Monday, December 20, 2010

In Lieu of a Christmas Post

On the last day of school somebody asked me. "What are you going to do without us?".

I said something along the lines of having loads of work to do and how I'd be pretty much occupied. Wrong answer.

The truth is, I'm actually already missing school. All weekend I've been feeling this sense of dread of not having somewhere to go on Monday. Being there is the happiest I've been in a long time. Imparting my knowledge to eager young minds (showing them my enthusiasm for maths for example). Having people around who are friendly as all hell. Most places I work at I find myself looking at the underlying currents - who goes for lunch with who, who are the stress bunnies, who are going to be resistant to change etc.

So today I went back to a place, where I had done some coding a year or so back, to do some maintenance. Surprisingly, there were very few problems (a couple were my fault which means they were living for a year without those little time savers). The thing is, I never really felt included in this place. For example, I wasn't given the gate code so that I could get to the back door which meant I'd have to get someone up to get in the front door. That is until I asked for it. I wasn't invited to the Christmas party, until the actual day, despite having been there most of the year and having been asked for feedback on what should or shouldn't be done for it. I was given the login of "contractor" rather than a name. In other words, I was a contractor. An outsider. Very much at arms length.

It reminds me of my days as a temp. It only really lasted a couple of months or so. It didn't pay the bills. I was revered for my fast and accurate data entry skills but it was hard to get a grasp on how people saw you. For the most part, I was treated poorly. When someone had said something about being "just a temp" I got annoyed. The difference between a temp and full time staff? You're expected to learn a hell of a lot more quickly than their current staff to do the same job. So at New Zealand Couriers for example, temps got 1 week training (though most of it was a snorefest) whereas full staff went for 3 weeks. At a stock take I went to, we were given a very quick cursory view of the system and told to input a whole lot of data. It took a little bit of trial and error to get to know the system well enough that I wasn't feeling lost if I had hit "enter" one too many times for example.

This leads to my time in Hamilton - where the conditions were surprisingly good despite the complaints to the contrary. My boss there was very much of the "money is not a good motivator" persuasion. That doesn't mean he didn't pay you well if he appreciated you. It's just that grumbling was not a good enough reason to review pay rates.

This all leads me to one point.

Being happy isn't about getting to a destination - it's a journey. You're happy doing something, going somewhere, being something. Buying a huge house in the middle of a life style block is less important than everything it took to get there. If someone were to offer you that same house for free, would you appreciate it?

So I guess the point is, being happy is simply knowing you're happy. It's no good looking back and thinking to yourself "I was actually kind of happy back in that period of my life". I'm not saying I was terribly happy in Hamilton. I was working night shift in a factory and had very few people to talk to/socialise with/have a drink with etc. But my complaints about work weren't so much a reflection of the work itself so much as a reflection of how unhappy I was with the rest of my life.

There has to be a certain amount of living in the moment. Looking at what you're doing, why you're doing it, what it's leading to and figuring out if this is what you want to be doing, whether you're being the person you want to be.

Despite the occasional posts that end up on here and get deleted soon after, where I'm feeling frustrated about some aspect of my life (usually the empty chasm that is my love life) or about myself and how I seem to have difficulties escaping old patterns, I think I'm the person I want to be.

I'm, for the most part, happy. I'm fairly confident (despite those occasional nasty voices in my head from my past). I do things for reasons that I don't find horribly shallow or things which I consider immoral (such as taking a job "for now" just while I find something better for example). What I need isn't money (I could do with some but then, I don't think this would contribute to my happiness - it'd just help maintain it by getting those things that need replacing replaced and making what I do sustainable). I've even started opening myself up a little (though not a whole lot because let's face it, years of doubting yourself is going to be undone in a matter of a few months. It's a work in progress).

I was going to do a big rambling post about Christmas. How I consider the commercial nature of it to be off putting. How dysfunctional families everywhere are struggling with that dysfunction. How the holiday is based on old pagan traditions marking the shortest day of the year (though given that we're in New Zealand, thus in the southern hemisphere, it's the longest day of our year). How even the date is wrong (due to calendar changes, the date is off by a day - though it means I can celebrate the 23rd - the longest day of the year whereas in paganism, it was celebrated on the 24th - the day where days start getting longer, with friends rather than family) etc. But then I've read a lot of information out there which is a bunch of people telling us we shouldn't celebrate it because it's counter to a lot of Christian values. Greed as one of the deadly seven sins anyone?

I prefer to think of Christmas as a time to stop, consider those around us, think about what we appreciate, what we think we could do better, about those who love and support us etc. Random acts of kindness are always good during this time of year as well (though I do wonder why we don't practise "Good will to all men" all the way through the year). Personally I prefer to ignore the fact that it's associated to one religion.

In which case, enough said. Merry Christmas everyone! (Though I have to say, a new name for it would be brilliant - Perhaps a nod to the Greek/Roman origins? Saturnalia? - meaning sun worship. Or something to do with Goodwill... How about a very simple "Good Day").


  1. "Happiness is not having what you want. It is wanting what you have."

    -- Rabbi Hyman Schachtel

  2. you could say "happy holidays" which will encompass everyone regardless of religion. then again. some religions dont celebrate this day. So then 'happy day you dont have to go to work". which doesnt help those who do have to go to work ie, nurses, some medical stuff, fireman, policeman. etc.

    Happy Stress free day !

    cept if you in the kitchen, cooking for a hoard of ppl who come, eat, moan they've eaten to much, dont do the dishes, and leave. (or in some cases, fall asleep on your couch so you have no where to sit)


  3. @Liz

    Let's face it, Christmas is hardly ever what we're expecting it to be. Full of disappointment and family feuds and people grumpy that they've spent a really hot day in the kitchen (that's normally me). So we can't be too literal to it.

    I think Tim's comment is quite prudent here - The only way to survive all of that is to be happy with what we've got.

  4. hence why i prefer to have xmas at home, doing my own thing, and its stress free !

    eat what i want, watch what i want, sleep when i want.

    very anti-social of me really.
    but im happier that way without all the pomp and ceremony. Its sometimes just forced cheerfulness.

    I feel so anyway.

  5. Isn't that just like... Sunday? Or like... a weekday where you've pulled a sicky and everyone else is at work?

  6. mmm not for me.
    gotta be an exceptionally good reason for me to pull a sicky. i enjoy working even when its going to hell in a handbasket.

    i dont do much on a sunday. tho id love to be back playing world of warcraft again :P (yes, i can see you cringing in horror nevyn..heh)