Being back at work is awful. Just awful. I’d completely forgotten how boring it is, sitting at a desk all day dealing with things that really do not interest me a great deal. I could chew my desk with frustration. To make matters even worse, we’re now in Helluary: the devil’s season. Winter isn’t so unbearable in November and December: there’s always something going on and you’re working towards the Christmas break. Come January though, and what is there to look forward to? Your friends are all ‘detoxing’. Everyone plans to quit drinking or smoking, so the pub is out of the question. Nothing of any interest is on the horizon. Just weeks and weeks of getting up and going to work. In the dark. Then a full day dealing with nonsense. Then going home. In the dark.
Worse still, in the first couple of days back there’s endless platitudes to be exchanged with colleagues:
Happy New Year! How was your Christmas? Did you go away? What did you do for New Year’s Eve? Are you going skiing this year?
As if either of us gives a shit. Please, let’s desist with the small talk, return to our desks, and keep our heads down until spring. I might be able to do work chit-chat by, ooh, the end of March. Until then, please, fuck off and leave me alone.
So no, I’m not in the greatest of moods today. And then I read about this study by Gothenburg University claiming that what people need to lift the depression of returning from the festive break is. . . hard work! What Weberian horseshit is this? Oh, the protestant work ethic will lift your melancholia and cleanse you of original sin! The devil makes work for idle hands! Arbeit macht frei!
According to the findings of the study:
. . . winning the lottery or achieving a goal at work gave a temporary high, but it did not last.
I agree. If I were to win a huge sum of money on the lottery, I would only feel good about it temporarily. Fifty years, say.
From our research the people who were most active got the most joy. It may sound tempting to relax on a beach, but if you do it for too long it stops being satisfying.
Unlike working, of course, which just gets more and more satisfying as it piles up. I don’t know about you, but I’m never happier than when I’ve got a mountain of arduous tasks to get through. Who was answering these questions? Not me, that’s for sure.
There was an editorial on this subject in the Guardian today too:
A recent paper by Jonathan Gershuny, of Essex University, argues that ‘busyness’ rather than leisure has become a badge of social honour in modern Britain. High human capital is these days associated with long hours of work, and not with the opposite. It says a lot about the kind of unsettled prosperous society that this country has become that in 2006 so many people find it so hard to reconcile their impulse to be up and doing with their desire for proper downtime.
Whatever happened to the idea of doing nothing and enjoying it? It’s something I’m trying to keep alive. I’m going home now to sit on the sofa and revel in an evening of lethargy. Join me.