Do you have a hobby? Is that a laughable notion? Do you have the time for another interest in your life? Do you have any free time at all? Do you feel the persistent ennui of endlessly scrolling through page after page of Buzzfeed and Facebook, not knowing when your life is going to start happening?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are not enough hours in the day, and many other trite aphorisms in that self-same vein. I haven’t slept much, so excuse me if that was just bollocks.
It’s really cold, I need to be popping to the shops, I need a cup of coffee and I am in the middle of saving a file which I don’t know whether or not meets the brief which I have been set. I am in the middle of several different sets of myriad different things, and I deeply suspect that I am not going to be able to finish any of them to a level I would consider to be satisfactory. This is just a normal day.
And now I have to make a phone call. That’s something I have been stressing so much about that I am physically chilled to the core, my body entering shock with the thought of calling someone.
There is so much that I want to be doing right now: I have a lot of very interesting things that I’ve been doing at work all day; I have a lot of videos on YouTube I am desperate to watch; I have a lot of music that I want to be listening to right now; I have itchy fingers on at least three, if not four books that I want to write – a spy story I’ve started, a collection of short stories, a novel, and a cookbook.
There is so much that I should be doing right now: I have an ingrowing toe-nail, so I should be setting up a doctor’s appointment to have that fixed, or at the very least be soaking it; I have several young children, so they both need something; I live in a house, so that always needs something doing to it.
I should be hoovering; I should be calling up for a boiler service; I should be cleaning out the fish; I should be cleaning the dust out of all of the rooms; I should be filling in a few holes in the walls which I should not have caused; I should be investigating how we get rid of the floor in the kitchen; I should be doing more to plan for the eldest child’s birthday celebrations; I should be working out a way for our youngest child to have her own bedroom, so she can sleep better. Lot’s to get done.
The problem is that I am locked in to a cycle of doing certain things. Namely my fucking job, but that is a different question altogether. Between the hours of nine and five I am wholly owned property, the tool of the company I work for; and that is as it should be: they pay me for my time, and I give it willingly. I can just see so many better uses for it, if only I didn’t have the pesky need to earn money.
And that is the dilemma of adulthood, I suppose: we are now in the position, as responsible people, of having things which consume us, but the responsibility to earn the money to facilitate that. We will do anything for our children, but we are stuck at work between nine and five, so we need to do everything we couldn’t do then between five and nine. Yes, I do wish it were the other way around.
And yet, if I spent all of my day doing my own thing, and not my job, I wouldn’t have enough money with which to do the interesting things I do in my spare time. And so I wouldn’t have the weekend portion of my free time in which to do even more fun things, like going to visit castles and museums around the local area. It’s a sword of myriad edges, and I feel slashed by them all, all of the time.
The crux of the matter is that my job has become suddenly more interesting. It does this every few years, and it comes as a genuine, shocking reappraisal of my day-to-day priorities every single time.
The first time, I was writing screenplays, living on benefits and smoking a lot of dope. I was getting some attention, taking a delightfully complex spy script through the local script development route. And then I got a real job. I had been looking for a real job for quite a while; I couldn’t find one, so I thought I should make my own. And so I got a shock when one actually rang my phone one day.
I enjoyed that job, but it took me away from what I was doing and put me on a career path. How very actually dare it. I was no longer able to sit up until the sun rose, listening to Harry Potter audio books, tinkering with script ideas and printing off submissions to editors and production companies.
This time round I am going from having a job which was low impact enough that I could find energy every evening to write a thousand or so words once I’d finished work, to a more demanding job and the life of a father of two. We have a baby: no wonder I don’t have the energy to write a book.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not resent my job. I do not resent the fact that we recently chose to have a second child. I do not resent the fact that there are more important things in life than me finding a few hours here and there to write my hopes and fears down for an audience of seventeen. Really.
I’m just struggling. This set of struggles is my own particular personal hell right now, but many many more people – all of whom can spell “Many” on the first attempt – have even more pressing lists of things they need to do versus the lists of things they want to do. I am not the only one, by miles.
My mind keeps popping in the notion that this is somehow a new problem, a by-product of our new, over-connected technological age. But that’s shit. Parents have never had enough time or enough of the resources to do all of the things they wanted to do, all of the time. It’s a question of choices.
Right now I choose to sit here on my lunch break, waiting for a school to phone me, typing away at a blog post I started a few days ago, listening out to see if the youngest member of our family will get herself back off to sleep after being woken up by the dogs. At least the fish keep the volume down.