On Work and Time

I’m growing accustomed to that rhythm of a working day. I can predict almost exactly how long it will take me to become quickly distracted (i.e. after my first couple of hours), the point at which my stomach will rumble in the afternoon for a lunch break (i.e. at approximately my day’s halfway point), and the anticipation of the day’s last thirty minutes, the time where mental fatigue clouds most efforts to continue on a single project.

I’ve been trying to pay close attention to the fatigue I’ve experienced after an office day. It fascinates me, this mental malaise.

I had somehow thought that at the end of each work day, I would still have many more hours to come home and create; I had this fantasy that I would come home to my computer, reinvigorated to learn that coding I wanted to learn, to revamp this website I’ve been dying to revamp, to write like the young ingenue I am! This clearly has not been this case. Why? What’s stopping me?

It’s not mental fatigue. I certainly do not spend eight hours of my day thinking intensely. I probably do not even spend half of that time thinking intensely. Looking back on my work day, I spend most of it assessing the angle of a particular screenshot (Is this clear enough? Can you see that button? Can you see that toolbar?), the placement of a text box (Is this going to block anything? Is my explanation concise enough?), the synthesis of a certain amount of information (Am I writing too many sentences? How do I write this as an imperative?).  I am an information processor, taking on the roles of people who I will never be and trying to understand their own 8:00 A.M.-4:00 P.M. work routines.

So, why do I come home exhausted? I’ve been blaming it on the exercise regiment that I’ve been putting myself through (there is nothing I feel more compelled to do at the end of an eight-hour day than to run, run, run), but I think what is tiring me is simply the weight of time.

I do not think I have ever felt time so heavily as this. In school, time is something fluid; my brain is always at work and there is never a moment in which it is truly sequestered from that identity of working. But here, my work day is quartered and segmented; I make to-do lists for tasks to accomplish before lunch, after lunch, the next day, the next week. My day is segmented by routines.

On the one hand, this is what I wanted. I am a master of lists, schedules, and charts. But on the other hand, I think that this fatigue is one of an acute awareness of time, of both its limitations and comforting order.

What do I make of this? I don’t know. I have no real conclusions to draw in this post other than my awareness of these curious feelings. No one likes to feel exhausted, sure, but I do not know that these feelings are uncomfortable so much as they are simply different. In short, I don’t know if this is what I want. Maybe it won’t ever be so clear.

Perhaps my observations have been affected a little bit by my reading of Neuromancera sci-fi “classic” (though I struggle to categorize novels as such because the word “classic” denotes so many other things than “esteemed” or “well-known,” but whatever). Neuromancer follows the story of Case, a “cowboy” (AKA a hacker/spy), who was fired for thievery. His body gets “re-programmed,” such that he cannot return to his former life, and he becomes a young druggie, wasting his life away in Japan. But then! He is granted a second chance at life! Yes, a mysterious crime boss, Armitage, implants in Case a whole new nervous system under one condition: he finishes a job for him led by the desires of an Artificial Intelligence bot known only as Wintermute.

Adventures ensue, etc. The point of all of this is that I feel a little like Case: I’ve been given this chance to experience a “different life,” hacking into the body of someone who made different choices than I did and, for the most part, I’m pretty disoriented by it. Granted, Case is returning to a life he once knew under these new sets of conditions, so our situations are not exactly parallel, but with Case’s return to his hacking/surfing lifestyle, he sees all sorts of things he never saw before. I suppose I feel similarly; I had made several sets of assumptions about this kind of lifestyle that I had not ever substantiated in the flesh.

In other words, I may be coming home every day weary, disappointed that I do not feel energized to balance all of the many pursuits I endeavored to complete. That said, these are the occasions to remind myself: “Hey, you know what, Jenae? You’re doing OK. Believe, friend, that you’ll keep making solid choices and, most importantly, have some damn good stories at the end of it all.”

2 thoughts on “On Work and Time

  1. Did she really just compare herself to Case from NEUROMANCER? Yes-yes she did. That’s pretty rad. I sometimes think of myself as Paul from DUNE–what with all the spice and giant sandworms.

  2. There is something inherently mind draining (numbing?) about sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours a day (or 10+…). It’s a complete energy suck, that I’ve now been experiencing for 2 years. Luckily I (a) absolutely love my job and the work I’m doing and (b) work in a place where it is completely normal to get out of my chair every so often and wander, chat with co-workers (about work-related topics and otherwise) and even go out onto the jobsite for an hour and walk around. But even with an exercise regimen, healthy balanced diet, 8+ hours of sleep a night, regular vitamin intake, etc., there is still an extreme sense of exhaustion/lack of energy that seems too much for someone my age. Doctors visits and lab tests come up negative, my vitamin D levels are actually HIGHER than average…I’m perfectly healthy in all senses, I’m convinced it’s that darn computer that is stealing my energy (oh and my eyesight…bye bye 20/20 vision)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *