Every morning I run the gamut of coffee shops on the way to work. The throngs of people that clog the walkways and obstruct people who have already got their morning beverage trying to get to their desks to show that they are on time and ready to do their company’s bidding.
Pre-made food slapped on a hot surface speedily heat it to a point that it becomes palatable. Coffee in its various configurations. Sugar enriched snacks that will give that rush that allows you to smile as you enter the room that you will spend the next 8 hours. It is a curious thing that somewhere along the way, even though we have all the technology, all these things that make life easier, life seems to be speeding up.
When I was in Croatia, a person I had met decided she wanted to get a take away coffee from the local beachside café. The staff member looked slightly confused, though to be fair this could have been a slight language area, but dutifully went off to prepare said take away cappuccino. The staff member returned moments later with a cappuccino prepared in a plastic see through cup that you would more often see at a children’s birthday party and sticking out of the coffee in the plastic cup was a straw. A coffee on the go, it seems is unusual in a country like Croatia.
On my travels I visited many places where the day’s work coexists with enjoying the day. When a shop is empty, the vendor sits out the front of the store playing chess with another vendor who has an empty store. Coffee in Turkey and Croatia is a social event rather than something that must be consumed on the run. In fact, many countries seem to take longer to do things. Turkey, it’s hard to find an open café before about 9am. Slovenia still clings to that slightly slower pace but a leisurely morning is slowly being absorbed into a more EU approach. Someone is certainly benefitting from earlier mornings, longer days and 24hr access to their staff but you would be hard pressed to prove it is the rank and file workers.
Over the years I have work more than my share of jobs in more than my share of industries. I have seen innovations come and go. Open plan offices, hot desks, flexitime. It all seems like good things but consider the next time you are at the office, when you arrive and do a little extra before you officially start work, sit at your desk and work through your lunch break or stay a little later to sort out that one last issue so your team can make service, consider that many employers count on workers doing that. Think about how many hours you are contributing each year to a business and not being compensated for. Some smaller businesses will certainly appreciate it, but when you work for a company that posts a $6Billion profit for 6 months, if they really cared that the work you are doing in your free time got done, they could most certainly pay you to do it (or perhaps even hire enough staff to do it).
It’s hard to break a cycle like that. In a world of constant pull, I have been finding it harder to hang on to those moments of quiet reflection. Those moments where you just get to sit and enjoy your lunch, a coffee or a meal with a friend. I’m a morning person, I admit it. Though not always the most alert, for the most part my body functions well enough in the wee AM to allow me to get into a day a little earlier than most. When I wake up, I stretch, (if my body doesn’t tell me to go forth and multiply) I like to cook myself some breakfast and then sit and have a coffee. Getting up a little earlier to enjoy the day is a little counter intuitive if you love a cosy bed and hitting that snooze button but not having to madly rush everywhere is also pleasant. I had also noticed of late that I found myself constantly refreshing my Facebook while I was on the train, needing a constant stream of activity to fill up the minutes of the day. I have started forcing myself to relinquish the hold my phone has on me. Not bringing it to meals. Only refreshing once every hour. They are little things but they seem to make a difference.
Everyone has to make their lives work for them as best as they can, some escape into a class of some sort for an hour or so, some cook (or watch cooking shows) and some never stop long enough to think if they could use some slowing down. Allowing yourself to take the time to enjoy something is important, I really believe that. At the end of your life you certainly wont be looking back and remembering that instagram update, or even this blog, but you may remember an amazing sunrise, a good meal with a friend where you sat and talked for hours or a leisurely walk somewhere.