Mar 142005

Life is a precious thing.

I realize that it’s probably quite stereotypical for me to make a post about that after losing a parent, but on top of that one of the people on my friends list made a post recently wondering out loud as to how people went through the daily grind of life. She is, obviously, quite dissatisfied with her current situation and not too terribly optimistic about her prospects of improving it any time soon. This post is not, in any way, meant as a dig on her. It is, however, my perspective on just how inconsequential the daily grind is.

Let’s assume, for a minute, that you work a “typical” forty hour week. Let’s add in commute time to that. Being overly generous in that regard, we’ll say that your commute time is an hour each way. That makes 50 hours. A healthy amount of sleep on a nightly basis is 8 hours, so there go another 56 hours in a week.

Now at this point you’re up to 116 hours in a week. Let’s say that you spend another 2 hours every day showering, eating (not fancy meals…just the typical breakfast and what not), and all that other crap that goes in with daily life. There are another 14 hours.

There are 168 hours in a week.

That leaves you with 38 hours left over.

Now that amount of time is obviously going to vary from week to week. There might be times when you have to work around the house a little more than usual, for example (like I did this weekend). If you have children or some similar obligations that is also going to take away from your time. But I think that 38 hours of “spare” time in a week is a very fair number.

Now to some that might seem like nothing. To me, however, it’s glorious. It’s over a day and half. Think about that for a second. If you had 38 hours straight in which you didn’t have to eat or sleep or work, where you could just do whatever it was that made you happy, how much could you cram in during that time? If all you wanted to do was watch movies, you could watch about nineteen of them in a row! How many books could you read in 38 hours? How many concerts could you see? How many games could you play? How amazing would the 38 hour party be?

Unfortunately we don’t have the luxury of taking advantage of all of our spare time at once every week, but if we recognize how much we have and utilize it for the maximum benefit it can be quite rewarding. Now that isn’t to say that we absolutely have to be super productive and totally balls to the walls every spare moment that we have, either. If what you want to do with your time is sit around and stare at the wall, that’s fine. What’s imperative is that you do with your time what makes you happy, and complete. What that activity is doesn’t matter for shit.

R. was a perfect example of a guy that worked his way through the daily grind. When he started with Florida Power he was, literally, a ditch digger. He worked his way up through the ranks staying with that company most of his adult life. When he finally retired from there he was doing pretty well for himself. Even before he retired, though, he made it a point to do the things that made him happy. He would take my Mother on weekend trips all the time. You’d be amazed at how many places you can go in this state for just a weekend. At least once a year they would take a longer trip, spending a few weeks (sometimes more than a month) driving around the country. My Mom also took advantage of this time. During the long car rides she would work on her crafts, because doing that is what makes HER happy. Before he came along, she was a single mother who worked until 2 AM every morning as a bartender. She still managed to find time to spend with her friends, go to Bucs games, be a pack leader for the cub scouts, sell Tri-Chem, paint T-Shirts, and seemingly thousands of other things. I tell you my friends, if you ever think that I’m frenetic you should spend a day with my Mother.

As boring as it might sound to a lot of you, they sucked the marrow of life for every tiny drop that they could. They were pretty happy people as a result.

You are not your job.

I am currently on the positive side of the grind, but it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when I was working 40 hours a week in a factory, going to school full-time, AND doing plays at the college (which I had to do because I was on a scholarship). When A. was very young I worked a lot of overtime with Staples, busting my ass to get into the lower management ranks. That helped me land my first coding job, and despite the fact that the dot-com boom was still happening that job paid me shit. In fact, it paid me LESS than I was making at Staples. It helped me to land another job, though, and when I had to go back to them because that job fell through I was in a position to negotiate an even higher salary. Still not really enough to make it on my own (I was divorced by this point), but an improvement. I continued on, developing my skills and biding my time.

When my current job was pointed out to me, I knew it was perfect. I applied, and despite the fact that I was not the most technically qualified candidate for the job I got it. I had the experience, and the personality, that made me the right choice. Integrity also worked to my advantage in this. I told my current employer that I felt obligated to give my boss at that time a chance to match his offer. It was only fair. Despite the fact that he paid me shit in the beginning and was a horribly unscrupulous business man he hired me back at a time when I was on the verge of going back into retail. It was the honorable thing to do. When he learned about that, my boss upped the ante because he wanted to make sure he got me.

The grind paid off.

I guess my point in all this is really summed up in an old stereotype. Life is what you make it. Poor people can be happy and rich people can be miserable. Sometimes the smile and friendly greeting you get from the person in the drive thru at McGreasy is genuine, while the one plastered on the guy in the Jaguar isn’t. If you want to be happy, you are. No thing and no person can take that away from you. Despite the fact that I have dealt with a wide range of things from chemical imbalances to divorce to damned near poverty and everything in between I have always, at the core, held on to that belief.

No, I don’t want to hear about your “but’s.” As the wise sage Pee-Wee Herman said, “Everyone I know has a big but.”

You are happy or you are not.

You succeed or you do not.

Do or do not.

There is no try.

It’s all up to you.

It really is that simple.

Oh, and if someone ever asks you if you’re a God?

You say yes.

I have to admit to being somewhat disturbed that my life philosophy can be explained using quotes from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, The Empire Strikes Back and Ghostbusters.

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