As I get older, I find it even more frustrating that the precious, and increasingly scarce time I have left on this planet, is taken up being a corporate drone for someone else.
When you break it down to basics, being an employee is basically trading your free time for money. Here’s how it works – I give you my time 9-5, five days a week, and in return you pay for my house, utility bills and a few treats, deal? That’s 21.9% of your life incidentally (taking holidays into account).
Except it’s not quite that simple. I don’t know many people that only work 40 hours a week. Most people in my industry work at least 8-6 (and many work more, but let’s be conservative here), and you can probably add 2 hrs a day commuting to/from work (1hr each way). For many that’s much higher and for some much lower, but let’s stick with the average here again. We are now up to 32.9%.
And if, like me, you worry about work, plan for work, check emails in the evening, send things over the weekend in readiness for the following week etc, let’s assume 1 additional hour a day given over to work and we find ourselves up to 39.8%. That’s over a third of our lives given over to our jobs in reality.
Hopefully you sleep well and get the average 8 hours sleep, but even if you sleep badly you probably at least try to get to sleep, and therefore we all spend somewhere in the region of 8 hours each night sleeping or trying to sleep. That’s exactly 33.3% of our lives then, bringing the total time dedicated to working and sleeping to around 73%.
So for an average of 40 years, the best, most healthiest, most sociable, most family intensive years of your life, you have around 27% to yourself. Except it’s not to yourself because much of that 27% is taken up with other jobs that have been neglected during the 73% of stolen time. You still have to clean the house, do the washing, vacuum, wash the dishes, empty the rubbish, inflate car tyres, fix leaky taps, clear up dog shit, etc. So let’s say we spend a very conservative 1.5hrs a day doing all those routine DIY/maintenance things – that’s another 6% stolen, taking our genuine free time down to a rather sorry looking 21%.
But of course for much of that 21% you are tired, or sick, or distracted, largely because of that 39.8% that insidiously creeps into other parts of your life, affecting your health, affecting your sleep (which further affects your health), further affecting your relationships with your spouse, your kids, your friends (how many times have you felt too knackered to go out?), and so that 21% ‘quality time’ is actually pretty poor quality after all.
If you’re like me, genuine free time is so valued that you waste much of it trying to work out what to do with it. I immediately feel guilty and feel I have to fill it with more of those DIY/maintenance tasks (making that figure of 6% even bigger in truth). So instead of watching the replay of Match Of The Day on that spare hour on Sunday morning, I do paperwork, bills that need paying usually. So that 21% is actually less than 15% of genuine quality time.
And after all that, I really want to savour that quality time, and therefore I fill it with treats. I want to drink fine wines, I want expensive foods, I deserve those things after a hectic day don’t I? I want to eat in fancy restaurants on the weekend, I want to holiday with my family in sunnier climes thousands of miles away, flying on a big silver aeroplane to get there really quickly – after all, time is money.
I’m getting really prickly and defensive now. Fcuk you, I deserve it, I work hard. I want gadgets too. I deserve them, they’re my treats and hey I earn the money (said in an increasingly hostile and defensive tone). I’m also going to treat the kids because I feel guilty I haven’t really been there for them. I know, I’ll get them all an iPhone at Xmas too, they’ll be chuffed to bits. I noticed that family over there are going skiing because they just posted on Facebook, bastards, sod it, we’re going skiing too, you only live once! And in the summer I want some bloody sun. I deserve that. Yes, a villa in Spain with a private pool, that sounds awesome. I’ll post my pictures on Facebook so everyone can see how great and happy we are. I’ll upload photos from the airport, and then again when we land, and then again from the villa, and then from the poolside, and then from the restaurant, and then from the beach (remember to wear a t-shirt, do not show your belly and man-boobs, ffs).
Phew, that was good! Damn, I’m skint, overdrawn again. Life is such a chore. I need a better job, one that pays more. Yes it might mean more hours but think of the upside? Ok, ok, so my 15% of spare time falls down to 5% because it’s a really stressful job, but what a 5% I will have!
That’s 72 minutes every day. Awesome. Now I really must make the most of that ever so increasingly precious time. I need more treats. Perhaps I should try drugs, they say the buzz is really quick and truly amazing.
And drugs is where the materialistic avalanche usually ends, for this is where people with too much money, usually the rich and famous, the celebrities to whom we most aspire, the people whose lives fill our TV screens, our magazines, our social media newsfeeds. These are the people who become immune and hardened to treats, people who raise the stakes to such dangerous levels that it actually kills them.
And what differentiates ‘us’ from ‘them’ is poverty. Not real poverty, but western poverty. We have to run the hamster wheel constantly, we can’t stop, whereas they can. Apparently sharks have to keep moving or else they die, and humans are no different, for when they stop, when there is no chase left, when they have everything, the real irony is that they lose everything.
Only humans could lead such messed up lives. Kurt Cobain, Keith Moon, Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, River Phoenix, Jim Morrison, George Best – the list is endless. Humans with immense, prodigious talent, people who had it all – fame, sex, money, mansions, fast cars, all those things to which we all aspire.
But of course that’s the nub of it all, because as much as we may whinge and moan, as much as we might stare in awe at the rich and famous, it’s the aspiration that keeps us alive, and not the acquisition.