By now, most of us have headed back to work (unless you are like my sister and enjoy taking January off as your own personal holiday – no shade, this was me with December when I still had freedom of leave days), so I thought I’d do a light-hearted post about the new reality that I am enjoying when it comes to getting to work since moving to Japan.
So back in South Africa, I used to drive to work. I have never really used public transport to get to work since my Vacation-Work days back in varsity. Back then I had to get to work in the far east of Pretoria, coming from all the way in the North of Pretoria. This long and mostly tedious commute on the bus made me never want to be at the mercy of an erratic public transport system ever again. Unfortunately, the job that kicked off my career was far from my home, which meant I would have a long commute one way or the other. Luckily my parents had loaned my sister and me their car at that stage so my sister kindly let me take the first option to drive it since I worked relatively far, and also she didn’t have her licence. My second job saw me buying my first car and extending my 40-minute drive to an hour drive sans traffic. Traffic home was inevitable, even though at one job I knocked off around 7 pm most evenings, and the other job I knocked off at 3 pm. I would usually spend 2 to 3 hours in afternoon traffic to get home. So now that you have some context about how far I used to live from work, here is a bit about the new responsibilities that I did not expect to gain from living closer to work.
Leaving the house on time
When I lived super far away from work, leaving my house 5 minutes late meant possibly arriving to work 30 minutes late. I became a stickler for Time during this stage of my life. I wouldn’t let anyone or anything get in the way of me leaving the house on time. I remember a few mornings where my sister actually tried it! In hindsight, I was just an angry person with a hatred for traffic that was gradually turning me ugly.
Now that I live exactly 2 or 7 minutes away from my work (depending on the day), it’s become surprisingly harder to keep time. There’s something that happens to your resolve as a clock watcher when you are given too much time to play with. Unlike the time when I needed to get out at a certain time to avoid traffic, there is no real consequence to my leaving my house late. Unfortunately, this now means that I am having more and more days where I am running out of the house like a madman to try to be on time for work.
As I continue to struggle, I find myself asking how those coworkers who lived near my old workplace used to do it. How the hell did you guys force yourself to leave the house? I’m struggling!
Policing your overtime work
Another side effect of living so close to work in relation to time is the ease with which you fall into bad habits of staying on at work a bit longer than you should. I won’t say I’m particularly head over heels in love with my work, but some days I get into a thing and I really don’t want to break the concentration that I’ve got while doing a thing and I’ll get really tempted to just stay on and work longer. I know what you’re thinking. You’re not getting paid for those hours, go home! I’ve never worked a job where I would get paid for my overtime so my brain doesn’t understand this concept of working set hours in accordance to pay. When I was in advertising, you would work until you were done. This would become especially tricky on days where the client would walk into the building at 5 pm asking for a rework on work that had initially taken you hours to do.
Before, the fear of traffic would greatly influence my decisions when it came to working overtime, but now? Now that I can walk across the street and be in my bed within 2 minutes? Well, let’s just say it’s hella tricky. I find myself having to police myself more strictly than ever before. It’s not about the fact that I’ll be home now now, it’s the principle of the matter!
Taking care of myself
Living 2 hours of traffic away from home meant that a bad day would be magnified times 10 by that fact alone. I remember the weeks when I would dread going in to work. Getting out of bed was a mission. I would still need to push myself out of bed to stay on time too which just made everything worse. These days would stretch on forever and the drive home would be nightmarish. I don’t usually classify myself as a road rager, but on those days I would count those around me lucky for the fact that I didn’t own a gun.
These days, it’s so much easier to get through these. It’s so quick to get to work and back that I barely have enough time to be alone and build up rage towards anyone so I don’t. When I wake up feeling like I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything that day, I have time to be kinder to myself now. I acknowledge the fact that I’m having a bad mental health day and usually just lie in for an extra 30 minutes to help me get ready for the day ahead. It doesn’t make the bad day go away, but it sure makes me feel like less of a monster.
Using my time better
I studied at a correspondence University for the last few years of my formal education. Apart from the few weeks during the year that I would need to attend a workshop on campus, I was pretty much free to do what I liked with my time. This lack of a set schedule by an external party left me with a load of responsibility on my part to get my work done. This all changed when I went into the workforce and found myself spending most of my free time in traffic. I would usually get home and have about an hour or an hour and a half to do what I liked before I needed to get to bed because of how early I needed to leave in the mornings. This wasn’t enough time to do anything productive. I used the time to chat with my sister and bond with my dogs.
My art, writing and reading all fell away. There was just no time to do any of the things I loved. But now here I am, with oodles of oodles of time at my disposal once more. I feel like this is the biggest responsibility that you inherit by living so close to work. What to do with all that time?
I wish I could tell you that I’ve mastered this responsibility and that all the things I lost when I didn’t have time have all magically been restored but this isn’t the case. I tried to get back into reading when I first moved to this new town. It was great for a few weeks but Netflix and DSTv started stealing my time more and more. My number of hours free in the evenings have increased from 1 to 5, sometimes 6 hours but I am wasting them. I thought the need to learn Japanese would at least push me to use that time for that but it hasn’t. Having so much time is both a blessing and a curse because of how long it takes to train yourself to be intentional with your time. I remember the first few months at my correspondence University were the hardest. I had to show up and keep showing up even on the days when I didn’t feel like showing up.
I think above all the other great things that have come from moving to Japan, living this much closer to work has defiantly been the top one for me and I look forward to figuring out the new responsibilities that come with this new change.