This was the year I was going to turn in my book proposal. I had bites from an agent and an editor. I had a plan. I had an outline. I had pages of notes. I was actively working on it and it seemed like I was on track to finish by my personal deadline of mid-June.
I decided to put all that aside for now and take a day job instead.
I haven’t given up on Being a Writer, not yet anyway. What I did was to make a strategic decision based on new inputs.
This year hadn’t been going all that well. First Quarter 2020 was a mess. I was still in bandages from my surgery, then my hubby had a severe eye injury, then we both got the flu, then we had to put our dog down, then my hubby’s bike got stolen... Week after week, disruption followed by chaos. Then I began Second Quarter with COVID-19.
These things aren’t even problems, not for a writer. In a certain light, they can be regarded as unexpected gifts of interesting material. Something to write about.
What happened was that in the weeks that I spent severely ill, feeling that death was near, my perspective shifted. I realized that the world had changed. My plans needed to change, too.
My husband’s employer (and now mine, too) sent everyone to work from home quite early, before any state in the US had a stay-at-home order. Our county had had one death, but the schools, bars, gyms, churches, and everything else were still open. Airports hadn’t even begun screening. Only Disneyland made the decision faster.
This is part of why I made the choice to go to work with them. Imagine a workplace culture where employees are literally regarded as irreplaceable assets whose safety must be protected at all costs. Different, right?
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Last year, my husband was out on travel over half the time. We barely saw each other. A couple times we had mere hours within a few weeks. This year has started to make up for the time away, considering that he is now in our living room on conference calls up to 10-12 hours a day.
Here, in our living room, where I used to work quietly alone.
Now our home is a company-sponsored conference room. If I’m going to be here anyway, I may as well put on a headset and join the party. It’s not like I can leave and work at a cafe.
Going back to work has been everything I hoped it would be while I was ill. The time passes very quickly. I learn something new every day. I am rapidly catching up with several new titles of enterprise software. I had met a dozen or so of my new colleagues before the shutdown, and it’s fun to be able to talk to them more.
There are other reasons why I feel like taking a day job was a good idea, as opposed to poking away at my now-obsolete book proposal.
This is the first place I have ever worked where anyone takes my degree seriously. I feel accepted as an academic peer. I’ve already been invited to a few separate ideation meetings, where I was able to contribute as an active participant rather than a clerk.
I could plausibly apply for a fellowship here, not just tuition reimbursement.
My goal in writing a book was to share my perspective in some way that would impact others. What if working for an organization made a bigger dent than my book ever could?
What if I also earned more?
What if I did both, the book and the job?
It occurred to me that my writing has been a pressure valve for my life, and that if I felt very busy again, it might blast its steam into any part of my schedule that it could.
It also gives me more to write about. More power dynamics, more colloquialisms, more quirky characters. I have a window into something that I otherwise would not, which is how this particular profession handles the shift to WFH and positions itself against the pandemic.
One of our colleagues, a young PhD from a family of medical doctors and researchers, is convinced that our strategy is not nearly cautious enough. This is interesting in the context of a beach community where everyone else is busy demanding the rights to surf, go to the bar, and have access to hair dye and nail art.
We’re most likely continuing to WFH for at least the rest of the calendar year.
I just learned this a few days ago, and it helps to validate my decision. Where could I work on my book when my husband and I are confined to our 650-square-foot apartment for the duration? When there may not be open seating in the library or the coffee shop for the rest of the year either? Cases are accelerating rapidly in our county. I see no (sound, rational) reason for a major shift in social distancing policy in the near future.
I wanted something interesting to do. I wanted to be a part of something great and to be where the action is, instead of moldering away on my couch. There are intriguing financial benefits, too, beyond the obvious. I maxed out on life insurance and long-term disability, having had recent cause to believe that I truly could expire any day. What a load off my mind, that if I die suddenly, at least my poor hubby could buy a house.
It’s a bit of a paradox, but having a day job is relaxing in many ways. There’s no time to fret about world events. Most of the day is highly structured. Now, if I find time to write a book, it’s remarkable, rather than belated. If I get published, it’s great news, rather than overdue. There is plenty to be going on with.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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