When I was a lazy student getting up at 12pm and attending the odd lecture or two, I looked at people working 9-5 and thought what a nightmare it would be. In fact I dreaded having to do that. I imagined a life of living for the weekends. Having to get up on weekday mornings, going in on a Monday counting the hours until Friday night and freedom to do what I wanted to do. I thought that I’d not be able to do anything on a week night as I had to be in the office the next day. My daylight hours would be spent chained to a desk dreaming of my student days.
In short, I didn’t want that life. I loved the free time afforded to me from being a student. It let me do the things I enjoyed like mountain biking, running, sleeping and avoiding daytime television. But here I am years later working 9-5, Monday to Friday. Is life the way I imagined it to be? Am I distinctly unhappy, constantly looking forward to the weekend? The answer is “partly”.
Whenever people discuss taking a year out to go travelling, the best advice is generally to do it between University and “real life”, otherwise you’ll never get around to it. And this seems to hold true for most people I know (myself included so far). The argument always went that you’d get sucked into working life and feel it’s too large a risk to quit your job, travel and then try to get another job again afterwards. People get too comfortable and I can well understand that. Of course, there are many exceptions to the rule, but majority rules (I realise that I’m not too hot on wordplay, but there you go).
I always assumed that I’d get on the career ladder and try to get myself up to more senior roles, more responsibility, more pressure, longer hours and more money. But that’s not the way it’s turned out at all. And given the choice between my current life and the life of a student, I’d take this one every time. It’s got a great deal to do with actually enjoying my work and earning many times more money than I did between ages 18-24. And it’s got a lot to do with the fact that I want different things out of life.
For one thing I’m not career minded. All throughout my younger days it seemed that a “career” was all that mattered after education. But now, as a software engineer, I think to myself “what’s the point?”. I’m not interested in things like promotions and long term goals and objectives. I’m more interested in what I’m doing just now and next after the thing I’m doing now. I enjoy problem solving and I spend every day solving various problems, some that take a few hours, others that take a few days. I get to be creative and use my brain. I get to work alongside people I like and respect. I also get paid for the privilege. What more could I want?
So I work from around 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Big deal. If I hated what I was doing I’d be watching the clock all the time and be annoyed that it’s dark in the evening and my working life consumes most of the daylight hours. But I’m not. Sure, I look forward to weekends but by playing football at lunchtime a couple of times a week I manage to break up the 5 days somewhat so it just flies by. I spend weekday evenings either doing sporty things or watching TV (and occasionally writing website articles), so it’s not as if I’m so knackered that I have no life outside of work.
I guess that when I escaped University I found the world I was entering into to be completely different to the one I imagined. I got lucky and got a good job and moved to a lovely part of the world. But I believe that you make your own luck. So I’ve either lowered my expectations on life and am making the best of a bad situation, or I’ve got a better perspective on life and am making the best of a good situation. I think I prefer the latter, and it feels more real to me. I guess the moral of the story is that students don’t know a damn thing about real life until they actually enter it for real.