An Essay on How to Fill a Day with Nothing – Also, known as, The Pleasures of a Purpose-less Sabbatical…

Some three and a half years ago, I took a sabbatical from work, ostensibly to do bigger, better, more worthwhile things in life. (Unfortunately, I settled back into more mundane living fairly quickly, without utilizing my downtime in any meaningful way. Clearly, the current break will have to be much more purposeful!)

This note below captures the heady feeling of the early days of that break…dated October 2009, location New York, NY.

Watching grass grow can be a fun and rewarding experience.

Ah, the Art of Sleep. Or, rather, the Art of Waking-Up-Late. For some, waking up late means 8 am, which is such a pity – this artform is clearly wasted on them. For others, waking up at 11 am or later comes easy. Natural Born Artists. So you continue to hone this Talent each day.

Sometime mid-morning sleep eventually dissipates. Your eyes hook up with your iPhone/Watch/Media Center/Newspaper/Life. 10.55. You float out of bed around the same time as Worker-Bees all around town are hearing the first rumblings in their stomachs. After all, lunch hour is near. The Sun has already expended much of its morning energy, but you don’t notice that because the blinds are down (sensible move last night). Your first act of the day is to bring the Sound-and-Fury box back to life. You already made sure the remote stayed close at hand. Choices abound – there’s CNN, if you want to know how much your Life would Suck if you hadn’t been Goldman Sachs (but wait, you aren’t Goldman Sachs…). Then there’s Martha, who can  teach you how to make Champignon French-something-or-other with mushroom caps and cheese, and craft decorations with discarded mushroom stems and glitter. Super talented woman. But best to settle with the Ladies of The View. Five women talking animatedly about important-sounding topics, you know, Jon and Kate, Balloon Boy and such. They can’t seem to agree between themselves that the sky is blue. And what greater pass time than to guess which dentures Barbara Walters chose to wear today – clearly, she rotates between several pairs depending upon her need for audible coherence?

Breakfast at 12. If you have made lunch (aka breakfast) plans with friends, food is taken care of. But each time you are out having lunch, you wonder why things appear rushed. Could it be that your Worker-Bee-Friend needs to get back to work? You are in no hurry yourself, but those Au Bon Pain soup bowls carry only so much soup. Even the Large ones. Though lunch plans are quick and easy, and your friends have suggested them a few times, you are a lazy sloth (painful to take a quick shower, get ready, and leave home by 1). So you plan to meet another day. Maybe later in the week – Friday.

Today, you are home for breakfast – things are much simpler. The Fridge holds the key to your happiness. Milk. Direct from a cow some two thousand miles away. Wholesome, pure…missing some fat, but with added vitamins. What else…there is Pepperidge Farms Bread – unspoilt even after a week. Fortified with cement, presumably. There’s some Swiss cheese. Organic Grade-A-Large-Eggs with yummy Good-Cholesterol. Gala Apples and Dole Bananas before they go too ripe. But you look beyond all that and grab the big box of Cheerios you bought yesterday. After watching that ad in which a grandfather is having Cheerios with his year-old grandson. They were loving it so! Nothing like a good bowl of cereal. Except carrot cake. Or any cake.

All through your miserable years at work, you have wondered about those folks who sit at Starbucks in the middle of the afternoon, sipping coffee and reading a book. WHAT is their profession – and how do you get to be one of THEM? Well, now is your chance. So you grab your great new Novel, in all its 700 pages of hard bound enormity, and lug it to the cafe two blocks away. You don’t really like coffee, so you order yourself a dessert drink. There is no one ahead or behind you in line, so you get a clear picture of how your Frappucciono is manufactured. Basically, they start with Heavy Cream. Then they add some mix (sugar syrup?) from a bottle. Followed by some fruity looking syrup from a second bottle. Off to the blender. Followed by a huge dollop of more Heavy Cream to top it up. Your heart fails just toting up the calories and Bad-Cholesterol count. The kid behind the counter smiles as she hands the Venti to you, her lips saying ‘Enjoy’ though her eyes clearly mean ‘Good Luck surviving that’.

Drink in hand, you seat yourself at a table with a so-so view of the Street. The best seats are already taken by Ferocious-looking-Hipsters. (Go back to your East Village, you Skinny Jeans Morons). Anyhow, you are not to be undone…you fish out your giant book with both hands (your bag and your shoulder thank you for it). You read. 3.15.

Outside the window, you spot a chick wearing mittens (already?). An old but well preserved lady with a dog. Back to the book. Two new visitors to the cafe. Marble cake…mmm, maybe you should get that, too. Two sips of the Frappuccino. Book. The visitors settle down at a worse table – take that, Losers. NYU Kids. Ah to be young in New York. Outside, the Mailman runs his block. Frappuccino. Book. Repeat. 3.30.

Only 3.30? Concentrate on the book. It is a great book, but this public area coccooning is new to you. The sounds and visuals are distracting. IPOD! Yes, take that out. Headphone all set. Playlist set to 500-Days-of-Summer. Go. Book. Frappuccino. Book. Repeat. Man running. Two giggly girls. One of the Ferocious-looking-Hipster starts to leave. Should you change you seat? No, that’s uncool, surely. Book. More Book. Even more Book. Frappuccino. Skip Song. Skip next Song, too. Frappuccino. Book. More Book. Even more Book. Now mainly Book and little much Else.

4.30. This turned out to be reasonably ok. You need more practice, so maybe you will repeat this again tomorrow. Or maybe, later in the week – Friday. Did 20 pages of the Book. The Brick goes back into the bag (groan). Onward home.

The Mega Million Lotto is now 108 MILLION DOLLARS! Stop by the neighborhood deli. Pretend you are there to buy something else…Snapple Grapeade, say. And just by-the-way ask for 3 Mega Million tickets. You know, to top out the 5 dollars you placed on the counter.

Finally Home. Free until 7 when you meet your friend over dinner. Go for a run? But you showered already, so perhaps tomorrow. Maybe later in the week – Friday. Catch up on recorded Jay Leno and Conans. Conan is still not funny…poor guy. But you want to be nice to him, so you continue to watch politely. You doze off…as your Natural-born-talent manifests itself again only after a few short hours. But, as Conan says bye for the night, you wake up as well. Perhaps time to change your shirt for the evening. You look through the closet to realize – 1) you still haven’t done laundry, and 2) you don’t have good clothes, anyway. Laundry and Shopping coming up. Maybe later in the week – Friday.

Off for dinner. Thai, Indian, Mexican or Chinese, typically. Usually cheap, and always worth it – there is a reason why New York apartments come with kitchens and smoke-alarms 1 feet apart from each other. Why would anyone want to cook in New York?

Home later. After 9, even your cellphone provider sets you free, so go yap as much as you want. But talking is so 2007, now that there is Facebook…Think of something truly witty for your Facebook status. Think hard. Continue to think. Eventually, give up – it’s not as if you have anything to report – you haven’t done ANYTHING today. Witty or otherwise.

Mr Sandman won’t visit for a while, so you extricate the Brick from the bag. Read the Book. It’s actually quite delightful…you wonder why you couldn’t concentrate at Starbucks. You continue to read. 1 am. You want to catch up on your sleep – there’s much to be done tomorrow. Or, at least, much to done later in the week – Friday.

This is Life you could get used to. You wish your parents had worked harder when they were younger…and left you a Trust Fund.

Comments

comments

16 thoughts on “An Essay on How to Fill a Day with Nothing – Also, known as, The Pleasures of a Purpose-less Sabbatical…

  1. C. Suresh

    Now that is so much like someone were writing about m life in first person. Only needed suitable Indianization 🙂 Though I did not do tentative things like taking sabbaticals = I just up and quit 🙂

    Reply
  2. BhavanaDiary

    Wow, I too think like this, I can sleep till noon sometimes and I try hard to read in a café all by myself (only when I am on a business trip) but the only difference between us is you can write this down this well, where as I cannot! 
    After relocating to Czech Republic from a company which makes its employees work like slaves, I took a transfer to its Czech centre (as I got married to a guy doing research here). After settling here I got to know that the workers here have a laid back attitude for everything (unlike in US of A and some of the outsourcing companies in India). Europeans don’t give a damn for any management. The labor laws here are very strict. It was real hard for me to get out of a slavish mentality and it took me nearly all those years I worked in the Czech centre of this Indian company. Now I have joined UK Finance shared service and here the attitude of employees is even more relaxed, on top this is not an outsourcing company, so no working like a slave. Fortunately I am working for management and hence no extra working hours :-p
    Still somewhere in my mind I feel guilty when I am trying to relax (for reasons unknown, my subconscious seems to be trying to remind me of those terrible days). People work hard to make their lives relaxing, but I am trying hard to learn to relax myself. Even when I am sitting on my cough my mind will be running and thinking what I should do for the next day.
    I have disciplined my mind to run from the time I started my job 11 years ago only if I had disciplined my body like that then I would have been fit by now! :-p
    Regarding the last sentence, I keep reminding my mother how much harder they could have worked during their working years. She had bloody passed her Income tax exams and was sitting at home and later when something went wrong only then she started to work and as what? as teacher! How could she? If only she, if only she ..

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      I just hope I was more productive with my time whenever I have downtime like this. And that is what worries me – taking all these sabbaticals but not putting them to good use.
      I am glad you have found your own rhythm and pace in Czech Republic. I think Europe has a lot to teach the rest of the world – that YOU matter more than your job, your career and your boss!

      Reply
  3. Ruch

    I came across this post today. This is exactly what stops me from giving up my job .. I am sure I will end up not doing any of those things that I now dream of doing after quitting… and like you I’ll just spend my days in sloth 😛 😛

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Don’t make me the benchmark, I am simply useless!
      If you have a mission and a purpose, you will go just great. Just go for it if you heart urges you to do it! But, I think you may be too cushy in a reasonably cushy job…and that’s what is holding you back.

      Reply
      1. Jayna

        I’ve always wanted to read SWEET VENOM! My copy of AMBER HOUSE expired, unafrtunotely, so I wasn’t able to start on it. Can’t wait to hear what you think of these, though. Have a great week, Dani!

        Reply
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  4. ARJUN MS

    I dont have a job to take a sabbatical, but its on my list when I get one 😀 . The skill of doing nothing is to be appreciated,its not that easy as it seems. I have tried and enjoyed it in bits. I am a bit concerned how the routine will be when one return back to normal work. Throughly enjoyed reading it, natural post 🙂

    MS

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