I had to go into the office yesterday for the first time in two months. I had two really important meetings, one with my agency and one with a client and you might think that with a lot at stake in these meetings, I could have been bothered to show up on time. I didn’t.
In Germany, showing up late is like thumbing your nose at someone and I guess, passive-aggressively, that was what I was doing. Not at the agency or the client, not directly. But it certainly was my way of saying that I find these meetings, this structure, this whole idea of my life revolving around work zum kotzen, as German Valley Girls might say. Work might bring meaning to lives. We might identify ourselves with our jobs. But as soon as we start making work the center of our existence, rescheduling other, more important things, then it’s time to rethink. Unless your job is saving the world. Or saving lives. We as individuals are not all that important. Our work is not as important as we make it out to be. No one is going to die if that interview with Manuel Neuer isn’t edited for grammar errors right this minute.
The rub of it is, though, every one of us is going to die. It’s the only certainty in life. And like us, that Manuel Neuer interview is eventually going to be filed in the annals of oblivion.
One of the memes that made the rounds last year that stuck with me was based on this book by an Australian hospice nurse, listing the five regrets of dying people. On the list: “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
Even before that book came out, I had made it my major goal in life to work as little as possible, especially while my daughter is young. I can do this at the moment. I am capable and well-educated and am damned good at what I do when I bother to do it and I have learned to live with/on little. For some reason, I have been able to sell my talents at a fair price very well and I have been able to negotiate the ability to do this from wherever I am at the time. Even after showing up late for very important meetings with very important people, people are buying what I am selling. This is a luxury, I know, but an important one for me to have.
You see, the reason I was late for that meeting yesterday? Because Diva needed extra cuddles in the morning. We had both woken up before the sun rose and we lay in bed together and she said, Mama, cuddle please, and when you think about life, about how fast the little ones grow up, how they won’t want these cuddles anymore soon, about how those cuddles are going to be the things you remember when your life flashes before your eyes, how can you say no? How can you say, yo sweets, there’s this meeting about budgets and editorial calendars that has to be taken care of at exactly 10 a.m. so let’s hustle on out of here?
I wasn’t thinking all of that yesterday morning; instead I was thinking, hey cuddling my kid is nice and fuck it if I’m late because: priorities. And I’m glad I got that extra cuddle in because as soon as I got out of those very important meetings in which nothing life-saving was accomplished and stepped into the elevator that would take me back down from the pie-in-the-sky world of work, I got a text letting me know the dad of one of Diva’s friends had died. A friend of mine, a woman not yet 50, a woman who only a few years ago could call herself a mother, is now a widow, and if that doesn’t make you rethink your life, your priorities, I don’t know what can.