Sunday, October 18, 2009

course correction

My friends, I've been a bad, bad blogger, and I apologize, and I thank those of you who have prodded me, virtually and actually, to get back at it. I have two reasons for my disappearance (other than sheer procrastination). The first is a doozy: I've been working! Yes, working — me, the supposedly free-spirited, on-the-road, devil-may-care, ne'er-do-well slacker dropout. All of a sudden, I have a ton of work, thanks to a couple of projects that are big enough and long-term enough for me to go ahead and set up my very own LLC (which I’m hoping stands for Lucky Little Company). You can't believe the paperwork and filing fees and legal advice and accountants involved in setting up even a one-person consultancy (one might think that in this economic climate, the powers-that-be would be encouraging those of us trying to leave the rolls of the unemployed, but one would be wrong; in fact, Connecticut just literally doubled all of its business-related fees), but I think I’m through the thick of it, and my projects seem to be under control, so I can pay some long-overdue attention to my blog.

My current work situation has quite a few strange characteristics. First and most astonishing: everyone (I mean everyone) I work with is smart, and I like them all. Now that's a brand-new experience for me, and one that I don't take lightly, believe me, after my dealings with some of the less-than-bright, deeply unlikeable types who lurk in every workplace. Another new one for me is that very little of the work requires me to be in an office, or to be somewhere at a certain time, or to tiptoe around the various landmines of office life.

I love the flexibility and freedom that I have, and how much more sense it all makes, from a pure productivity standpoint. I can be that prototypical freelancer, working in my PJs, setting my own hours, taking a break when I need to rather than watching the clock. If I’m tired, I don’t have to struggle to keep my eyes open until 5 and then stagger home and collapse. If I hit a wall, I can take a nap or go for a walk, and then return to my desk in a more productive state of mind. And I don’t crave solitude the way that I did after a day of dysfunctional office dynamics, when I sometimes felt I was just counting the minutes until I could retreat to my beloved apartment and shut the door on the world. Now, a lot of the work is solitary, so I don't feel the need to retreat during my non-work hours. Plus I have that nice feeling of ownership: these are my projects, my clients, my company, my headaches. What a difference all that makes.

However. When I originally conceived this post, it was going to be purely about the joys of work, how I feel motivated and reinvigorated, how I find it so odd that people say, “Don’t work too hard” when clearly I’m enjoying working hard, how I’m just soaking up the positive feedback, how helpful it's been for my confidence and sense of possibility (and my bank account). I like the collaboration, the learning, and the fact that I don't have to feel guilty about having zilch interest in finding a full-time job.

However. My blog now appears to act as a conscience for me, and as I thought through the post and what I wanted to say, I had to acknowledge the nagging voice in my head, the same one that I ignored for years but that finally drove me to extricate myself from my unhappy and stressful situation last spring. It’s the voice that reminds me that I want something more from my life — something that remains rather vague, but that isn’t going to just happen on its own.

In some ways (and this is Reason Number Two for my blogging delinquency), I think my mini-break from the blog over the past few weeks was a break from seriously paying attention to my life — to its content, its direction, and its potential - so that I could hunker down and focus on the (paying) work on hand, so that my big question of the day could simply be, "What do I need to get done today?" Now I'm again trying to look at my life in a more comprehensive way, and I've been thinking about what I've learned and how I've felt over the past couple of months. I have a few "key takeaways," as we say in the consulting game: (1) I do want a home of my own once again, and I want it to be nice; (2) freelancing is a good setup for me right now, with the benefits (income with relative independence) far, far outweighing the demerits (like, say, expensive and crappy health insurance, and lots of deadlines, and responsibility); (3) setting up my own company is an incredible and rewarding feeling; and (4) — and this is the most important — I need something bigger, some larger project or purpose, something creative and ambitious and soul-fulfilling. (I have a couple of thoughts about what this something could be, but I don't feel quite ready to share.)

So right now, I need to make sure I don't get pulled back into a life that isn't ultimately fulfilling for me. And there are so many ways that I can get sucked back in: I have a meeting with a successful, high-paid woman with a lot of responsibility and a swish office and think, “I should do this!”; or I pay a visit to a friend with an enviable apartment in the Village; or I think longingly of all my stuff, now stashed in some mysterious storage unit in the Bronx, and how lovely it would be to set up house again, and maybe I should check out the real estate listings, and oh I could have a cat again.... But I’m terrified of ending up where I was a year and a half ago, freaking out at the stack of bills, working too much, feeling like I’m permanently stuck, generally just fretting.

To be honest, over the past two months I’ve questioned the purpose of my blog. I loved it initially, when I was just back from my Paris interlude and really thinking through my "vision quest" and looking at the big questions of my life. It helped me stay in my uncomfortable in-between stage (in between jobs, homes, routines) rather than jumping into something that would have initially felt more secure, but wouldn't be right in the long run. But recently I'd been wondering if the blog had run its course, if there was anything I could say that would mean anything to anyone but me. However, I realize now that the purpose of the blog is to keep me on my toes, that it's a way for me to push myself to keep questioning what I'm doing and where I'm going, and to keep tabs on my journey. It’s all about me, in other words, but I do truly hope that at least some of it is of interest and help to you, since without you, I wouldn’t have figured any of this out.