The Good And The Bad Of Work I Love
I was talking with a friend recently and she was sharing that she was tired of her job and ready for another kind of work. Later that night, it occurred to me that I hadn't asked myself that since the start of my business two years ago. Back then, I thought this work would be a natural fit, but whether I'd get tired of it remained to be seen.
Exploring that idea is what today's post is about.
Without fail, I leave every single client I work with... happy. And I'm not talking about them.
I'm talking about me. I'm happy, so happy when I help people. I feel an elation after our goodbyes, when I am walking away from their apartment, as if I'd rescued someone from a disaster. Helping others just feels good.
But here's how I really know I've landed in the right career for me:
My main recurring anxiety dream is organizing the apocalypse.
The event to end all events. Throughout my teens and 20's I'd wake up from this exact scenario with an angry, pounding heart:
I'm standing in a dark cave trying to organize survivors. Survivors of what? I'm never sure what we have survived. Everyone is in shock and milling around lethargic and not listening. I'm holding a clip board, there's always a clipboard, and there are vague, but massive explosions in the distance coming nearer. I have a clear plan in my mind for blocking the entrance to the cave and organizing the supplies we've collected into stations. Time is running out and there are injured people who need to be attended to. I'm shouting directions but they don't feel the urgency I do. Everyone is looking at me... but no one is moving fast enough.
Anyone for dream interpretation?
Instead of counting sheep, I organize activities following a lottery win.
But not the typical fantasy of riches. Instead, the dry, practical side of me imagines:
- Making an appointment to bring the lottery ticket to the claims office.
- Finding a company that does laundry pick up and drop off.
- Making appointments with an attorney and fund manager.
- Deciding that I will continue to work or not.
- Dropping my unframed art prints to the frame shop.
- Learning to refinish furniture so I can finally reupholster a used lounge chair and dining table.
Are you asleep yet?
And in counting off the list of things to do I drift off to sleep. It never fails. Thinking too hard about anything that is really happening in my life keeps me awake. But the counting of errands to run after a monetary windfall? Straight to dream land. And cheaper than Ambien.
Part of me always dreams of moving. All the time.
Even though I've moved 31 times and I'm finally in the perfect apartment, I'd still be secretly glad if we had to move because I love to play with my furniture in new configurations.
I've yet to come up with a working theory (psychology and neuroscience haven't helped) for why I love doing this but I sense I'm not alone. This is also why I love looking at floor plans - I know I'm not alone in this habit.
My role as an organizer satisfies my need to help, my desire to manage and list, my love for rearranging objects in space for maximum utility and beauty. Finally, through this blog, I am once again writing about something I feel is urgent. It is clear to me that we are injuring ourselves without knowing it. We are wasting our waking hours, our thinking time, our best years longing for, acquiring and then mis-managing our stuff.
For a gal who has spent her 20's working in jobs that paid the bills but left a lot to be desired, my work life has taken a wondrous turn. I have always envied people who had jobs they truly loved. Now I enjoy what I do and love to write about it too.
Of course, I can't end here saying my work life is like walking through a field of poppies. In fact, I have to live vicariously through Senator Underwood (House of Cards) and Walter White (Breaking Bad) because they can rather easily resort to criminality to solve their problems. I have no such easy route but just as much tension and ambition. This is potentially the hardest work I've ever done and as anyone who has started a small business knows - it's hard to be a one woman show. I'm an ideas girl, not a Quickbooks girl.
The Really Bad
You have to be able to tolerate financial uncertainty. Freelancing life has ups and downs that you try to parse for meaning and pattern. It's hard to justify the time I spend on my fledgling business, writing, planning, following up with clients and going on consultations. I'm always wondering where the next job is coming from. I'm in the "Hustling Freelancer" category defined by Freelancer's Union, which has a great blog for resources if you're in the same boat.
When people don't know what you do and they can't understand why anyone would need your service. A wide range of things are said to me from "So, you clean people's homes?", "Your service is not worth what you are charging" and "Your business is never going to be anything because you don't sell a product."
In a simpler time, people came to the typesetter and paid him to make a notice they could post around the village. Kinko's or Square Space for the early 19th century set. Had I been a typesetter, no one would question my value. On the other hand, like most women of simpler times, I probably wouldn't know how to read and I'd have 13 children by the time I was 32.
Oy. And ouch.