Gimme a break

In 2002 I found myself in a miserable job. The new managers had been forced to merge their successful department with our unsuccessful one, and were not happy about it. Everyone with any sense had left months ago, including the clients. I was sitting at a workbench facing into a corner, and I hadn’t felt useful in months.

I quit, obviously, to find a better job. “The money doesn’t matter,” I said to recruiters, “I’m just looking for interesting projects.”

This is exactly the wrong thing to say to recruiters, since they don’t care about anything except the money, and their cut. They usually know nothing about the job itself, and are happy to lie their arses off to get you placed.

I found myself at a large accountancy firm working on an internal timesheeting project. Sadly, the project was nearly complete, and the money (shock) wasn’t great. I quit, obviously, to look for more work.

I found work at an international business computing firm. The commute was awful: 2hrs each way. But the money was good. They needed me “urgently”. Sounded good.

First day: “Er, it’s not been signed off yet. Why not just train yourself on this computer here.”

Four months later, still waiting for signoff, I was trudging to “work” through the snow, and I realised that I didn’t care any more. I hadn’t been interested in work for two years. Making something that I cared about seemed so completely unattainable that I didn’t think it was possible.

When I got back to town, I went to a travel agent. I asked for a round-the-world trip. “Where?” they said. “I don’t know,” I replied. “Come back when you’ve decided,” they say.

“No.” I say. “You must do this all the time. You know where people go, what they want to see, how long to spend in each place. Just get me on a plane next Saturday, and have me home by Christmas. I’ve heard South America’s interesting, I want to see Australia, but the rest is up to you.”

I walked out with a handful of tickets, and instructions for the visas.

California, Hawaii, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Vietnam.

It was totally worth it.

If I had to do it again, I’d go again to Tokyo, to Hanoi, to the islands of Fiji. The best bits were the places that were totally unlike home. Oddly, though, I loved sitting in cheap Internet cafes in obscure parts of the world, and coding.

Sometimes you have to take a break from your job to remember what makes it fun.

Take a holiday.