Not another reason

The other day started with my dog Lug (aka mi perro alarma) waking me up at 5am to eat. Not always the most fun experience but since he didn’t used to eat his breakfast until like 3pm it’s encouraging and we deal.

I hooked him up, made a cup of tea, and did my morning pages (3 pages, hand-written, stream of consciousness). Meditated for 10 minutes or so, read a bit of hype stuff (currently The Pocket Maya Angelou), made a maté, and set my TimeTimer for an hour and got into some writing.

From there I usually take Lug for a walk, get ready a bit (as much as you need to when you work from home and are rarely seen and only visible from the waist up), eat breakfast, and get into some worky stuff.

I typically roll into work a bit after 9am, wondering how that’s even possible, retracing my morning to try and figure out where literally 4 hours went.

I’m really lucky to love my current job and have worked enough less-fun jobs to appreciate it. I’ve had the gig where my boss would hang out by the time clock and spend 2-3 minutes lecturing me if I clocked in at say, 8:01am. He once told me, “This is his time.” You can bet I left that pep talk giving no fucks about pulling orders and alphabetizing auto parts for him.

There must be a book out there called Managing with Fear that these types of bosses keep on their nightstands. It always feels like an act—like are you really that big of a dick? It comes off as a weak, easy-to-see-through attempt to control, and never once helped me to do better work. I think my old coaches read the same book tbh.

My current work sich mostly allows for a flexible start time depending on if I have meetings booked. What a concept! Being excited to work because my boss is supportive and understands when I start in the morning is up to me 🤯

I landed this job via the slow process of one job leading to another, earning more respect and trust, and more complete 180s from the above bro and another boss on the Managing with Fear email list who got way too close one morning, inspecting my stubble, asking if I shaved that morning. While he was still close enough for me to smell his tough-man cologne his sidekick explained how he came to work 15-minutes early to iron his shirt. This at 5am at a job microwaving eggs for corporate folks at the bottom of a big tower in downtown Portland.

My chef friends might like to know the secret recipe for our egg sammies: 1 egg and 1 coffee creamer. 1-1, just like brown rice 🙂. At the end of a shift, I’d have a garbage can overflowing with those little buckets meant for AirBnB’s or diner tables. I mean, why just buy a bigger thing of creamer? How could you trust someone like me to measure the precise quantity of sweet milk-like stuff to mix with the eggs? I’d whip the 2 together with a fork in a little dish and toss it in the microwave for a bit too long before popping it on some margined-up toast, bagel, or english muffin.

The 2 chefs who cooked lunch were great. They showed me how to safely use one of those giant soup caldrons that could def soak you in boiling yucky lobster bisk if you hit the wrong switch, and even brought me some tequila on my bday (to be sipped right then and there) for a fun morning shift.

The front of the house crew were chillers too. Hustlers working multiple jobs. My bud who worked the register on the other side of my station and I used to crack up because somehow on my first day I messed up the name of one of the bosses (the ironing bro) and in my most eager, first-day voice, called to him, “Good morning, Larry!”

I don’t remember his real name thanks to some solid motivated forgetting but I do know it wasn’t anything close to Larry. Luckily he was so awkward it didn’t matter. He wasn’t sure how to respond and pretended it didn’t happen. From then on my friend and I would crack up and be like, “Larry is on one today!” Def the fun that got us through.

Ooof that was a fun job to split from. No more tired mornings of dragging myself to the kitchen and literally making coffee by pouring yesterday’s brew back through yesterday’s beans to get a hot weird cup of sorta-coffee. Have to own up to this being 95% laziness and 5% lack of dough. I could have gone to the store and bought more coffee but then who was going to smoke this weed and spend 5 hours on the MPC?

I also could have learned how to use the espresso machine at work and made myself a real coffee (probably a secret, real coffee given boss Larry’s stingy wackness). Funny the stuff you look back on when you’re young and wonder, “WTF, old me?” Always down to reflect, learn, grow.

My next restaurant job was at a dope locally-owned pizza shop in Dinkytown, Minneapolis. The owner and I would jam Sugar Minot and crush through lunch rushes. I learned a ton from him and looking back my creamy egg sammy experience could have had something to do with getting the job.

After all my training on being where I don’t want to be at a certain time in the morning, I still carry the weight. The old-school capitalistic view that you’re not doing well if you’re not clocked in at 8 or 9am, regardless of how miserable you are. The same wack norms that devalue artists or anyone not “so busy” from the hours of 9-5pm, Monday – Friday.

In an attempt to ditch this inner battle, my dog Lug and I hit the path around our house for our 15-minute slow walk, leaving at around 9am. It’s almost impossible to not see neighbor friends and one of our favs is Mickey, a slightly older rocker, radio DJ, and construction guru with 2 dogs.

Mickey is our neighborhood Mr. Rogers. It’s easy to imagine him doing a spin and grabbing a lemonade from a kid while laughing with another neighbor all in stride. Today as he came towards us he patted a dog on the head who was standing on its hind legs behind a fence. The other day we saw him, in one single motion, take a big piece of styrofoam out of the recycling bin at a house full of college kids and throw it in their front yard, not slowing his pace at all, and not even glancing to see if they noticed their quick education on recycling.

You never know what type of conversation you’re going to get with Mickey and I kind of love it. Could be a quick hey, a neighborhood update, bird sightings, or a detailed account of the day’s job site. This time, after our typical what up’s he just shook his head and said, “God, I just can’t seem to get up and get going anywhere before 9 these days.” I thought for a sec as he hit on exactly what I’ve been practicing for the past few weeks. Being OK with not being somewhere right at 9am. Since this was fresh in my mind I was able to respond quickly in a way that surprised me a bit, something like…

“We don’t need another reason to be hard on ourselves.”

He paused and nodded a bit and we went off in opposite directions on the path. It was fun to get to share what I’ve been practicing and I was proud to come at a neighbor I respect with support and knowledge. I’m openly a late bloomer in life so giving advice like this to an elder still feels a little weird sometimes. I usually notice myself quietly agreeing or nodding instead of going in with my heart. I was proud to have responded confidently and in the most trippy/grounded way I could. Celebrating wins is part of the practice and it felt good.

From there, Lug and I had a typical walk. Sniffing, peeing, and trying to eat weird stuff. As we got closer to the house we were about to run into Mickey again. My anxiety and pandemic social skill depletion had me in that awkward turning point in my head when you’ve already said it all, like when you say goodbye and then run into the person again 30 seconds later.

I went basic and honest hollering “I hope you have a great day out there, Mickey!” He stopped and said, “Thanks for what you said earlier. I needed to hear that this morning, I don’t need another reason to be hard on myself.”

We cruised off and Lug and I headed up the last block to our house. I felt honored to have helped him feel a bit better, and hearing him repeat those words helped the practice resonated with me more strongly too.

Both of us are right here as people and neighbors. As folks OK with not clocking in when the capitalism bell clangs and we’re supposed to be at desks doing something important (like Facebook).

Both of us are happily walking on a beautiful morning. Enjoying nature and practicing worrying less about where we aren’t.

Seth Godin wrote recently about finding your time. Mine is early in the morning for my creative work, and later in the afternoon too if I can slide it in. By the evening I’m usually tapped out, choosing to read, podcast, cook, have dinner, and lounge.

What’s your prime time to create, work, or be productive?

Maybe the point is finding our jam, and not letting wack norms make us feel any way about it, positive or negative. Another nod to doing you over anything, as that’s your way to make the best contribution to the crew/fam/movement on a whole. We’ll all thank you for it, even if your boss never will.