After 23 years in the advertising business, for the first time ever, I’m doing Ramadan a bit more on my terms. In the past, as I’ve fasted from food and drink from dawn to sunset every day for a month, I’ve had to endure a litany of agency barbecues, client meeting pizza leftovers, and “donuts in the kitchen!” It’s like free food just knows when Muslims are doing Ramadan. Now, on my ever-more-flexible freelance schedule, I find myself sleeping in a wee bit later, not around the office when the “lunch train” is leaving, and occasionally working later in the evening on my couch and on a full stomach.
I’d never say fasting for Ramadan is an easy endeavor, but this year, even though the month still falls squarely in the summer, it’s been a little less taxing. I’m still fasting about 17 hours a day, but unlike previous years, I haven’t been watching the clock, counting the minutes until sunset. Maybe that’s because I haven’t spent more than four straight hours in an agency office a single day this month. Maybe because I’ve worked on projects far from office politics, sitting on a comfy couch or out on my deck catching a nice breeze. Maybe because I’ve often taken long breaks to read passages of the Koran, or just to rest my eyes. Maybe it’s because my wonderful Christian wife Whitney has been fasting right along with me much of the month. Or maybe it’s because I haven’t been bombarded with harmless (but sometimes tasteless) fasting jokes morning, noon and night. Whatever it is, it’s been a welcome change.
I’ve also noticed the quality of my work hasn’t suffered one bit during this month. If anything, my focus has been stronger. Over the past two weeks and for a handful of clients, I’ve tackled two ad campaigns and numerous other projects including email copy, case studies, manifestos and even a pitch script for an ABC reality show. Creative directors, clients and even ABC producers have been pleased with my work, and so have I.
To be fair, today is Day 15 of 30. And if I’m being honest, the second half of the month generally doesn’t get any easier. Not only are the days getting longer and hotter, but the routine of the fast itself, the getting up before dawn to hydrate, the late night prayers—it all just has a way of wearing you down. But in the spirit of Ramadan, I’m truly grateful. Grateful for my newfound flexibility as a freelancer. Grateful for my supportive family and friends. And most of all, grateful to God for giving me the health and strength to fast this beautiful month. Ramadan Kareem, everyone.