Tuesday, 11 September 2012
If you asked me to comment in general on the idea of lifelong learning, I'd be all for it. What could be better than continuing stimulus, innovation, self-improvement? In practice, when it comes to my own life, oh dear, I find myself more ambivalent. At best it can be chastening to find there's still so much to learn, at worst alarming and depressing. As I face rather late in life the challenge of self-employment, of learning how to motivate myself, organise my own time, and set my own standards and limits, I find that, where I had imagined only the pleasure of freedom from other people's demands and priorities, there's also a huge hill to climb and unexpected depths to plumb.
There is the pleasure - yes, of course. It even starts to seem already that perhaps there will be enough demand for my work. But if I say yes to everything offered, I'll quickly become just as overtired and stressed and miserable as I was before. Even though it's mostly work I'm better at and enjoy more, if I spend every waking moment on it, this is not the life I want. Where, then, to set the bounds? How much time to hold back for admin work and strategic planning, never mind for time off?
For instance, on Sunday there was a day-long London meditation retreat with Stephen Batchelor. I'd booked and really wanted to attend. Then lots of work came in towards the end of the week and I was tempted to work right through the weekend. Gave myself a stiff talking-to: no! the other things I want to do must get as high a priority as work! So I went to the retreat, and it was rather wonderful - that's another blogpost. I'm so glad I didn't miss this. And it was tiring (three hours travel time too), so I didn't work on Sunday evening as I thought I might. And since then I've been really, really pushed to meet deadlines. Excepting force majeure, I always meet deadlines - no question. The question is: how does this make me feel? and is it what I want? I fear I am not good at judging this. And perhaps, since I'm so new to it, since each of us is clearly different, it can only be learned through painful trial and error.
Well, these are the problems you want to have, friends tell me - and I'd say the same, no doubt, if I was them. They are, of course, the problems I want to have. And then again, they really, really aren't the problems I want to have! I suppose I'd like to have faced and met these challenges long ago.