This post was originally published on The Pastry Box Project on August 27, 2015.
Before I get into the bird poop story, let’s talk about guilt.
Guilt is my method of self-discipline. When in moderation, guilt keeps me on track; it keeps me working on what I should, and it keeps me from ordering Indian food when I really shouldn’t. But when unmoderated, guilt is crippling, particularly when it comes to sunshine.
Winters in New York City are miserable. Well, I can’t speak for Minneapolis or Chicago, but they’re still bad. You can’t cross a street without picking your way through ankle deep, black slush. The warm breath steaming from the subway grates is a toasty treat. Cancel your plans if there’s a snow storm; the trains won’t be running, you won’t get a cab, and the Uber surge will render you unwilling to purchase the dinner for which you are en route. You’ll have many an evening with Netflix, and the aforementioned Indian food will adjust your midriff accordingly…assuming the bicycling delivery person doesn’t slip on the ice (which happened to me before, talk about a guilt trip).
As you can imagine, when spring and summer finally come around it’s downright euphoric. New York is alive. Everyone is happy, the sun is shining, and cold-brew iced coffee is back on the menu. As long as you avoid the sweaty, shoulder-to-shoulder L-train situation, it’s bliss.
Back to guilt. I spend the majority of these precious sunshine-filled hours in the air conditioned sanctum of my coworking space, watching the perfect weather pass by through a window, emerging only to purchase lunch to eat back at my computer. I glance out the window and think, what am I doing?! I work for myself. I should be outside, catching rays because I can but…I want to work. I love to work. And working necessitates outlets and WiFi, amenities associated with the indoors. Catching rays isn’t really an option.
Or is it?
One particular day, on the way to said coworking space, I thought, I’m fully charged and it’s sunny as hell. I’m going to work outside. I’m going to catch those rays while writing HTML. I’m going to have my cake and eat it too.
You can probably see where this is going.
After scoping out the perfect, sun-soaked bench in the illustrious Tompkins Square Park, I whipped out my MacBook Pro and assumed laptop posture. The park even had WiFi. It didn’t work, but it’s the thought that counts, right? No matter, I connected to my hotspot, and my cake eating was underway. I was stoked.
I soon realized some flaws in this plan. First, the heat. Not the sun per se, but the actual laptop. It was scorching my thighs. Again, no matter, I moved my bag to beneath the laptop and on top of my sweaty legs. Problem solved.
But then the major flaw: battery life. The sun was strong, and my brightness was at max; I had ripped through about 40% in 20 minutes. My phone was quite warm as well, and the hotspot was crushing battery life. All of a sudden it was at 11%, and I hadn’t brought a cord.
Dark thoughts ensued. Is this really worth it? What have I accomplished so far? Am I, god forbid, wasting time? Did I make the wrong decision? Why do I torture myself when it comes to sunshine of all things? My mind started to wander, and I enviously eyed a happy, bagel-eating couple a few benches away.
Then it happened: a light colored something dropped right in front of my face. I see on the left of my laptop, below the screen, a wad of white and green bird shit. And with that shit, a waterfall of expletives, shoulds, and guilt. I had wasted my golden hours of morning productivity, and all I had was a shit-laden computer to show for it.
I should have gone to the coworking space as usual. I shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to work instead of romping in the sunshine. In my short 26 years, it’s a huge accomplishment for me to even know what I feel like doing in the first place.
Yes, it’s important to be outside. Yes, it’s important to spend time away from work and the computer, to be in the sunshine, and to select work locations that are not under trees in a park. That being said, after this bird poop incident, I have a slightly different perspective.
The reason I’m not romping in the park right now is because I love to work. Isn’t that the ultimate goal anyway, to love what you do? To enjoy work so much that it becomes play; to blur that work-life line? I don’t think it’s New Yorker workaholic thing, I’m going to say it’s a happy-person-thing.
But in conclusion, as my very wise mother always says, everything in moderation. Blur the work-life line, but not so much that a bird shits on your laptop.