Can it really only be ninety eight days since I left work? In that short period I feel like I’ve lived three lifetimes. When I think back to being at work: the commute, the office, the people, the colours of the cubicle walls, the feel of my legs under the desk, the noise of chit chat; it seems like an unpleasant memory from a long time ago. One’s perception of the passing of time changes most obviously as you age but also in relation to what you are doing. I find the more vivid and varied my experiences then the more I seem to ‘grip’ onto time and ease it slowly through my hands like a rope. When I’m doing something boring or unpleasant time crawls by each day but the months whip by at a frightening pace; I’m often horrified and confused to stare at a calendar and think “but how can it be August already?”. Of course I’ve experienced each and every hour of every day of them but cumulatively it seems like at some point I lost my ‘grip’ on the months and they just flew by.
The first few weeks, as you’ll know from previous Sabbatical updates, featured a few collywobbles. I wigged out a little after leaving work. I’d have attacks of anxiety and worry that I was wasting my time. Sometimes I’d panic that I was just going to become a useless slob. It didn’t last long: by the end of my time in Singapore I have to say that I was thoroughly and whole-heartedly enjoying my time off work. I’d get up each day and my heart would sing that it was another day I wasn’t in that office with those god-awful people doing that awful job. My vibe started to pick up. Pretty soon I had that little background hum of happiness; I was the annoyingly chatty guy on the metro. I was the man walking around smiling for no apparent reason.
As keen-eyed readers of my blog will spot, I recently spent a month in the FSU (Former Soviet Union) with those two reprobates Krauser and Torero. At the beginning I loved it and I have to say my “daily delight” at not being in my previous job seemed to grow. It felt a bit odd…. most happiness is based on the presence, not absence of things: You get a hot bird; You buy some cool pants; You get some money; You have a nice jog; You go out and have fun. How many people walk round thinking “I am happy because I don’t have cancer” or “I am happy because my job is better than the old one I had”. Some do, I guess, but it takes a certain mindset. I guess I’ve finally learned to count my blessings because
I still feel really fucking happy all the time that I’m not at work.
I had a slight period of repeated collywobbles in the FSU; a couple of weeks of poor state control, anxiety and discontent but I think this was down to a few things:
- Sharing a flat with two relentlessly competitive gamers. Their relentless drive dejected me and all the weird value-taps pulled me down.
- Singapore was almost ungameable so I could legitimately de-prioritise chasing girls. Suddenly I was in a highly gameable environment and this convenient weasel wasn’t available. Suddenly I had to yet again deal with the gamer’s old friend: pressure, and in particular that awful your own-brain-versus-itself pressure which produces ‘cognitive dissonance’. In other words you want girls but you don’t want to approach and thus you have conflict which makes you feel crappy and weird.
- I went from virtual tee-total and caffeine free to regularly drinking beer and guzzling strong coffee. Now I’ve quit caffeine again and to my horror I see how emotionally unstable, fatigued, low-level stressed and suffering from anxiety that I was whilst on it. Caffeine is evil! Five days off it and I feel like a new man.
- I fell into very woppy habits, getting up ridiculously late and missing half the day. I’d then feel guilty about being a wop and anxious that I was wasting my time. At one point I was literally unable to get out of bed before 12 noon. I’d feel like I’d slept well but then get tired in the daytime. Only now, back at home, do I realise that I certainly wasn’t sleeping well. I think the root causes were a) the caffeine and b) the cognitive dissonance/anxiety/stress which was physically and emotionally draining me.
So I’ve left the FSU and am now temporarily back in England. For about a week after I returned my worries followed me but over the last few days my serotonin, dopamine and GABA levels have returned to normal due to my caffeine cold turkey and I have started to relax again. I’m doing something I never really managed that successfully on previous sabbaticals: I’m enjoying myself! Yesterday I had a productive morning of doing chores then I went into the town to meet a friend. Afterwards I deliberately decided to relax so there I was at three in the afternoon in Cafe Nero with a good (decaff) coffee and my headphones in, gratuitously watching “The Matrix Revolutions” right there and then. In full view of everyone and in the middle of the afternoon. Glorious!