One giant game of pretend
I attended the biweekly (that's every two weeks, folks) Coffee House Coders meeting in Ann Arbor tonight. We had a decent turnout, maybe 12 people at its peak.
I had a great conversation with a guy named bill about working from home or working location-independently. The idea of working from home has always appealed to me, and the idea of working in a cubicle forty hours a week sounds like hell.
Bill is a manager at a video streaming company in Ann Arbor. When I mentioned I wanted to work from home, he told me that in his experience most people that work from home tend to be less productive. This flies in the face of the 37 signals / 4 hour workweek / location-independent ethos that working from home means you're more productive because you have less distractions. Yet, I think I've experienced exactly what he's talking about.
My last actual full time job was when I worked as a line cook at a restaurant in Traverse City. I would often work 8-10 hour days, often non stop with little to no breaks or food. I'd come home every night mentally and physically exhausted, and would laze about, stay up late, sleep in late, and then go to work again the next day. I felt like work was my entire life, and that sucked. Not that I didn't enjoy working at the restaurant, and I was proud of the work that I was doing, but it didn't feel like I was living a balanced life.
Can it be that in order to be sufficiently productive, I have to place myself into a position where I'm forced to work non stop for extended periods of time? How can I enjoy life if all of my free time is spent detoxing from the work that pays the bills?
I'm sure I'm way too young to be considering these questions, but right now seems like the time with the least number of responsibilities, so I want to make my time count. And I want to enjoy myself.
Needless to say, it was a little depressing coming to the conclusion that life after college is just one giant game of pretend, as Joanna so eloquently put it. I pressed Bill to found out what his solution was, from his perspective as a manager of a successful company who wants to retire soon.
His answer (heavily paraphrased): if you're risk-taking, and tend to go after the opportunities that are high risk/high reward, eventually one will probably end up being successful. That doesn't mean the path to get there won't be difficult, but the true path to a healthy work/life balance is by taking the risks that others won't and never looking back.
Sounds like a plan.