On work, time and money: Happy first anniversary to me

One year ago, I started a new job.

It was—is—my first Monday-to-Friday, 9-5 (more like 7-3, because I work on Toronto time, really, well, 7-5, because also, Calgary and Vancouver—point: people expect me to be reachable from 7 a.m. until whenever it is that they finish work)—and I haven’t had to pay attention to days of the week or hours of the day since, yeah, July 2000.

(I am now so old that I have 20+ years of experience as a freelance writer and 30+ years of industry experience, when da fuq did that happen?)

(I also have a child who’s about to turn 20—again, when did this happen? How? But I digress.)

As you have no doubt inferred, I’m having a moment. Anniversaries always throw me for a loop, and I have a birthday just around the corner that’s only two circles around the sun shy of 50, so I’m, you know. Reflective. That’s the word. Reflective. Not angsting. Definitely not angsting (yet).

Anywhere… where was I?

One year ago, I started a new job, my first Monday-to-Friday type thing since the year 2000—the turn of the century (!!).My brother outright asked me—“Do you think you can handle it?” We both knew he didn’t mean the technical aspects of the work. He meant Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday, 9 a.m.—well, 7 a.m.—to 5 p.m. Routine. Predictability.

(Pro tip: When someone asks you, “Can you handle it?” always say, “Yes.” You don’t need their doubts in your head—your own are enough.)

I’ve been handling it—killing it, really—for a year now. The pandemic lockdown and work from home orders definitely eased the transition. I’ve been working not in an office, under my own supervision, for more than 20 years and initially, very little had changed. It wasn’t until I was in the office physically for the first time, with my team, more than six months into the new adventure, that I really felt I had a job.

As I celebrate my first anniversary, we’ve slowly going back into the office, in a new, hybrid model—work from the office, work from home, work where you like, just work together and get the work done. I’m mostly happy about this—a little worried that too many people will choose to work at home most of the time and I’ll be as lonely in the office as I get in my living room. But I appreciate the flexibility of the model, which stems from the recognition of how well we worked together from the isolation of our respective homes.

This stage of going back has its challenges. I only have two suitable for work outfits. I can’t quite remember how to pack a lunch. I keep on forgetting that it takes time to actually get to the office.

Transit time. It’s a thing!

When I do go in—I’m aiming for two to three days a week—I’m often alone on my floor and that’s not much different from being alone in my living room, except that there’s no place where I can have my post-prandial power nap. (Note to hybrid world architects, at my employer and elsewhere: nap rooms! Or yoga mats besides each desks and officially sanctioned yoga nidra sessions during that dreaded mid-afternoon productivity slump—think about it.)

When there are two or three of us, it’s a party, and when we all come in for a team meeting or lunch, all is bliss.

Still, overall, I’m thriving. This is surprising a lot of people—my brother, who thinks of me as a non-conformist hippy born in the wrong generation, for one, also, my corporate world loving lover in Toronto, who conceptualizes me as a flighty artist who has to be coached on how to dress appropriately before leaving the house. To be honest, even I’m surprised—who would have thought I’d find this industry so interesting, and this particular corporate assignment so fulfilling?

There are trade-offs. I can’t do all of the things. I give the job my all, which has taken moonlighting and freelancing mostly off the table. I miss some of those opportunities—a journalist gets to meet all sorts of fascinating people and hear so many stories. I’m teaching again, but just a little, and that’s lovely, but it makes for long and intellectually and emotionally demanding days. I haven’t quite figured out where to carve out the time for the novelist. She’s writing—she’s always writing—in the mornings, on the edges, on weekends. When she’ll find the desire and energy—it’s not a question of time—to submit, to publish, market,  I’m not sure—that’s never been her favourite thing. I expect she’ll manage somehow, eventually—she always does.

Time is, for sure, more rigid. There are still twenty-four hours in each seven day week, but not all of them belong to me. I can’t spontaneously take a sunny day off and take the kids to the river or on an impromptu road trip. I can’t go for a mid-day two hour walk with you when you drop by unexpectedly. Everything has to be scheduled—we’re lucky if I can tear myself away from my portable office for a fifteen minute coffee.

But right now, it’s all worth it.

What makes it worth it is, first of all—I won’t pretend—the money. It magically appears in my bank account every two weeks, a nice, predictable amount, and I still feel I don’t have to do anything for it. No invoice, no follow up invoice, no begging email, no semi-threatening phone call… it’s just there. All I have to do to get it is work. Amazing!

Also, the people—I’ve been professionally lonely for a while and the pandemic exacerbated that by taking way what writing community I had, so I’m loving having colleagues. Brainstorm sessions. Peer reviews. Professional development support.

Most of all? The daily recognition is da bomb. I’m really, really good at the work, and people reflect that back at me all the time. I’m not conflict-free about this—there are moments, when I look at my job satisfaction and tell myself, “Really? This makes you high? This is your purpose in life?” I struggle with its narrowness and limited impact.

But within that small sphere—I do make a substantial difference. And I make that difference with words, with my gift.

So happy anniversary to me, and thank you for coming to my Ted Talk…

“Jane”

P.S. I am going to take the time to type up and publish this post—yes, I’m drafting long-hand again—and as I do it, I’m going to reflect on the increasing reluctance I’ve felt over the past year of making most of my writing public, and poke about in that resistance.

But I won’t tell you to expect more posts from me, or a new novel from the novelist, in the months to come. I’m writing. Everyday. That’s key.

The sharing will come in its time.

As Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way, “The first rule of magic is containment.”

Also—and this is Mary Oliver, from “Black Oaks” in her poetry collection Blue Iris:

Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight from one boot to another—why don’t you get going?

For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees.

And to tell the truth I don’t want to let go of the wrists of idleness, I don’t want to sell my life for money, I don’t even want to come in out of the rain.

But selling some time for money—well. It’s definitely working for me right now.

Work, kids, sleep, repeat—but also, revel: Stripping life to essentials, again

i

I am waking up early these days. The new gig is like a new baby—threatening to take up all of my time with its demands. So I wake up before it does, and, wrapped in the pre-dawn darkness and my bath robe, do my morning pages, drink my coffee—very, very slowly—and give my time to my labours of love.

Then, work.

It’s still more of an intellectual, learning exercise—background knowledge, research, thoughts in my head rather than words on paper (or, to be more precise, the screen?). But thinking is physically exhausting—we don’t often appreciate that adequately.

By the time I log off for the day, I’m mentally and physically exhausted. Happy—but exhausted. Intellectually blunted—thinking is hard, decisions, even small ones, impossible.

On the days that I don’t have Ender or the kids coming over for supper, I have a bath as soon as I log off, then eat—force myself to take a walk, thank goodness for the dog—and crawl into bed with BritBox (currently binging Jonathan Creek and really loving how in British TV people are… people-like, both in appearance and character. Not caricatures, not photoshopped, botoxed stereotypes. The villains aren’t all evil and the victims and heroes aren’t flawless. Youth is as complex and painful as adulthood—children aren’t cherubs and the elderly aren’t necessarily wise. And old, wrinkly people fall in love, and nobody thinks it’s weird).

Up early, I crash early. And so, finally, here is a silver lining to the third wave of the pandemic—no FOMO, right? Nothing’s happening, nothing to do. You and I can go for a walk or sit on a patio sipping bear, but, you know, I have a patio of my own and I’m so sick of walking as a social activity—I might as well just go to bed.

I sleep deeply, nine to ten hours a night. I still don’t know if this is a sleep deficit from more than a decade ago when I had three kids under seven—or from 2019, when I just did not sleep—that my body is trying to make-up, or a response to the stress of the pandemic.

You complain of insomnia—I, as soon as I lie down in bed, fall into unconsciousness. It’s blissful. When dreams come, they’re weird as all fuck—so weird and surreal, they neither disturb me nor tempt me to hunt for hidden meaning, omens.

There are no nightmares.

I sleep deeply.

ii

I am not sure how to explain to friends what it is I’m doing for work at the moment. “I write” covers a multitude of sins, so I stick to that. Mostly, right now, I’m learning, and I’m reminded of the seductive power of a mid-life, late-life Master’s or PhD.

Learning a new discipline, a new language—and each discipline, industry, organization has its own language—is intoxicating.

This happens, in one of my classes at the Polytechnique last year:

Student: I can’t wait until I get my diploma and I can stop learning.

Jane: Oh, honey. You’ve just explained why I can’t seem to teach you anything. Can we do anything about that mindset, or should I just give you an F now and explain why you can’t ever ask me for a letter of recommendation?

At the moment, I’m working on teaching myself everything, about a new industry, new organization. New culture, new people.

It’s taking all of my juice.

I sleep deeply.

iii

As Ender comes to the end of what is either grade six or grade five—surely not yet grade seven—I can never remember rightly, and, really, what does it matter—we’re entering year three of what has essentially been the Minecraft and Youtube curriculum. Between Flora’s illness, COVID, the divorce—now my new job—what else could it have been?

I’m researching resources, books, games—Youtube channels—wanting to give him some more scope to explore this summer, and in the fall.

Ender: Why?

Jane: I just… I just want you to be learning more.

Ender: I’m learning all the time. And having fun.

Even seasoned unschoolers need this reminder once in a while.

I kiss him. Hold him close.

I sleep deeply.

xoxo

“Jane”

Study in yellows

nbtb-study in yellows

I.

Jane: When I have my next mid-life crisis, I’m totally getting a Vespa scooter.

Flora: What did you do the last time you had a mid-life crisis?

Cinder: The less said about that the better.

I kind of agree, but I whack him on the head with my purse (not full of rocks) anyway.

Cinder: But you know, you won’t. You’ll do the math, and you’ll go on a trip instead.

Yeah. Probably. But on my trip—I’m gonna ride a Vespa scooter…

(In a garish, girly colour. Lime green. Hot pink. Sunshine yellow. Oh yeah.)

You: Not a Harley?

Me: Been her, over that.

II.

I’m working in a café, and there is a table of three women near me mapping out a strategy for their business. It will be immensely successful. Because of the youngest chica in the group, the most intense, most passionate, most dominant one.

Except… that youngest chica? The most intense, most talented one? I’m pretty sure she’s going to drop dead of a heart attack by 35. I want to prescribe meditation. Medication. Or a torrid love affair.

Maybe a Vespa. She looks like she’s due for an early mid-life crisis…

III.

Why, yes, I have decided that writing blog posts in very short Roman-numeral numbered verses is my new thing. I’m doing it for your ADD.

And perhaps, mine.

IV.

Ender: Mama-my-mama-mia-mama, FEED ME NOW!

Jane: Will! You! Stop! Yelling! At! Me!

Ender: I! Can’t! Help! It! When! I’m! Quiet! You! Don’t! Listen!

Fuck.

Busted.

V.

Sean: Does it count as date night if we’re both sitting next to each other at the kitchen table working on the same project on our two different laptops?

Jane: Yes. So long as we’re drinking wine, yes.

VI.

Have you ever noticed how, when you have so much work to do it’s overwhelming, paralyzing, and you’re pretty sure there is no way in hell you will ever get it done, instead of attacking it in small, manageable chunks, you kind of ignore the whole thing and decide THIS is the weekend to paint the kitchen?

No? Never mind then.

xoxo

“Jane”

Involving children in our odd 21st century work lives

Hmm, I wonder who's face that is?

One of the goals I have for my little bums is for them to grow up connected to the world of “adult” work: to be witness to the work, to participate in it, to understand it. You know. All that stuff that as paleolithic and neolithic kids they’d just absorb as a matter of course. But in the twenty-first century, if you’re engaged in intellectual, creative or professional work… well, it’s tough. You’re just at the computer. (Occasionally, somewhere else, naked, writing with marker on your leg…)

Every once in a while, though, an opportunity presents itself. We’re both more actively seeking them out for our Cinder now. Here’s one of the first ones, from February 19, 2008, with a questionable moral. Enjoy.

2008. There is currently a plate of doggie doo drying in my kitchen. Not REAL–thank the gods! But Sean is shooting a commercial for a new type of pooper scooper on Saturday. One of the challenges we’ve both seen in the recent while is letting Cinder into our work world—Flora’s still not really interested, “housework” and neglecting our garden is more than enough. My work, unfortunately–hunched over the computer or glued to the telephone, not an awful lot of room for help from a six year old (although he answers the phone very professionally now and doesn’t always manage to hang up on the people before passing them on to me 🙂 ) Sean’s work–the same, although Cinder loves to and does help load and unload the car when they’re off to a shoot, etc.

Anyway—the pooper scooper commercial requires fake doggie doo, and so yesterday afternoon, Sean, Cinder and Flora set up a poop factory. Ingredients: instant coffee, corn syrup, and wetted cardboard. Damn realistic stuff.

At the end of the production, Cinder looked at Sean with big eyes and said, “I didn’t realize being a filmmaker was so gross, Daddy.”

Back to 2013: So what does a 21st century boy who’s got a filmmaker for a father choose to pursue as his first career? Making Youtube videos, of course. I’m pretty much equal parts proud and appalled.

How do you include/inform your kids about the adult workworld?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

English: Paleontologist Matt Smith at work, Jo...

Flora turned 8 last week, and she’s seriously rethinking her career plans. It’s adorable. I am celebrating her life angst (Flora: “But can one be a veterinarian AND a paleontologist AND a museum curator AND an artist? AND maybe a horse-trainer?” Jane: “Yes. Possibly not all at the same time, but you know, life is long.”) by revisiting a conversation from the summer of 2008. Flora was 3.5 and Cinder just over 6, and they already had career plans they were happy to discuss with one of their aunties.

Auntie: So, Flora, what are you doing to be when you grow up?
Flora: I’m going to be a paleontologist, and dig up dinosaur bones.
A: Wow… well, you certainly live in the right area for that.
(We’re in Calgary, a stone’s throw away from Drumheller and the fossil rich badlands)
Flora: Yes, but I’m going to be a paleontologist in Patagonia.
A: Patagonia?

Patagonia. It’s where all the dino-digging action was in 2008.

Cinder enters the conversation: I already have a job. I do it every day, whenever I feel like it, for as long as I like.
A: Cool. What is it?
(Me–really curious. And really no idea as to what the answer would be?)
Cinder: Blowing up things.
A: Blowing up things? Cinder, you’re scaring me.
Cinder: Oh, nothing too dangerous. Mostly just baking soda and vinegar, you know. It’s so much fun, and I can do it over and over again, and try to make different kinds of explosions. And sometimes I add other stuff to it.
A: Maybe you’ll be a demolition man when you grow up.
Cinder: What’s a demolition man?
A: Someone who blows up stuff–like old buildings.
Cinder: Or blasts tunnels through mountains, or to make highways?
A: Yeah…

— conversation steers back to pinecones and what-not for a while, takes a side-detour to helicopter-flying–he has helicopters on his pajamas and she suggests perhaps that could be his job, but he’s not interested, although Flora pipes in that being an airplane pilot would be a pretty good job, and flying a plane, as well as riding a horse, are good skills for a paleontologist to have “because you never know.” After a prolonged interval, Cinder returns to the topic of his job.

Cinder: I also like setting fires.
A: What?
Cinder: Pretty safely, you know. My friend and I, we use magnifying glasses sometimes to use the power of the sun to burn things and make smoke. It’s pretty cool.
A: Cinder, you’re really scaring me. Blowing up things, setting fires…
Cinder: Oh, I like to do other experiments, where things don’t blow up, too. But sometimes I accidentally make noxious fumes.
A: So what are you going to be when you grow up?
Cinder: Oh, just me. And keep on doing stuff. [pause] But I’ll probably be taller.

And can I possibly add anything to that?

Photo: Paleontologist Matt Smith at work, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (NPS Photo;  Wikipedia)

More like this: Be the Fossil on UndogmaticUnschoolers.wordpress.com

And  big thank you to MomTimes4 for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award on her blog yesterday. I will pass on the love properly later in the week, but xoxoxo to a lovely lady in the meantime.