Tuesday, January 3, 2012

revenge of the cubicle dwellers

In all my checkered employment history, I have never had a sedentary job. Of course, there have been extended periods of butt-sitting, mainly in winter, but each job had its share of hiking for dollars. (Or kayaking for dollars, as in the case of my Alaska years.) These outdoor moments kept me from feeling like an old office slug. While working for the Firm has its downsides (if I was tasked with catching up with a trail contractor, I couldn't just run up a peak instead) I mostly loved every minute of hiking, clearing trails, cleaning up after trashy people, and yes, even cleaning toilets.

All of this changed today, my first day of a new job. I'm working on some interesting projects across the country, and I get to work at home, finally shedding the dreaded "Cube Farm." True, I can listen to Pandora Radio with impunity. I can take my laptop outside when it's warm. I can eat lunch whenever I want and I don't have to share a bathroom (oh joy). It's pretty much the perfect setup. But..it's not fieldwork.

The sunlight slanted in through the windows, the temperature soaring to a freakish 50 degrees. The mountains beckoned. It took serious willpower to keep working away. It did at the old place too, but my fellow cubists kept me honest. There was always some meeting to attend or a discussion to have (although to be honest, all conversations did seem to end up being about William Shatner). In this new job, I have to...gasp...be a grown-up.

"Going to the field" is the great divide in my Firm. It is what makes people labor at jobs well below their skill level into their fifties because they just can't face the awfulness of pushing a keyboard indoors. It is what holds some of us back, because the weirdness of working for a natural resource agency means that if you want more money, you have to go indoors. Sooner or later it's easy to forget just why you work there.

In my field going years, I paddled twelve foot seas in the Gulf of Alaska. I backpacked with a seventy pound load, off trail into some of the wildest country I have been fortunate to see. I've built bridges. I've set prairies on fire. I've gathered pungent cones from trees and planted new trees. I've cleared trails and slithered through caves. It has been a glorious run.

But every now and then a person needs a new chapter, a chance to change things up a little. The mountains aren't going anywhere. They'll wait for me.

If you work 9-5, or some version thereof, how do you deal with the reduced outdoor time?

First hike of 2012. NOT on a work day.



  1. Basically, I spend every day at work wishing I was outside...

  2. My job is homeschooling so while it is not 9-5, it keeps me away from the outdoors for most of the time. How do I deal with it? I don't. I have internal tantrums - does that count as dealing with it?
    I find it interesting that indoor jobs translate to more money. I hope your job is such that you can schedule your hours and days so you get to do more hiking.
    50 degrees? You must be kidding me!!!

  3. I relentlessly build my leave bank and take blocks of time to go climbing, kayaking, trekking and adventuring in all four seasons.


    I also keep in mind that the job is not my life. It pays the bills, facilitates my real life and it stays in The Box or it gets the hose.

    The hardest part about working indoor, sedentary jobs is that they always want to crawl out of their box and take over your butt, your life, your inspiration.

    Keep moving throughout the day. Stretch, twist, sit on Bosu ball instead of a chair (or integrate a stand-up work station). It all helps.

    Wreck yourself on weekends. That's why Mondays were invented- so dirtbag climbers could slump over a keyboard and knuckle out emails with swollen fingers. :)

  4. I don't work 9-5 but Hubby does and we go on his schedule. I agree with Titanium: Wreck yourself on the weekends. That's what we do. :)

  5. Loving these responses! I do sit on a ball and have a hydraulic desk. It helps....Fonk, good to see you pop in again.

  6. I don't know Mare, it's a question of balance and the ability to make sure the job takes a firm second to your own needs I think.
    I always sacrificed my own needs but then, I was a consultant and got paid for every hour, so I worked every hour I possibly could that they were willing to pay me for. The only survival tool I HAD to utilize was to go for a long run almost Every day, midway through my workday. If I didn't do this (and believe me sometimes it happened for long ugly stretches, for various reasons) then I was Not a Happy Camper.
    Things went okay for the kids, but hubby didn't fare so well. All that unhappiness trickles somewhere.
    But having spent years working indoors, from home, prior to working a job (albeit only summers so far) where the job takes me outdoors to work, for myself there is no comparison. Give me outdoors for work please. The pay may be a tenth of what I made indoors, but my husband can attest to how happy I am. and when I'm happy, he's happy. VERY Happy.
    I wish you better success with the desk job Mary, I hope you can do it better than I did.

  7. First of all got to say "Love the pic. Reminds me of a hike I took not too long ago with a great friend...minus the snow of course"

    I work an 7:30-4:30 job. It sucks!

    I was kind of glad when I got laid off. Although unemployment is a 20% pay cut, I get to spend some much needed one on one time with my wee ones while they are still young. I think me working while my oldest was little only created more of his problems. I wasn't there enough. That is the problem with office jobs. You just can't be in two places at once therefore leaving the daycares to take care of our children.

    I am also enjoying being able to take a yoga class anytime of day, and have started my Tri training 3 months early.

    I hate my office job but it pays the bills. I tried the stay at home and work thing. It didn't work for me. I wasn't discplined enough to keep from going outside and enjoying life.

    It has been so warm up here the last almost 2 wks that I am tempted to run outside. Something you would never catch me doing in December. It was 43 here yesterday and I think warmer today.

    Mary I envy you for being able to be disciplined enough to stay seated while the mountains are calling your name.

  8. You have to remember that work is only part of your day, and use the rest of the time to its fullest. I get up early and play hockey before work. I may take a long lunch to do something outside. After work, I row for a couple of hours, or go for a hike until sunset.

    Living and working in an area where you are a short drive to the parts of the outside that you love helps alot.

    Otherwise, negotiate for comp time and extra vacation. Also, search for other outdoor-lovers at work. A few minutes in a hallway talking about your new trekking poles or where he's going camping can help a lot. It reminds your brain there is more to life than meetings!


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