I was reflecting this morning, on my daily constitutional along Oneroa Beach, about how simple my life has suddenly become since it is no longer completely monopolised by the demands of work.
Since graduating in 1981, I have been – I think – in constant employment for thirty years. With the exception of a brief two or three month hiatus after being fired from an ad agency in Edinburgh – quite deservedly It must be said, for being an appalling creative Prima donna and general all-round wanker – I don’t recall ever having a break or holiday for more than two or three weeks at a stretch. It sounds like I’m either bragging or complaining. I’m not. I don’t know where my deeply ingrained work ethic came from, probably my lower middle-class Midlands family roots, but I’ve always thrown myself into my work with an almost maniacal gusto. With the benefit of hindsight. too often to the determent of my friends and family.
I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a list of things waiting to be done, a phone full of messages waiting to be answered, an inbox full of demands and expectations. A looming deadline and an irate producer demanding satisfaction. I think mostly, if I’m honest I was driven on by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of not delivering, of not providing, of not meeting expectations. of humiliation. Maybe just fear of stopping and having time to think about how insane and dysfunctional my life had become.
But no more. It’s all stopped.
I wasn’t prepared for the deafening silence. The giddying sense of space. It’s almost vertigo inducing. I’m reminded of something my dad used to say after completing some onerous or unpleasant task. “It’s like banging your head against a wall… It’s really lovely when you stop.” He was dead right. it is.
The days now just unfold at their own sweet speed. My stomach no longer coils and tightens every time the phone rings. I don’t go to bed compiling a mental checklist of tasks that must be completed the following day just in order to prevent the sky from falling.