I have the job most people have dream of having, and I’m telling you, it’s not what you want.
I travel at least once a month for work, I have no dress code for work, no fixed office, no fixed hour to report to work, nor a “knock off” time so to speak. I’m based abroad with a beautiful apartment facing the sea, with the sun rays peeking in through the blinds each morning.
It all seems ideal and glamorous, doesn’t it? But that’s only the surface.
Grabbing your luggage and scooting off whenever sounds really cool. But trust me, that’s all it is: “sounding cool”. I won’t rant about travelling excessively for work, watch the movie “Up In The Air.” It really shares my sentiments. (Of course, ogling at George Clooney is a bonus.)
No strict reporting hours, sitting in a café with your laptop. It all sounds like the world is your oyster. Grab your laptop and you’re ready to battle. Ever thought about how these poor writers working in the cafes could be living pay check to pay check? They probably spent their last penny on the coffee just so they could capture an Instagram-worthy photo of their work day.
Fortunately, I draw a rather decent (ok rather fat) pay check. All good, all good. No accountability on whereabouts, flexible hours, great pay. Trust me, that’s only what people see. Without an external system to push us, we have only our self-control to depend on but very often, it fails us.
Working alone without a fixed office is exhausting.
It extracts every drop of self-discipline and mental strength from you. Ever heard about “fake it till you make it”? Imagine how helpful it’ll be if you’re free to press the snooze button for unlimited number of times and work through your emails all day in your pajamas.
We’re only human.
Every other morning, you might get away from sleeping in or you might get awakened by an urgent call from work (which I’m sure is the best way to start your day, pfft). That café you drop by each day for work? Every single day, you sit by the same table (once in a while some alien takes your comfort zone and you start scattering around for another cave), turn on the laptop and start your day with intermittent sips of the same latte you’d order.
Imagine repeating this routine every day. Is that really so enjoyable? Nah, things get bland. Things get boring.
The thing is, when given too much freedom, we lose our compass.
Just think about it, every morning when the alarm rings, you have to make a decision to snooze or wake because really there’re no real consequences to either action. Then when you finally overcome the inertia, you start deciding if you wanna laze a little more at home or hit the café. Which café? The same old usual in your neighbourhood? What should I have for breakfast or should I just skip it?
We spend too much time and mind power deciding the nitty gritty stuff.
Remember, mental strength is finite.
The mind and brain are like any other muscles on your body. It can be trained to withstand more pressure over time and it can rejuvenates itself, but the stored energy can be depleted if you’re using it up faster than you replenish. By the time your brain is required for the important decisions, you’re too mentally drained to make informed choices. Or even, you’re just too damn tired to “give a damn”. If your first thought having read the last paragraph was “well that’s the beauty, you just let things flow without having to make conscientious choices”. Trust me, you can’t do it. When was the last time you had a vacation and completely left it to your own fate without planning the itinerary or rushing to catch the highly raved tourist spot? Even if you had done so, can you imagine doing that for extended time? For your entire career till retirement?
Professionally, your learning curve starts to flatten. You lose meaningful (or even less meaningful gossips) conversations which feed you refreshing perspectives, whether you accept it or not. Don’t get me wrong. I still talk to my colleagues and friends through various platforms (whatsapp, skype, facetime, calls) on a daily basis.
However, you lose the personal touch.
You miss out on the nonconstructive rants from your buddy at work, you’re not part of the disorganized brainstorming session going on all day across the cubicles (with diverse topics ranging from “what to have for lunch” to actual work related discussions) and of course, no eye candy to steal glances at from the pantry. And really, your friends are all stuck in office so who is gonna hang out with you during office hours?
I’m not saying a regular 9 to 5 job by the desk is the recipe for true happiness.
Too much of anything is never good. For those dreaming of travelling around and working in cafes day by day with a laptop…Think again.
Are you mentally strong enough for that?
Don’t just see the glamorous side of things and jump into an abyss of envy. Everyone has their equal share of struggle. Sacrifices to be made. Are you ready to be away alone while your loved ones are making great memories together back at home? Are you disciplined enough to stay driven every day without a support system?
Happiness is relative. Self-discipline is a scarce resource.
Nobody appreciates health till they’ve experienced terrible disease/illness. You won’t desire comfort so much unless you’ve been through pain. Pain makes life feels real. If you’re “happy” eh-ver-ree-day, are you really happy or just…ok? The Bali vacation is only enjoyable because it’s short-lived and rare. Imagine sitting by the beach drinking Bintang EVERY DAMN DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. The beer belly, the dying brain, the sluggish spine you’re gonna develop, the destroyed taste bud. I shudder to even think of it.
The dream work life is an illusion. It’s over-glorified.