Column: Welcome to the end of the day
For the first time since becoming a Farmington resident I missed the winning moment of the Kiss the Pig contest. For me, it was worse than missing Christmas. I missed Christmas for real last year due to a family medical emergency, so I know what I'm talking about. Luckily nothing as serious as a medical emergency tore me away from watching pig kissing. I missed the crowning moment of the Dew Days festival due to a simple case of overwork.
This semester I experienced the perfect storm of a heavy class load swirling around a sucking vortex of responsibility at work. The first day of the semester, just a few hours before my accounting class started, I suddenly became manager-less. Now I am doing my former boss' job in addition to my own, so on the Friday of the Kiss the Pig contest, I already had put in 52 hours for the week before I even got to my office. I also had already put in 13 hours over the past weekend writing a research paper on accounting concepts.
I left work a little early that Friday and dropped by a coffee shop to work on the final draft of my accounting paper. Several hours and two large coffees later, I was still finishing up the paper. This 24 page monstrosity took a total of 26 hours to complete. Now I have a weighty tome which I can use in place of Sominex on sleepless nights and I will hopefully pass my class. But in exchange, I lost one of the most precious moments of the summer of 2010.
Lately I've been pondering the balance between work and the rest of my life. In the past couple of weeks four people around me, ranging from family to acquaintances, have passed away. When work is something positive, something that contributes to your life, then it can fill as many hours as it needs without internal conflict. When work is pushing paper, making copies, and filing, then it's only there to pay for the essentials so you can do something more meaningful with the rest of your time. Garfield, my favorite cartoon cat, says he lives for the weekends. How many of us are alive for only a third of our days, for only Saturday and Sunday? There is tragedy in the knowledge we are spending two-thirds of life, this finite, precious resource, doing something that feels meaningless.
A couple of years ago I wrote a whole column about my collection of hotel pens. Whenever I stay at a hotel, I keep one of the plastic pens from the room to use at work. The pens remind me of vacation. My favorite pen, a souvenir from an AmercInn, has the slogan "Welcome to the End of the Day" printed in blue script on the side. I used to bring it to difficult meetings with me as a sort of security blanket, a reminder that at some point the meeting will be over and I'll get to the end of the day. That pen has long since run out of ink but over the past few stressful weeks I've been wishing for its gentle reminder that the current day, no matter how bad it is, will come to an end.
For years I've been pushing back to keep a little space for things outside of work. The pressure has been relentless. I've done insane things like staying up from 11:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. on a conference call for a computer server migration. I've canceled vacations and withdrew from graduate school classes to work the hours my managers asked of me. But at the end of the day, what really matters? Will I regret being passed over for a promotion more than missing the Kiss the Pig contest? Somehow I doubt it. Maybe that sounds crazy, but I know that if anyone could understand how much I love my time in Farmington, it would be you, my fellow Farmington residents. At the end of the day, no matter what job I'm doing, I come home to Farmington, to the place and people I love, and that's what matters.