My boss wandered into my office the other day to drop off a few assignments. We exchanged our typical banter – where I express concern over him double fisting coffee and double check his attire and he apologizes for interrupting my day of blogging by giving me actual work to do. But instead of leaving afterwards he sat down and we discussed how we are supposed to live in the moment when our lives are dictated by deadlines.
I have deadlines for copy. Deadlines for photos. Deadlines for giving other people deadlines. I have a window of time built into my schedule for chasing down rogue contributors for projects. I have a set time in my calendar for drinking. (No joke: Friday at 4pm we crack open the Basil Hayden). This begs the question: How am I supposed to live in the now when I already know what tomorrow looks like?
Frankly, I don’t think humans were built to live this way. We are creatures of variety. We enjoy being spontaneous. We celebrate having freedom. We don’t like being tied down –that’s why we invented TiVo. Sure, in the past we farmed 18 hours a day, went to bed when it was dark, got up because a bird told us to. But that was for survival. I don’t commute 3 hours a day to survive – I do it to pay the bills. And that is entirely different.
I admire people who don’t worry about the future. People who quit jobs that make them unhappy without something lined up. People who pack up and move when they feel like it. People who will not be tethered to a vision of what their life is supposed to resemble. The folks who know that no matter what they do – the future is out of their hands – so why stress? It’s going to all work out in the end. I am not one of those people.
With two weeks to find a place I worry about things like mail delivery, where to park my car, what will happen to my stuff if I don’t find an apartment? I have frightening visions of living out of the Subaru and getting ready for work in fast food bathrooms. But the answers are simple: request the post office hold my mail, rent a storage space to house my furniture and dishes, and couch surf at friends’ apartments. So. Why am I still stressing?
Two years ago I met the most fascinating people selling Christmas trees. My manfriend at the time and I popped by the lot 15 minutes before closing. We got sidetracked talking to the guys funneling our tree through a swath of plastic netting. Both did not own homes. And neither had any desire to do so. Their life was awesome the way it was they laughed.
They showed me a postcard from Nepal pasted on the inside of their door – their destination in a month when their season ended. They told me their life philosophy: work hard 8 months a year – selling trees in the winter, coffee in the summer – and take off the rest of the year to travel. They had pictures taped to the inside of their trailer from past adventures snowboarding and hiking. Suddenly the idea of going home to our cushy apartment, decorating the tree and baking cookies seemed … so predictable. So boring.
And that brings me back to the human condition. We don’t want to be fenced in by our choices. Maybe that’s why we keep finding new ways to cut corners, new methods of working smarter. Perhaps that’s why we keep developing new technologies designed to free ourselves from the very things that tie us down. As I type this my iPhone sits to the right of my keyboard.
My sleek little key to the universe that tells me everything I need to know all the time. It keeps me on track; it prevents me from getting lost. Reminders pop up alerting me that I have an apartment showing later today, a birthday call to make in two hours, a concert at 9pm. I had a conversation yesterday with the girl next to me. She questioned how we ever lived without these little glass devices. I have a sneaking suspicion that things were more or less the same – we just didn’t worry so much about what we were missing.