofits, but I’m getting a little itchy to try something else.
- I think Adventure Time is the best show to ever grace television.
- Here’s what I’m listening to right now:
A short list of things I loved in February that made the snow covered hellscape of Michigan tolerable:
I finished N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy this month and now I want to read everything else she’s written. It was exciting, deeply upsetting at many points, and emotionally dense. She created a rich world, slowly unwrapping it over the course the three novels and dragging you in deeper with each chapter. She describes this future world from several different perspectives as the events piece together and the world and its residents crystallize into something truly magnificent and horrifying.
The band Cheekface knows how to write a serious jam wrapped up in lyrics that cut directly into our collective millennial heart. It’s hard to pick a favorite track from the delightful collection of singles they’ve trickled out over this past year, but “Eternity Leave” is a bouncy lyrical gem that I just can’t get enough of. Their debut album comes out March 20th and I can’t fucking wait.
I’ve been working on perfecting my pita and hummus making skills. I’m still tweaking my hummus recipe, but I’ve used this pita recipe from The Kitchn twice so far and I think I got it just right on my second try. On the first attempt, they turned out a little too dense and didn’t puff up—I think I over-kneaded the dough or maybe didn’t let the dough rise long enough. The second time, I only kneaded the dough for 5 minutes and then let it rise for one and a half hours—they turned out so good! This might have to become a weekly thing because pita + hummus is one of my favorite snacks, and the store bought options are truly awful for the most part.