Sunday, January 9, 2011

Free Time isn't Free

I finally started reading Ted Leeson's Inventing Montana.So far I am enjoying the heck out of it, in part because I know the area he is writing about. My father, brother, and I generally spend a weekend or more up there every year.

But its more than that, I think. Leeson does something I struggle with when it comes to writing. He takes a stand. And I don't mean a Rush Limbaugh-type fire drill where somebody rages against the status quo or the not-status quo in an effort to rile up the masses. Rather, Leeson has his opinions, and he has his reasons for those opinions, and he is willing to trot them out there. And he does so in a way that doesn't offend with arrogance. It helps that his ideas are well-thought out and well defended.And that I find myself agreeing with most of them.

One such idea is a section of the book that talks about the evolving nature of down-time and recreation in America. Leeson makes the point that its rare to hear someone say they are going to play all weekend--which is essentially what we all earn the right to do by working all week. Instead, we tell each other that we are going to "get a few things done." This type of declaration is akin to a badge of honor. We want to show those we associate with that our work ethic doesn't rest. Leeson says: "We no longer simply enjoy our leisure; we wish to be successful at it."

This is an idea that hit home for me. Mainly because I rarely find myself saying I plan to get a few things done for the weekend. When someone at work asks me my plans for the weekend, I tend to reply with some phrase that includes the word "fishing." It might be: "I'm going fishing" or the less optimistic: "I'm hoping to go fishing, but I'm not sure" or the dreaded: "I should go fishing, but my wife says I have to paint the garage."

The looks I get in response to these comments often contain a head shake or a cocked eyebrow. I think I work with a lot of folks who feel like working around the house all weekend, or spending a Saturday doing their taxes, counts for something. And if they feel that way, I suppose it does count for something among them. These are people who are using the weekend to catch up on the work they are missing by going to work. In the eyes of the trout bum, I may be a sellout and poser. I have a 9-to5 job and a house in a subdivision. I watch sports. I do not own a drift boat. But at least I don't spend my time planning out how I might catch up on the work I missed while I was working.

The mere thought of it makes me want to go fishing until my casting arm falls off.  

Our free time is a precious resource. A career choice for any self-respecting trout addict should include an analysis of how much time it will cost to make money. When I took my current job, I was very much taken with the idea that the company worked a schedule where every other Friday was a day off work and the gateway to a three-day weekend. For the last 8 years, I have spent most of those "Fridays off" fishing. And I've loved every minute of it.

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