This “Free Time” Sure Does Feel Expensive!
For the past two weeks and a few days, I’ve stayed out of my work inbox and kept my auto-responder on official guard duty. I made sure to warn all my clients that this was going to happen, and to take care of everyone before I took flight. No one’s house will set on fire meanwhile. At very least there are no glowing embers that can’t hang tight until I’m back open for business.
You’d think after seventeen straight months of almost no days off — one of the difficulties of being amongst those with a job during the pandemic was feeling not allowed to stop working, both in gratitude and in solidarity — I would jump at the chance to put down the mantle of my online consulting firm through which I counsel teenagers and young adults on writing and admissions.
You’d think after tending to dozens of complex problems — I mean this in the technical sense, as in a descriptor of something to be solved rather than the judgmental psychological sense, as in something that is bad or broken — for that many days on end (over 500?!) I would happily log off and wander into an endless vegan burrito (please let it not end) during my beach-side sojourn.
I did have a really great vegan burrito while watching seagulls and inadvertently lodging sand into every crevice of my body, both before and after I struggled with notable discomfort from a certain realization:
This all felt and feels really…expensive.
I calculate lost potential wages over what will end up being a full three weeks off — the longest break I’ve taken from my enterprise in the six years that I’ve hung my shingle out on the internet — and sigh dramatically. As if my duty as a person who supports other people is to do nothing but support them. As if my value only exists when I am actively earning cash. As if I believe any of the hype that down time is laziness or cannot possibly create my desired state of empty openness, intellectual insight, and emotional buoyancy.
You’d think after the year-plus we just had getting through what I hope is the lion’s share of this public health crisis that the sticky remnants of overachieving and maniacal worship of the gross domestic product would deliver a solopreneur such as myself into a state of release from these tired old employment dictums.
You’d think that having the privilege to take time off would affirm my financial success more than overshadow it with mental math-quakes which point fingers at my supposedly wild choice to rest. The remaining three weeks of June are already scheduled up with my students! My rent will get paid and I will even get to keep the gas and electricity on! All this and more!
For the last few days of this vacation, I will consider that I am saving myself up to earn in the coming weeks and months. I will weigh the cost of this time apart against my value as a person who is made of flesh, bone, and blood; and exists before any entrepreneurial task can even come into play. I will side-eye the hooks capitalism has put in me, and hope that watching surfers ride waves reminds me there’s so much more to making money…even if the latter is an outcropping of showing up to help others.
I’ll have another vegan burrito, enjoy it deeply, and be okay when it ends.