During my early teens I found discotheques utterly confusing. If you found me at one, it was probably because friends dragged me in. Even if you were to find me in there chances were that you would find me seated in a table, scribbling a thought or two on a paper napkin and exchanging an idea admist the loud music.
For me discotheques were not fun. They were boring. Downright boring.
Then as I grew more social I cultivated a certain acceptance for discotheques and parties where people got drunk and sometimes created a ruckus. Put simply, I cultivated a persona that made me feel at home admits other drunk developers who were dancing like idiots to really loud music which made no sense. With age, my acceptance level for other people's definition of 'fun' increased.
As I entered my professional life, the number of these parties increased, the music got louder and drinks started flowing as I watched young and budding developers enjoy project parties and company picnics by getting soaked in alcohol, puke, throw up and sometimes even get into an occasional fight or two.
I still did not 'get it' but then I developed the maturity to accept it and have 'fun' watching developers getting drunk at parties and making a fool of themselves.
Even with all the growing up, the maturity and the acceptance of other people's way of having fun, there was a part of me that would often make me carry my laptop to some of these long-never-ending-parties and do a database design or write some code smack in the middle of some of these loud parties. For places where my laptop would not go, my windows mobile did the trick.
My laptop even accompanied me to most vacations.
Every once in a while however, I often stumble across a friend, a colleague or an acquaintance who sees me checking or responding to my emails in the middle of these parties or a vacation and gently advices me that I should not work so hard and in their very own words, I should 'enjoy' life a little more.
Seth Godin in one of his books describes one such vacation of his, where he is answering his email in the middle of the night and stumbles across a couple who feels 'sad' that Seth is checking his email in the middle of a vacation. Seth provides an interesting perspective about the topic in his book. He explains:
It was 4 a.m. and I can't sleep. So I'm sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Jamaica, checking my email.
A couple walks by, obviously on their way to bed, .... The woman looks over me and, in a harsh whisper a little quieter than a yell, says to her friend, "Isn't that sad? That guy comes here on vacation and he's stuck checking his email. He can't even enjoy his two weeks off."
I think the real question - the one they probably wouldn't want to answer - was, "Isn't it sad that we have a job where we spend 2 weeks avoiding the stuff we have to do 50 weeks a year?"
It took me a long time to figure out why I was so happy to be checking my email in the middle of the night.
It had to do with passion.
Other than sleeping, there was nothing I'd rather have been doing in that moment - because I'm lucky enough to have a job where I get to make change happen.
The words belong to Seth Godin, but if I had to own the above words and defend every single word above like it was said through my mouth, I would.
By quoting these individuals and by giving you a new perspective to look at this problem; I am, by no means, suggesting that you stop taking your vacations or do not go to parties. Neither am I nudging you to take your laptop with you everywhere you go.
All I am trying to do, dear reader, is stimulate your mind and leave you with the thought, that maybe, checking your email on your blackberry or widows mobile smack in the middle of a loud party, can be just as much (at times even much more) 'fun' as moving your hips and doing an insane dance with totally drunk individuals.
If you don't enjoy checking your emails and need long frequent vacations or a truck load of alcohol to forget about work that you have to do for the entire year, maybe you are not passionately connected to your work and should consider alternate options or professions which would keep you happy throughout the year.
After all, this work stuff is supposed to be fun through out the year; not random pseudo fun created by loud music and alcohol flowing like water.
So if you are a young and budding developer working with me, the next time you see me dancing for five minutes at a party and getting back to scanning through my email on a phone or starting a conversation on software development with an acquaintance or another colleague, please do realize that by indulging in the stupid dance for five minutes I am acknowledging my acceptance for your idea of 'fun'.
I am also hoping that you too accept my idea of 'fun' by letting me work and realizing that I 'enjoy' working on software development and writing about it as much as you enjoy getting drunk and moving your hands and legs to loud music.