Using Minimalism To See the Positive

I’ve talked a bit about my company’s recent changes in a previous post, but to sum up we moved to a new office that impacted many of our commutes. A lot of us now have longer commutes in worse traffic with higher costs with tolls. After downsizing to a smaller, cheaper apartment, my partner and I broke even with the cost and were surprised when my company responded to complaints by giving full-time employees a one-time payment to supplement a year’s travel expenses. I was very grateful for the gesture, especially since we had already adjusted our budget and were able to put that money directly into our savings. However, as a one-time payment, that meant that I would technically be taking a pay decrease after a year.

Additionally, once we moved offices, I moved my schedule up to a super early time of 6:00-2:00 with no lunch to avoid the heavy traffic in later commutes. In Houston, ten minutes’ difference in getting on the highway can make or break you getting to work on time because our city was not designed well for commuters and every major artery into the city backs up by 6:30 AM. My flexible schedule was the last bonus I had to keep me happier in the office because I abhor wasting time in traffic and tend to work better earlier in the morning when I am alone. It allows me to be a better worker.

Today a major player in my company decided I needed to be available at hours that better fit his schedule. I get it but it’s frustrating, mostly because my boss’s compromise of altering my schedule one day a week to fit his needs wasn’t what he wanted. Instead I lost my earlier commute altogether. Starting next week, I’ll be working 7:00-4:00 with a lunch. This is more frustrating than it should be for me because I see lunch like a commute, usually necessary but a waste of time because I would rather spend the time at home. I take small breaks through the day when needed, try to stretch every hour or so, have an adjustable desk that allows me to stand so I don’t sit all day, and move my eyes away from my screen every twenty or thirty minutes to give them a break. I work best getting more out in the earlier hours and being able to go full force without stopping because my mind is easily distracted, and I appreciate being able to work in one large chunk and go home earlier because it makes me more productive at work and at home. So this change is frustrating not only because it impacts how much time I spend on the road and in the office but because it will likely make me a less productive employee.

I’m trying to see this as a small change rather than a schedule-altering requirement that will affect us all the way down to when we eat dinner. But it’s difficult. It’s interesting how your attitude toward something can quickly influence how you view other aspects as well. I’m not happy at my current company for several reasons, and this change did little to convince me that it is a good fit for me. But when you are looking for negatives, for things that solidify your opinion, you’ll find them. That’s how I immediately felt after being told this morning that my work schedule needed to fit someone else’s preferences instead of working together for a compromise. It was unfair.

Minimalism encourages us to shed things and activities that stress us out unnecessarily and drag us away from our priorities and the activities that we love. I’ve begun to dread particular aspects of my work life and now have to spend an extra hour a day in the office along with an extra 30-45 minutes on the road in traffic with the later commute. I realize that many people aren’t given flexible schedules, but that is something I look for in a position. It’s significant to me. So my initial reaction, much in the same way of how we originally viewed our need to downsize, was pure doom. I would hate every work day from this point on.

After a few sips of tea and texts to my partner, my blood pressure returned to normal, I pulled out my new quinoa snacks, turned on a new podcast, and settled back into my work because I knew that wasn’t the case. To truly focus on the positive and give energy only to priorities and things that I believe are worth my energy meant that I shouldn’t focus on this issue. It was beyond my control. Yes, it impacts me and my partner’s schedules, but I can find positives in it.

For Christmas this year, I am trying to make as many gifts as I can, which has had me delving into new activities that I have never tried before or failed to master in the past. One of those is knitting. I give credit to anyone who has made it beyond three rows of knitting because I have struggled for literally almost four years to learn how to knit. Now that I have lunches, I can work on knitting as a mid-day stress reliever—and I can do it outside in the fall-ish weather because our new office is surrounded by trees and benches. I can also catch up on reading if my hands are cooperating with knitting some days.

I also get to sleep a little later. Never would have thought that a 5:00 AM alarm would be sleeping in to me, but I’ll take it. My partner will be slightly relieved that I won’t start ushering us toward bed before 8:30 each evening as well. It’ll make a gym schedule slightly more difficult, but I’m sure we can figure something out.

Lastly, this isn’t the job I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life. I was born to be a writer, and editing is enjoyable for me; I was not born to format and store documents for a pipeline company. I don’t want to work for a company that nixes building pipelines through wetlands because of cost rather than concern for the wildlife and environment; I want to work somewhere that has a positive impact. I want to work somewhere that excites me. This is not a company where I am going to spend the next thirty years at my desk, so this situation is not permanent.

In the end, this change is going to alter my routine, which normally would have led to severe anxiety on my part, and I won’t deny that there was a moment this morning when I wanted to pull my hooded jacket over my head and slide under my desk. But it’s just the start of a different season in my office, and mindfulness and minimalism help me focus on the positive that can come from the situation. I am bigger than the circumstances that influence my life, and I am going to focus my energy on the positives and make something else a priority for my thoughts and time.

If anything, at least I’ll have time to finally knit someone a small, albeit functional, pot holder.

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