The Un-Social Nature of Working from Home

I recently read a blog post by someone who works from home.  They weren't an artist.  I think they might've been an investor or some such financially rewarding position.  But they still had the luxury of working from their own space and in their pajamas if they so choose.  It's just that their pajamas are way more expensive than mine, and their computer probably many years newer.

Alas, they spoke about how working from home isn't all it's cracked up to be.  That it takes a special kind of person to work in isolation, without regular face to face, professional interaction- and not everyone can hack it.

Let me say right here that I agree this sounds like complaining about winning the lottery.  Most people would kill to work from home, let alone for themselves. I know I did.  Well, I didn't actually kill.  But I might have if necessary.  I simply worked my arse off and spent many sleepless nights planning all my next steps so I could survive the latest trough my income had decided to descend.

However, that isn't to say there's no difficulty.  These are my specific challenges.

  • My life is incredibly sedentary.  So sedentary that I fear it is having a negative impact on my health.  I have the luxury of working out at any time of day, and yet being so busy with my own business that it doesn't happen as often as it should.  And even working out cannot counteract all the hours I spend hunched over my paints or metal block.
  • I find that it has made it easier for me to isolate myself further- meaning, when you're used to working from home, it simply becomes your norm.  It's your routine to go a whole work week without talking to someone outside of your inner circle.  And worse, when this doesn't happen (say I do a craft show), I actually find it exhausting. I think I'm speaking a little too loudly, or a little too cheerfully.  I'M GOING TO SHOUT AT YOU CAUSE I DON'T GET OUT MUCH.  By the end of the day I'm hoarse, totally shattered, and just want to get back to my little cave again.  Put on my yoga pants and slip back into the inner circle.
  • And because humans are complicated, messy things, and middle aged women probably even more complicated than most, while I have become totally comfortable in my isolation, I also yearn to get out of it. I admit, I miss the idle chit chat.  I'm sure my husband does too as when he comes home I vomit up all my water cooler talk onto him like a starving moth headed toward the light outside a McDonald's drive thru. There's only so many internet forums you can pretend to have best friends on before you drown under a pile of big macs.
  • I have no routine, and yet all I have is routine.  Does that make sense? Maybe only if you work from home on your own will you understand the weird challenge of being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want.  So you sometimes do nothing when you should be working, and sometimes you are working when you should be enjoying the time with your family.  I don't know.  I honestly can't explain it. Suffice to say I've sometimes had breakfast at noon, and even though I've not been very busy, didn't finish my work till 11pm.  Oh, did I mention that was still on a day I got up at 7am. 

I'm not sure any of this sounds too bad to someone who hates their workplace, or their boss, or has imagined murdering the idiot in the cubicle next to them daily for the last 15 years.  And maybe it isn't really that bad. Suffice to say I was watching The Office yesterday and thought how much I'd love to work there.  Yes, I know not every workplace would be that funny in real life.  But I thought, wow, how nice.  I could have lunch and actually talk to someone else at work!  I could celebrate a birthday with a co-worker!  I could have some drama with the annoying person at the desk next to me!  My current drama is only with my cats.  

Am I going to look for a new job?  I may surprise you here and say, yes, I think so.  I think it's good for me. I think I am more social than I'd care to admit.  And being self-employed from home is the opposite of social. It's not exactly anti-social.  It's un-social. It's a bit like winning the lottery and only being able to spend your money at one mall for the rest of your life.  

I think I may give back my winnings and go for a walk outside.

Being creative daily

I moved recently to another state.  Again.  I have relocated twice in less than two years.  It's exhausting. It's draining. It's stressful.  It's turning your life and body inside out and surviving it, though you often wish you hadn't.  

Now I'm in my beautiful new home.  It's the nicest house I've ever lived in.  I live in a great town.  I'm near a great city.  So why am I so unmotivated?  If I could hazard a guess it's because I spent weeks shutting my life off to pretend I didn't even live in my own home so it could be shown and sold.  Then I spent more weeks wrapping my belongings and stuffing them into boxes and bags and trucks. 

All of that was vomited up into this new location.  Piles of life were just sitting in each room waiting for me to find their place again.  But like actual piles of vomit, seeing everything around me in cardboard cairns encouraged me to continuously hit snooze on my routine's alarm clock.

As a person whose work is based in creativity, and with an already natural state of procrastination, this relocating malarkey didn't help a bit.  I needed a jolt.  Maybe even an actual can of Jolt had that soda not been discontinued.  

So I gave myself a task.  Daily creativity.  I would make one new thing each work day and put it out there into the world.  Sure, sometimes making that one thing prevented me from doing other, perhaps more important things like showering and brushing my teeth.  But it got my mind clean. Making something new was like taking those cans of air that clean your keyboard, and getting it into the little folds and pockets of my brain. 

Side note, if that were an actual procedure I think I'd have it done. I'm sure I have all sorts of nasty crust and dust caught up in the corners of my brain.  Gross.

Has this daily creativity helped me?  Yes.  For one thing I get to the end of the day knowing I unleashed an idea, and isn't that why I do this dumb job to begin with?  Because I was so tired of "the man" squashing all my ideas with his stupid, stanky boot?  

Also, the pressure is off.  If I do something new each day there is no demand for a masterpiece.  That perhaps sounds like a cop out. What I mean is that if you save up all your time for this one chance at art, you want it be, you know, really good.  But things you do everyday don't have that requirement.  

You don't demand that when you brush your teeth each day it be the bestest, deepest, whitest clean they've ever had. What if you only brushed your teeth once each month? Wouldn't you want to make that brush a damn fricking good one? And wouldn't you also stay away from me you harlot of halitosis?

I'm not going to say that this has revolutionized my life.  I'm still tired from my move, almost six weeks in.  I still have a shit ton of stuff to unpack.  I still wake up sometimes feeling life is a jar of mustard and I just can't breathe in it.  But it has indeed cleared the decks.  And when the decks are clear, there's plenty of room for something big to land.  Or a really great dance party.

Advice for my middle schooler

My daughter started middle school today, in a new state.  Yes, during perhaps the most awkward transition of school life, elementary to middle, I ripped my daughter away from her friends and brought her somewhere entirely new.  "Guilt" would be my middle name were it not already "pinnacle of beauty and brains".  

And this new middle school is massive.  It's humongous.  If it had barbed wire around it, and you saw the kids outside from a distance, you'd have no problem believing it was a prison for midgets- so huge is its brick edifice and hordes of short humans.  It scares the shit out of me.  I can't even imagine what my little 11 year old is feeling.

This is where they imprison, I mean educate, the children.

People might say, oh kids are resilient.  She'll be fine.  Yes, she will be fine one day.  But I don't think that day was yesterday when she was thinking about how tough today was going to be.  And I don't think that day was this morning when she was at her bus stop and the other girls were all wearing dresses (yes I now live in a place where girls still wear dresses to the first day of school... wtf?).  That day may not be tomorrow when homework assignments start rolling in.  And that day may not be six months from now when some little brat makes fun of her clothes or hair or the question she asked in class... because let's be honest, kids are fuckfaces.

At the bus stop today I said, "Honey, trust me, everything's going to be okay." But I realized that was total bullshit. I honestly couldn't even keep a straight face while I said it.  After all, I didn't know if everything was going to be okay.  I haven't been to this school, don't know her teachers, and definitely don't know the evil that could be stewing in the misshapen cranium of the moron sitting next to her in home room. 

Let's face it... everything might not be okay.  My middle school years were no bowl of cherries.  They weren't bowl shaped at all.  More like a boot full of shit topped road kill.  Frankly, everything might be crappy.  Very, very crappy.  

Could it be wonderful?  Could her teacher shit rainbows and the principal be Pikachu? Sure, anything's possible.  But I couldn't promise her that.

Nope, as I stood at the bus stop watching her sweat due to nerves, the 90 degree weather and the very, very late bus, I could only promise her one thing.  

"Well, maybe it won't be okay.  But I can promise you it's eventually going to be over."

Middle school ends.  If you're lucky you live through it and are only mildly traumatized.  And then you get to high school to spend four years with the same idiots who now have mustaches.  Even the boys.

It'll all be over soon...