People who have known me for a long time know that I am a bit of a workaholic. I can’t help it. I don’t really want to work all the time, but when people ask me to cover for them, I just can’t say no. When my boss asks me to pick up extra shifts, I always say yes.
Up until about two years ago, it was because I was, for lack of a better term: poor. I had done some stupid things with credit cards and money during and after college, and I was working like crazy to pay off my debt. At the peak of my craziness, I worked full time as a barista for a certain coffee company and six shifts a week at a restaurant. Some days I would literally work from 6 am until after midnight. It was insane. I didn’t have time to sleep, or hang out with friends or do much of anything.
Then one day I looked at my credit card statement and saw a beautiful thing: Outstanding Balance: $0.00! Then I checked my bank account and there was actual, real money there – more than I owed for rent or my phone! How did that happen? Oh who cares? I’m free!
A few months later, I found myself with the urge to move back to the West Coast (I was in New England at the time) and so I did.
When I arrived here, I did what was normal for me – I found myself a couple of jobs. Five lunch shifts a week at a restaurant, and three night shifts a week at a bar. Perfect. Well, three shifts at the bar quickly turned into six, and the next thing I know, I’m back to working crazy long days. This time, though, the motivation (abject poverty) just wasn’t there. So once the busy summer tourist season was over, I quit the restaurant.
This is a big step for a workaholic like me! I worked five days a week at the bar (one double thrown in just for fun) and life was pretty sweet. I got a dog. I actually had time to walk him! I bought a sewing machine and taught myself how to make skirts and dresses. I knitted baby blankets for my pregnant friends. I went out with friends on my nights off! It was great!
Then the economy tanked, and business at the bar dried up a bit. Rather than fire someone, they cut all of us back to three shifts a week. All of a sudden, this workaholic had four days off! In a row! Each and every week! I’ll admit – it was a bit of a shock to the system. My expenses are minimal (I learned how to live on practically no money when I was paying off my debt, and I’ve tried to keep things simple even though I am no longer bogged down with huge bills) so money isn’t really a problem. I make enough in three shifts to pay my bills each month – the rent, the phone, the dog treats… There’s even a little left over for fun stuff like beer drinking and sewing or baking supplies.
At first, I took full advantage of my new-found free time. I took the dog for long, meandering walks whenever it was sunny outside. I read books. I sewed. I knitted. I baked cookies every week. I tried other kitchen experiments – I made cheese, yogurt, lasagna… I bought a guitar and started teaching myself some chords.
And then laziness set in. I discovered Hulu.com and my productivity plummeted. I found myself sitting on the couch staring at the TV for longer and longer periods. Some days I would only leave the apartment to walk the dog. Sad. Pathetic, even.
This month, the bar is gearing up for tourist season. Next week begins my summer schedule – five shifts a week (with the possibility of picking up one or two more if things really get busy). Suddenly my free time seems more valuable. There’s going to be a lot less of it, after all.
So I’m trying to make good use of my free time again. And the first step is turning off the damn television. I just can’t pry myself away from it once it’s on!
Right now it is mocking me from across the room, as I sit on the couch with my dog curled up beside me, laptop in my lap, book at the ready nearby. It begs to be turned on.
I will resist! I will!
(I’ll try, anyway.)