Despite living just over one mile from the gate, every day I drive Teenager Number 2 (TN2) to school. This is not as environmentally unfriendly as it sounds given that the school is on my way to work, which is several miles away. (Yes, I know I could cycle. No, I’m not going to). Parents of teenagers will know what I mean when I say the four minutes in the car where I pretty much talk to myself, occasionally joined by a “yeah” or a “nothin’ really” is about as close to quality time as I get. Another reason I’m not giving it up – you take what you can get in the teenage years.
Monday Morning Blues
Yet, occasionally – very occasionally – TN2 will say something so profound, so thought provoking, so meaningful that it stops me in my tracks. This happened a couple of months ago. It was Monday morning, the absolute soul crushing low point of the week. I was wondering how the hell another weekend passed so quickly and counting down the days, the hours, the meetings until the next one. I sighed and scowled and grunted as we pulled off the driveway until even TN2 couldn’t help but notice.
“Why are you doing it then Mum, why are you still going there? Why don’t you just quit?”
Oh so easy for them to say, with their entitlement and their naivety and their complete oblivion to anything resembling responsibility. When tidying your room is your biggest obligation and you can’t even do that without world war three breaking out… (just saying). But I digress.
“The thing is, I’m not sure if it’s this job that I hate, or if it would just be the same somewhere else. Maybe it’s not the job, or the company, or my boss. It’s just working for someone else.”
He went quiet for a minute, which I naturally assumed was the last of our conversation for the day. But then he surprised me with something that would prove to turn my working life around.
“So you know how much you love a spreadsheet yeah?” (Even on a Monday morning, that made me smile).
“Well do yourself a spreadsheet and at the end of every day fill it in as a green day or a black day. In a couple of months you’ll know if you hate it. Or you might find it’s not even that bad. “
Spreadsheets Fix Everything
It was a simple idea, but brilliant; absolutely brilliant. As soon as I got to my desk, I opened Excel and set myself up a simple spreadsheet. And at the end of that first day, I coloured the cell green. The next day was also green. In fact, the whole of the first week was green. The following weekend I sat and thought about the week I had had and why it wasn’t so bad. And come Monday morning, things didn’t seem so desperate and I didn’t feel so low.
The weeks passed and nothing is perfect and so of course there were grey days. But I made a quick note of why they were grey and looking back it was more likely to be because I was tired than to be work related.
After a couple of months, there came a particularly bad week. My boss was under pressure and experience had taught me that she really does not manage down the chain well when she’s feeling pressured herself. There followed two crippling days of relentless demands, sharp comments verging on verbal abuse, bullying phone calls and general unreasonable “bossiness”. Both nights I drove home in tears wondering what the hell I was doing with my life and resolving to quit. I marked the days as true black in the tracker. But the crisis passed and the rest of that week was green.
Perspective is a Sea of Green
And now that I’ve been tracking for a few months, whenever I have a bad day I look at my spreadsheet and I see an overwhelming sea of green and it gives me perspective. In the whole scheme of things, this job is ok. It’s not my dream and I am unquestionably committed to getting to financial independence and saying goodbye once and for all. But this job is also the main reason I can get there sooner rather than later, so quitting would not help me. If our jobs were perfectly fulfilling, none of us would be pursuing financial independence. But I’m sitting in an office not going down a coal mine every day. I can handle the odd boss’s bad mood or unreasonable demand in exchange for my monthly salary and that step closer to freedom.
Here’s to teenagers and spreadsheets. 😊