Every now and then, I have a tendency to whine. I work too hard, life is tough, writing is difficult, etc etc. Also, every now and then, something happens to make me realise I have nothing whatsoever to complain about.
A couple of nights ago I was travelling home in a taxi. Since I am just starting out as a novelist, I have to do temp work to make ends meet, but do it at odd hours so that I am free during the day to write. At the moment I am working a 5pm to 1am shift. This, by the way, is the cause of a lot of my whining. Anyway, London being the modern, cosmopolitan city it is, all the trains have stopped running by then, so the company pays for me to take a cab home.
I was talking to my driver the other night and that’s where the perspective came in. You see, we’d both started work at the same time, but whereas I was going home to bed, he would be working right through to the morning. And whereas I had the weekend to look forward to, he worked seven days a week. Things have apparently got worse because of the credit crunch: whereas before he only worked about 60 hours a week, now he works more like 90. Just to spell it out, 60 hours is six 10-hour days; 90 hours is seven 13-hour days. And he still struggles to pay the mortgage and buy his kids all the things they need. From talking to other drivers, I know that he is far from exceptional. He works longer hours than most, but 12-hour shifts and working weekends are the norm for them. And the worst thing is that there are plenty of people in the world doing even worse jobs, people who would look on a London cab-driver with envy.
The result of all this: I feel like an idiot. Yes, I work long hours, but half of those hours are doing something I love – writing. I deliberately chose this kind of life because I wanted to be a writer. If I wanted to give it up, I could go back to journalism, or even to my original career as a corporate banker, or just stick with temping and enjoy having lots of spare time. In short, I am privileged. Why is it always so hard for me to remember that?
The good part is that, for this week at least, I stopped whining and was more productive than I have been for ages.