On Monday, I reported to work for the first time since 22nd January.
As you might imagine, in the interim almost-9 months, I haven't missed work at all. Not a bit. In fact, it's amazing how quickly you get used to a routine that doesn't involve working at all.
In "About a Boy", Hugh Grant's non-working character gets through the day by breaking it up into half-hour long units. Countdown: 1 unit. Internet: 2 units. And so on. Funnily enough, I didn't find that kind of thing necessary. Actually, I've been quite busy. I've even been getting out of bed pretty early most days, although it's amazing how much easier it is to get up in the mornings when you're off to do interesting things like to watch the sun rising over the Namibian desert or behind Angkor Wat....
In spite of what you may think, I wasn't really dreading going back to work at all and I didn't wake up on Monday morning with a terrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Since people first started to find out that I was taking this time off, lots of them have been telling me that there's no way on earth I would ever be coming back to my old job. Maybe, but I've always felt that taking the time off could send me in two directions: either it would give me the time to think what I really wanted to spend my time doing and give me the impetus to get on and do it OR I would report back at the appointed time with a new-found understanding that it's just a job. As it turns out, the latter has happened. I did do some reflection whilst I was away, but I haven't had a brainwave about what I would REALLY like to do, and I'm not in a hurry to throw in a comfortable job, close to home and with a good (if not great) salary, on the off-chance that I might stumble into something better. I'd like to write, but I can write whilst holding down a job and bringing home a regular wage.
This job is stupid, frustrating and ridiculous... most jobs are ...but my time away has given me some perspective on my life. I've lived without a salary for a while, and in spite of all the travelling, we haven't actually spent all that much money. I essentially have more money than I need, and I have realised that I lack the drive, ambition or motivation to go and seek greater financial reward in my career at the cost of the equilibrium I have where I can leave my work behind at my desk when I leave the office, and where I'm home inside 15 minutes and can spend my spare time doing what I want to do.
Don't get me wrong though: saying that I don't want to be managing director is not at all the same thing as saying that I'm not bothered about doing a good job. Of course I am. I have enough pride (and vanity) that I'll always do the best that I can in my job. I just know that it's not my be-all and end-all and I no longer expect a good performance to lead to promotion and to bigger and better things. It's just a job. It pays my bills, it passes the time and it funds my lifestyle, but it does not define me.
So I reported back to work on Monday (lest, should we forget, disciplinary proceedings were started against me). As expected, nothing much has changed and they weren't really prepared for my return (even if my turning up wasn't an active surprise). My email is broken, and my boss didn't deign to make the time to tell me what he wanted me to work on until about 17:30 in the evening. When we did sit down, in spite of his attempts to cover it up, it was also pretty clear that he doesn't know what I'm going to be doing until a substantial restructure in the department is announced in four or five weeks time. After that, I may find myself in the position where I have a team of people to manage instead of mostly just myself.... but in the meantime I sit in limbo.
Well, at least they're paying me to twiddle my thumbs anyway.
I actually found myself wondering on Sunday afternoon if I would be handed my cards as soon as I turned up on Monday morning. My overriding emotion at the thought, rather than any great sense of disappointment, was that I would probably just feel vaguely cheesed off that I had got up early and put a shirt on. Couldn't they have told me earlier?
They haven't handed me my cards, not yet anyway. As I wait for work to start trickling back in (which it has already, sadly), I'm developing strategies for passing the time. My email wasn't working until this evening, but the internet was. I've also taken the precaution of bringing one of my own laptops in so that I can hook onto the wireless without being troubled by any bothersome internet filters. Today I brought in my running kit so that I could save an hour of my evening by running at lunchtime. I listened to the new Manic Street Preachers album streaming on the Guardian website and caught up on some albums that have been buried on my iPod for a while. I've also done plenty of catching up with the good people who work here and who, in some cases, I've worked with for many years.
It's funny how tiring all that was (the run notwithstanding).
Sitting at a desk, it seems, it surprisingly tiring. I clearly need to work on my work fitness.
In the meantime, my c:// drive has never looked tidier.