It’s been a year since we’ve arrived at Iowa City’s doorstep. Sometimes it’s hard to believe. I lied and told a stranger I’ve only been here for six months the other day, and didn’t realize that wasn’t the truth until hours later. It feels at once a rather quick period of time and also established + comfortable. As we’re snowed in today (from driving, that is—legs and snow boots are alive and well), it feels like great timing for a reflection on the past 12 months.
The biggest change, beyond geography, was leaving a comfortable job in Chicago which reliably paid me every two weeks in exchange for at least 80 hours of work. How strange. I was told where to be and what work to do Monday through Friday for the majority of my waking hours. Also strange, I was guaranteed money. Coming to IC meant it was up to me to gather work, what decisions I made while working, and convince people to pay me for doing said work. While it’s a lot easier to sit on my butt and have the work brought to me, it’s not so much easier when you’re daydreaming about what else you could be doing. Also… 40 hours a week? It’s America’s standard after all. But the perspective of just how demanding that is shifted when I left that scene. You know how it’s always harder to go back to work when you return from vacation? Typically (as a 9-5er) you don’t even think about making a choice when your alarm goes off—beyond whether or not you want to snooze and be late… again—you just get up and go. Leaving town, or even a staycation, helps to literally distance you from the routine. You start to think about all the other ways you can fill your time. All the other things you wanted to do… to read… to think about… to drink over, that your job is either logistically keeping you from time-wise or consuming so much of your energy or mental capacity that you have little to give during your off-time. And then you return from that vacation, and usually you feel more bummed out than rested. Well the same goes for living the life of a freelancer. It’s hard to imagine giving up all of that self-fulfillment (or at least a more purposeful drive/search/responsibility for self-fulfillment) in exchange for something as “measly” as security—though I can’t say there aren’t days where I look back just a wee bit wistfully on the ol’ reliable paychecks… (and of course the ol’ reliable officemates!)
On a less-than-100%-satisfied note, I’ve also learned that even (or do I mean especially?) some of the fun and do-good projects have a boatload of politics involved. This year has helped me to further solidify the notion that working with good people who do good things doesn’t always mean a good work process or a good group dynamic. It’s kind of the idealistic student dream (mine) to land these jobs/projects that are entirely for honorable causes. Well a) what exactly is an honorable cause? and b) these projects are often still riddled with disfunction on some, or many, levels.
::sigh:: So with that said… yes, I am officially still pleased to not have a full-time job. When I hit a couple slow (ok, realistically, they were dead) months over the summer, I was worried about rent. And even then, I turned down an offer for a full-time position and instead took on a part-time job to make ends meet. Maybe one day… especially one day where I have much more responsibility in my life… will I return to the stability of that former lifestyle. Until then, flexibility and harder, more rewarding work for me, please.