i am failing at enjoying life (or, don’t quit your day job)

My freelance smoggy rainbowwork is slow, and since leaving my part-time day job five months ago, I have little to do that’s enjoyable. I wish I could have a do-over and take my job back, because after all the complaining I’d done about one supervisor and how things had gone to pot, things changed after I left. A new supervisor is at the helm, and all is good at the old place. If only I’d stayed.

So here I am with a serpentine schedule, some days going left, others going right. Some people would give their eye teeth to have a flexible schedule. They’d take up a hobby or continue with one they have and love. They’d travel, laptop in hand, and work whenever it was convenient to them, maybe looking out over a vast ocean or a forest filled with ferns and canopies of green. Maybe they’d squeeze in volunteer work, helping their fellow man and woman by serving food or rocking babies. They’d possibly simply take time to breathe, thanking their lucky stars for the time they have left on this earth.

But I’m not there yet. I’m sad, and after learning last week of a chronic illness I have, I’m depressed as well. The work I now have is not the work I love. I haven’t had the editing work that sustains my being in over a year. I feel I made a mistake in quitting the part-time job too and wish I had somewhere to go during the day to make my time feel valuable. I tried to get my old job back after another coworker left, but it’s obvious that the new manager does not want to make it work, even when he had an effortless opportunity to do so.

So I’ll trudge on, hoping something comes of the jobs I’ve applied to and interviewed for in recent weeks. There is hope over the rainbow. At this point, though, I’m just waiting for the rain to end.

what i did today while i wasn’t working (or, how bored can one get?)

bored

It’s going on three and a half months since I left my part-time job to go back to freelancing “full-time.” Anyone who solely freelances will understand my use of quotation marks. For those with a regular workload, allow me to explain. People who freelance either can’t come close to working full-time because there’s not enough work, even when having more than one source of income, or they’re flooded with work from different sources and are putting in hours equivalent to two full-time jobs.

How I Spent My Day

So what am I doing while I’m in a deep rut in freelancing and having no part-time job to scoot off to a few days a week? Let’s explore my day thus far, shall we?

  1. I got up around 7 a.m.
  2. I ate my breakfast and fed the dog, giving him a shot of insulin before cleaning up the breakfast dishes.
  3. I got showered and dressed.
  4. I sat at my desk, looking for work online, both freelance and part-time. This took approximately 1.37 hours.
  5. Took the dog for a walk around the block. Picked up the yard (because said dog rarely considers going when we’re out walking).
  6. I went back to my desk to look for more work. Did a deep dive into reading reviews on job sites for a position I’m contemplating submitting my resume to.
  7. Realized this ad runs nationwide on the company’s website and there are probably 6 bazillion applicants already. Do I throw myself into the pile? Probably will. It’s a so-called full-time work-from-home sitch, which probably means full-time on occasion. I know how it works.
  8. Watched a YouTube video of a husband-and-wife team painting a couple pieces of furniture, because apparently people can make a buttload of money doing this. (For reals?) Thought about how the unphotogenic husband, a doughy Casper of a guy, should maybe consider not being in the videos. The wife too, for that matter.
  9. Took out an unpainted framed chalkboard I picked up at 50 percent off at Michael’s two days ago and decided to paint the frame black and then white before distressing. Because point number 8.
  10. Thought I’d throw out my dog’s old food he no longer eats and fill the ginormous container with the food he currently eats.
  11. Vacuumed the area.
  12. While I was unloading multi-pound bags, I thought I’d pour my twenty-pounder of Jasmine rice into plastic containers . . . and did so.
  13. Ate lunch while re-watching last night’s This Is Us episode. I knew I’d nodded off during it, but when watching again, I realized the nodding off was actually stage three REM sleep throughout forty-eight minutes of the one-hour show.
  14. Sitting on the sofa, I realized I should wash the slipcover, so I threw that in the machine with a few pillow covers and throws.
  15. Vacuumed the area.
  16. Went back to my computer to print out a shipping label for something I need to return to Old Navy. Packaged the item and put the package near the front door to go out with tomorrow’s mail.

Being Bored

It’s now 2 p.m. I’m sitting back at my desk and I’m wondering how is it that people don’t work.

I was at a baby shower on Saturday talking to an old friend who’s only held occasional part-time jobs over the years and hasn’t worked in maybe five years. She has no kids at home. When I told her I was already looking for work after leaving a job in December, she said one word: “Why?”

I told her I’m kind of bored and, I guess, unhappy too. She said she has so much to do, and I get that. There are plenty of productive ways to keep order in a house and a life that don’t involve a paycheck. But I’ve realized over the years that I’m happiest when I’m doing work and making money.  Maybe it comes from that feeling of being behind in income and saving for retirement while I raised four kids over a great span of years. Or maybe it comes from even before that, when I lived at home. Having a job was my one way of getting out of the oftentimes chaotic household I grew up in. For once, I was able to earn a little on my own and have some freedom.

Same Time Last Year

I think back to this time last year when I was painting my kitchen cabinets. I did it over a span of five weeks, taking down a few doors and drawers and painting them and the boxes before moving on to another section. Last fall, I tore out the stinky living room carpet one section at a time and hauled it out to the patio before patching the floor and then laying down planks. I cannot believe I did those things while holding down a part-time job outside the house and working freelance from home while also doing all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, and bill-paying as well. So, yes, I can handle a household project or two, but I’m still bored if there’s little more to do.

Tomorrow, I’ll probably KonMari the heck out of one closet that’s brimming with paperwork and stuff we never use, but right now I’m going online again to find some work. It’s obvious I’m not happy if I’m not feeling productive, and to me being productive is both working around the house and working for money. We all want to be happy after all.

he who shall not be named won the presidential election; what to do now?

I’ve woken every morning since the day of the election that shook me to the core Sad Woman Looking Lostwondering how I can live through four years of a presidency run on hatred, flimsy policy promises that a fifth grader could have spoken, and a possible cabinet that I heard Sarah Palin might be appointed to. Only in America! To say I’m in a bit of a depression is like saying the pope is a little bit Catholic. So what to do now?

I guess we all carry on and hope for the best. And if that isn’t happening, we speak up and get noticed. I feel sorry for a lot of the voters who chose Trump because they are angry and looking for a savior. I think they will be surprised that the man who they hoped would look out for the little guy (and how they thought a premade, not self-made, billionaire could do that is beyond my comprehension) will be the first to take away their health care, cause the rate at the Fed to rise and behind it costs of loans on things they don’t have the money to buy, and put their tax dollars into the military because we will need to be even more vigilant at our borders and in the air and with nations who will despise us because of what our leader has said.

How did Hillary Clinton lose? How did she not break the ultimate glass ceiling, which should have been broken long ago? Tim Kaine, for one. He brought nothing to the ticket–no progressive voters or people of color, as far as I know. Being a Clinton, for another. This was the year of change, for how many times did Bernie Sanders have to speak the word “revolution” and mention that his campaign, one that swept the nation, was built on contributions averaging twenty-seven dollars apiece? And for the Democratic Party to turn a blind eye to the gift of enthusiastic voters was insane. The Republican Party only did so reluctantly. But once the momentum was going the way of their “outsider” (a man who has changed his party affiliation more times than most people change addresses), I think conservatives had to let the wave crest and roll to the shore. And it did, like a tsunami.

I don’t worry so much for myself. I’ll be OK. I worry about my kids and the disadvantaged, the poor, the families who may be torn apart. Mostly, I worry that health care will be taken away from people who for the first time in their lives can have it and can afford it. I worry about a vehemently antiabortion VP (I honestly don’t think Trump gives a hoot about the topic personally) and what that might mean for the country. I wish there was no such thing as abortion. I’ve had four kids at times that were not ideal, so I think it can be done–and should be done. But taking away health care from women and then forcing them to carry to term, paying for their own maternity care, which is astonishingly expensive, is so, so backward. If you want women to not have abortions, then please, please make it affordable for her and the newborn as well. Don’t take away their health care or force them to not have it. More women will be having babies with problems and, for people who want to look at it in monetary terms, the rates for the rest of us will go sky high to pay for those noncovered moms and children.

My husband and I have had to pay for private health insurance a good part of our marriage and I can attest that about fifteen years back, during the Bush II administration, nearly all big health-care companies took maternity coverage out of their policies or made the premiums so high, it was unaffordable.

After my fourth child was born, for instance, we had to pay for private insurance because my husband nor I had a job with health-care benefits. The premiums were around one thousand dollars a month and we didn’t have the option of maternity coverage. I prayed that I didn’t get pregnant during that time, because maternity care is about ten thousand dollars and that’s if there are no complications. When the Affordable Care Act came along, it forced insurers to put maternity coverage back onto their policies and be affordable. It also prevented insurers from excluding people with preexisting conditions. So people who have an illness, a disease, or a disability cannot be turned away or be forced to pay higher premiums. People in the middle of cancer treatments, for instance, who maybe changed a job with a different health-care provider, could still be covered for the remaining treatments. My friend, for instance, who passed away a couple years ago, had to switch insurers because the one she had been on did not allow for experimental drug treatment. She was able to move to another plan and was then put on a brand-new drug, which extended her life a bit longer. It was a miracle, in my eyes, that she could do that. Never would that have happened if Big Health Care and Big Pharma hadn’t been forced to allow people to switch providers and policies and not be turned away.

So Donald Trump is our president in a year we should have been celebrating our first female leader and our first male “first lady.” Maybe next time. (Elizabeth Warren, are you listening?) For the time being, let us all say a little prayer and hope that Mr. Trump’s presidency isn’t the gloom and doom we think it may be. After all, four years isn’t that long. I hope the time flies.

 

 

taking a walk down memory lane can trip you up

pic-of-letters-in-mailI have been trying to discard some of my old things I have no use for. While looking through a box of old letters (I used to be a prolific letter-writer, and hung on to those written to me in return by family and friends), I was taken way back in time. Funny how we call them “the good ol’ days,” but in actuality they weren’t so good at all.

Although I had a college degree and had started (just barely) working in my career, I married young, especially by today’s standards. When my husband decided his history degree wouldn’t put bread on the table, we moved a year and a half after getting married so he could go to graduate school. By then, however, we already had had our first child. A second was born when we were away in a new city, with no friends or family and no one to help with the kids. We went an entire year, when our firstborn was a baby, without any income. We lived off of student loans and the savings we had accumulated, which of course wasn’t much. We had no help from our parents–nor should we have, really. After all, we were adults, making big-boy and big-girl decisions.

When my husband was away at class all day (he took a train into San Francisco, while I stayed in our apartment on the Peninsula) or working at the school library to make a few bucks during his second and third years, I was raising two babies by myself basically. That included taking the girls and myself to doctor’s visits (since I had no one at all to watch them, they came with me everywhere I went); handling all the feedings; doing all the housework, the grocery shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, the bill paying, the banking, the car repair visits;  and working at a job from home, at which I called subscribers of the two big daily newspapers to ask about their service. A lot of that job was performed while feeding, rocking, and holding my infant or during her naptime (no, I never could take the wise advice given to new moms about resting when the baby naps–and that may be why I cannot, for the love of God, force myself to nap to this day). I was beaten down, exhausted, stressed out, and, above all, lonely. Good ol’ days? Hah!

We were stone-cold broke and I recorded each and every expense so as not to go over our budget. We had only so much in student loans to live on until the next year’s allotment. So every month’s rent, every power bill, every newspaper we purchased, and every McDonald’s cheeseburger we bought on the handful of days we treated ourselves to a meal out over the three years was written down in a notebook. I never was able to afford cute little clothes or toys for the girls or anything I wished I could give them. My older daughter’s favorite item of clothing was a skirt I’d found for two dollars on the clearance rack at Target (it was a splurge, believe me). But it was too chilly where we lived and she was back to her KMart pull-on corduroy pants until she outgrew them, reserving the skirt for our drives back home to Southern California.

We made weekly trips to the public library, and I’d stock up on books for them and for me. This was a big part of our lives. I taught the older one her letters, numbers, and colors and eventually how to read. We had the most basic cable service imaginable because we couldn’t pick up TV reception from San Francisco. We were, however, able to get two fuzzy San Jose stations that were almost impossible to watch when the fog rolled in. The basic cable only allowed us the local stations, including PBS, and a few cable stations, like CNN, MTV, and VH-1. Nickelodeon and other children’s programming networks were additional, so the only show my daughter could watch was Sesame Street, first on an old color TV that had been a wedding gift from my brother and then a 12-inch black-and-white when the color one gave out.

We didn’t socialize at all, being that most of my husband’s classmates were single city dwellers and we were a married couple with kids living on the tightest budget possible. And we resided outside the city in a more affordable suburb. Our entertainment, if you can call it that, was watching the occasional NFL game on TV or direct-to-TV movies and series, and reading all those library books. I felt really cut off from the rest of the world–the world I had barely gotten a foot into before having kids. Since we couldn’t afford long-distance phone calls, our friends and family would call us, and only between certain hours on Sundays, when rates were lower. So getting a letter from a friend of mine or maybe my mom or sister was a big deal to me. A letter was often my only connection to that other world and it made me feel as though people cared.

Finding and reading those letters today didn’t quite give me the morale boost I would get when I opened them for the first time. Instead, I became melancholy and sad for the young woman I was and the woman I never got to become. I don’t know if I felt trapped, because it was a life I willingly walked into. Maybe enmeshed is a better word. I was enmeshed in a world I had wanted but was too naïve to understand all the ramifications of. I was mature enough to realize, though, that it was a temporary life and it would improve.

And yes, my life has changed for the better since then, but some things remain the same. I still work from home and I’ve been a stay-at-home mom my entire thirty-plus years of parenting (now with four kids, the youngest of whom is in high school). Life has gotten so much better, though. To all the struggling young moms out there, I am living proof it turns out OK, but it was rough in the eighties and nineties. At least the moms of today have online forums in which to share feelings and Facebook pages and Instagram accounts to keep them in touch with long-distance friends. I didn’t have that, but I did have all those letters to keep me sane. They represent a tough time in my life, but also, they were my lifeline. I think I’ll hang on to them.

 

 

work-at-home depression–yes, it is a thing

Some people–a lot of people, actually–would think that the perfect job is one in which you get to stay home and still earn money. That sounds good to me too, but working at home is not all it’s cracked up to be. And here’s why.

Working from home can be awesome, especially if you have children at home or have a difficult time commuting, for whatever reason. It’s also great if your schedule is ever changing, say, you’re a student. Or if you have a partner with a full-time job and benefits and your income helps out but isn’t the big moneymaker in the family. And there are work-at-home situations that offer the same benefits (monetarily and otherwise) of working outside the home, such as if it’s a full-time gig for one employer or it’s contract work for an employer that had to downsize, reduce its payroll, and pay its people on a per-project basis. There, the same amount of work is available, but the terms of “employment” have changed.

But for those of us whose work is piecemeal, working at home can be a drag for a number of reasons, including it can bring on depression. And here’s why:

1) Who’s the boss? Most people would think not having a boss is a good thing, right? But when you freelance for a number of different companies, you are at the mercy of their very different rules and requirements, and although you run your own company per se, the clients are the ones who direct your work. Many times too, projects can overlap and deadlines can conflict, meaning you have to take on two or more jobs at once, working crazy-long hours to get everything done, and oftentimes the work suffers. If that happens, you run the chance of not getting called on for more work.

2) Whose line is it anyway? Because of the Internet, e-mail, and smartphones, most workers would say there’s a fine line between work and home. But with freelancing, there’s no line at all. If people are forced to leave their offices and workplaces at a certain time because a shift ends, they do so. Salaried people too are able to walk away from work, get in their cars or hop on the bus or train and go home. They may take their work with them via a laptop or running through work scenarios in their heads when they get there, but there’s a line of demarcation between work and home. Freelancers don’t have that luxury. They can work at 2 p.m. or 2 a.m. They work weekends, weekdays, and holidays even. They work when the work is there or, as stated at the end of point number one above, they may not be working at all.

3) Show me the money! Unless you’re JK Rowling or someone equally fortunate and talented to have made it big while doing something without a regular paycheck, the money from freelancing or contract work is not as lucrative as working for an employer. Polls have shown that people doing the same amount of work and who have the same education as those in a full-time job are paid woefully less for the same work. A small percentage can make more, but I guarantee you they are working many more hours. And yes, you can pay for your own health care and it is a tax deduction, but take it from someone who has had health care plans through an employer and plans through a self-employeed situation, without a workplace plan the premiums are higher, the benefits are lower, and you have to earn enough to pay for those premiums. It’s not a win-win situation at all.

4) I’m so lonesome, I could cry. Sitting in a room for hours on end and staring at a screen, a canvas, or whatever work tool you use can be isolating, to say the least. Whether you like ’em or not, people need other people. We’re social animals. So’s my dog, of course, but I can only have a one-sided conversation with him. We crave human interaction and if you’ve raised a family and are a freelancer simultaneously or in succession, years and even decades can go by without being able to stand by the watercooler chatting about last night’s episode of 60 Minutes. (Do offices even have watercoolers anymore or have those been replaced by water bottles? Well, at least 60 Minutes is still around.)

5) Risky business. Even big corporations shut down entire plants and office complexes at times (now more often than ever), so there’s not a soul who isn’t at risk of losing his or her job at any time these days. Long gone are the companies that hire men or women straight out of school or the service, employ them for their entire working lives, and send them off into retirement with a nice, fat pension.Though they’re few and far between (and oftentimes government agencies), there still are some employers like that. Freelancers, however, can’t count on steady work, let alone steady paychecks, ever. And there’s no pension, not even a 401(k) to fall back on one day. Sure, you can squirrel away a few thousand a year into an IRA, but there are limits to how much you can contribute and it’s all after-tax, not pretax money.

6) Happiness is a warm gun. The hot-and-cold of freelancing is extremely difficult to handle especially if you’re a lukewarm person. I like things I can count on. I’ve been married for 30 years and have had some of the same friends for decades. I hold on to my cars (the one I drive turned 14 last month), and I eat the same breakfast daily. I’m a very consistent person, so having a job without a consistent workflow is really difficult to bear. I am trying to supplement my freelance career with a “regular” job outside the home just so I have something to count on on a weekly basis–even if it pays half as much per hour–but finding work outside the home is difficult if you don’t have a regular employer to vouch for you. References are really hard to come by. Yes, you can use as a reference the client for whom you did a bang-up job on a recent project, but if you go after the steady, outside-the-home job, how are you going to look to that client? He or she may think you’re no longer interested in the occasional project and not call on you again, whether you got the regular job or not. He or she may think your time will be limited now, little does he know that you were juggling gigs while doing work for him too.

There are ways to get around the feelings of isolation (take your work to Starbucks, take a walk, go to the park, join a group either virtually or in person with other freelancers) and there are times the money is good for the work done, but there’s no getting around the rollercoaster of workflow that freelancers have, which in turn can affect one’s mood.

I try to look at the positives of working from home (being “there” for my kids, being in a comfortable place, not having to fight traffic in a big city–that one’s huge in my mind, and not having to dress up or even shower–OK, that one can be a big negative, actually). And I do realize that there’s good and bad with both scenarios and, truth be told, I’d rather work at home. I am fortunate that my husband earns bigger bucks in a steady job. But there’s no getting around the fact that there are negatives. Now if only I had someone to discuss them with.