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I am not working.

Part Gillie Kleiman’s WebRes ‘Not Working.’ Find out more here.

I am not working.

When this text is released I will not be working.

When this text is released I will not be working, because it is Wednesday, and on Wednesdays I do other things that aren’t work.

Specifically, today, the day that this text is released, the day after the today of the writing, I will be:

  • Buying vegan cinnamon buns for Carole and me from a bakery by the river
  • Fortified by the buns and aided by Carole, weeding the back garden, cutting down the rogue ash tree, and sorting out this year’s spent plants from the vegetable patch at the front
  • Hoovering the flat No really, hoovering the flat, the whole flat, and mopping the kitchen and bathroom
  • No, definitely hoovering the flat, even if it means doing it at 9pm which is the latest I dare
  • Maybe meditating, maybe doing some yoga, maybe doing a Gaga class online and trying not to feel like I’m in an episode of Smack the Pony
  • Delivering food parcels in Walker for East End Women
  • Maybe changing the bedsheets
  • Answering some emails about Star and Shadow Cinema’s radio activities (not radioactivity)
  • Reading some texts in preparation for the Marrickville School of Economics session on Thursday, which is about kinship
  • Making a loaf of sourdough or maybe some flatbreads

I was talking to Andrew about why I want to only work four days a week. This is complicated and involves more than just me and my desires, but I will start there.

I don’t want to be my work. I want, when someone asks me what I do, to be able to say that I garden or deliver food parcels with the same force and sense of proximity and authority as when I say ‘I’m a choreographer’ or when I have said ‘I’m a university lecturer’. This is so close to Marx’s ‘hunt in the morning’ quote but isn’t quite that really, because we’re in a different time than Marx was. I don’t want to be any of it, any one, neat formula; I don’t want to be putting forth a tidy, refined narrative of my life. My life, maybe everyone’s life, is made of shaggier dough.

I want to make more space for myself to do things and not feel guilty about them. I already always feel guilty about things I’m doing or not doing, whether they be professional, domestic, voluntary, community-focused or leisurely. I will probably feel guilty if I don’t achieve the things on the list of non-work activities. But I want to alleviate a bit of it all by freeing myself from the burden of work just one day of the ‘working’ week.

This is already not working. 

In the three weeks since I began this four-day week rhythm I have worked on one of the weekends. As I look ahead to the demands on my time for the next days I see that I will also work this weekend, probably not the whole time, but at least a bit. I don’t want to do this, but I have taken on quite a bit more work than I had realised, and something important came in last-minute that is time-sensitive and that I want to do. That wanting is complicated.

It’s not working, but it feels important to try. It feels important to sensitise myself to my own capacities, to know what is possible in what full-time employed people would call a 0.8 FTE contract, a contract I have only with myself, really. It is also important for me to feel out what it is to have three days a week where I am not working. This feels like three days of holiday but it’s not that, not really a break, because of course there are many things to which I am committed that have nothing to do with work. In the past I have tried to wrap these into work: I work from home so need to keep my home workplace-clean, or my volunteering gigs help me understand things or build connections for my choreography. I don’t want to do that any more: I don’t want to justify my life because it’s work. It can just be life. It’s fine like that.

I am aware that I can try to make for myself a more lifeful life partially because I am choosing so and partially because I have housing security and no dependents and, for the moment, I have enough work to keep myself professionally satisfied and financially afloat as long as I live an inexpensive life. This attempt is mine. But it, of course, sits against a broader context of struggle for less work and more other things, other things that are variously elaborated as family time, leisure, care, community participation, the cultivation of the commons, self-development, personal days and so on. Each of these can be critiqued fully, and have been, just as they have been fought for. In order for me to be able to get closer and more nuanced about what it is that I seek I need to practice it; I learn by doing. For me this is a choreography, a management of space and time and activity and relation, but a choreography that I effort hard not to be reduced to the work of a choreographer. As I said to Andrew, I want the things that are very much work adjacent – I could consider what I do with Star and Shadow, the few emails, the odd radio show, a meeting or two, as work, and I would feel justified in that even if there is no money earned – to not feel like work. This not working is as much feeling out, describing for myself what not-work feels like here, how and who I am by not working, as it is deprioritising work and deeply prioritising other things.

I am not working.

See you on Thursday, when I will be working.