Here is a conundrum. What is one to do when one is incapable of working with others but gets bored working alone? I had to become a writer. Not only was it the only thing I was ever good at, and the only thing I enjoy doing, but I am also deeply unsuited for working in a corporate environment. I tried it for years, and sometimes I even succeeded in climbing the corporate ladder, but it was exceedingly difficult. I do not play nicely with other people.
I am not good at taking instructions from my superiors. It is not that I have a problem with authority, per se, it’s just that, much of the time, I thought I knew better. And, to be fair, I often did. Just because someone had been in a position longer than me didn’t mean that they were right and I was wrong. And the fact that I had to pretend that they were was often more than I could bear.
So I became a freelance writer, which really is a meritocracy, as you only succeed if your writing is good. I no longer have to deal with office politics, or performance reviews, or my boss announcing that we are going to implement Strategy X when I know that Strategy Y will work far more efficiently.
It’s has been huge relief to be away from the fray, just to get up in the morning, sit at my desk, and write in my pyjamas till the kids come home from school. But it has also been challenging, because working at home for myself is not the paradise that I imagined.
Look the coffee is good and my boss is fantastic but there are several significant problems. For a start, there is no-one to motivate me if I do not motivate myself, and it is easy to waste time if I’m not careful. And, there is no distinction between work and home, which can make it hard to switch off at night on those days when I do get motivated.
Most significantly, however, I get extremely lonely. Working from home alone is incredibly isolating, and there are days when I crave human contact like a dieter craves chocolate. Much like a stay at home parent misses the company of adults, I too miss the company of colleagues and peers. There is no water cooler gossip, no casual chit chat in the hallways. I can go from morning till evening without seeing anyone but my kids, and I miss the interaction more than I could have anticipated.
Ironically, working alone means that I have to work extra hard, not just to earn an income, but to maintain my mental health. I make plans to meet friends for lunch and coffees, which gives me social contact, as well as an excuse to get out of the house. I often go to the supermarket or a café in the middle of the working week, just to be around people and gain a sense of the community I live in.
And I use social media. I dip in and out of social media all day – Facebook, Twitter, websites, Instagram. It is not just to boost my profile, or to read silly posts about cats. It is to get connected to other humans in the world, so that I am not sitting alone all day talking to myself. Social media has been my saviour for these past few years. I could not have managed to work at home without the interaction it offers.
Now that I’ve finished this piece, I’m going to stretch, look around my empty house, and check in online to have a chat to my friends. Please come and say hi. I promise to answer back. And we can both do our bit to keep each other sane.