I think I've already written four or five versions of this post because I feel like I'm over-sharing or being too detailed and personal. But this work-related milestone is worth noting because I started this blog when I was always working at home (before it was a trend or a social-distancing necessity) and needed an expressive outlet, and now I'm not working at home all the time anymore.
Okay, so after many rewrites and revisions is this: the bottom line is that I have gotten a full-time job after 30 years of not having one. I've only had one since becoming a post-college adult, and that wasn't even in the USA. I've been working for myself, then eventually as a one-person business (established in 2009), since the mid-90s.
Even though I have written the amount of years more than a few times in previous posts, I still feel uncomfortable about stating that because in some industries, there seems to be a bias against people who are older than 35 in the workplace. But don't worry, ageists; I'm technologically savvy, exercise regularly, have good references, a solid work ethic, and am adaptable. I wouldn't have gotten the full-time job or have been so busy, even during the pandemic, if I weren't capable.
I'm one of those people who has benefits that seem to make up for the pay. And I'm not being falsely modest about my deflated situation; I should get paid more for my experience and attention to detail, but let's just say the cash doesn't seem to be flowing that much, so I am still doing other jobs in addition to my full-time one. I always thought that if I took a full-time job, I'd quit freelancing and teaching, but I've spent too many years building up that equity to stop doing it. So right now, I'm simultaneously working in academia and in the non-academic world. I was even asked recently if I could teach yet another class, but I have no time left. I wish I could do it all, but I can't.
Even when the take-home pay doesn't seem like that much, having benefits seems like a luxury. For several years, if I didn't work, I didn't get paid. If I got sick, I didn't get paid. If I wasn't given a class to teach or wasn't given hours at a part-time job, I wouldn't get paid. Now I can take paid time off, can get sick, and can even take a personal day. I'm still getting used to it. Over the years, between all my gigs, I've called in sick only once in over a decade and have rarely gotten sick because I've figured out how to stay healthy. I'm not going to become a slacker, but at least I have that buffer now.
Before I took this full-time job, I was offered five full-time jobs, and I didn't have to apply for any of them; they asked me to work there after seeing what I could do. Even though the money was better, I didn't take them because I really liked working for myself and living on the edge, essentially. It was an adventure to stay in the game and stay sharp. But when this full-time job came up, I had a good feeling about it and applied. I had already done the job temporarily, so I knew what to expect in terms of responsibilities, but I was worried about office politics and mean girls/guys. I hadn't grown up with such people in my sphere, but now that I've encountered them in my adult life, they're enough to cause me to avoid the whole scene. I was also worried about going to the same place every day, sitting at the same desk, doing the same things. My days used to be complex and different; many times I'd wake up and forget where I was going. Now I know that eventually I have to go to that full-time commitment, even if I have to do one of my other jobs before that.
But so far, it hasn't been bad, though it took a month to get used to it. The first couple of days I closed my door and didn't talk to people because I couldn't believe I'd committed most of my hours to one place. I can't make appointments or go to the gym at random times during the day any more, so I have to do things after business hours or take a chunk of day to go to the doctor. I used to do freelance work, play tennis, then resume the work. I don't even know when I can play tennis again, or if I'll be able to meet people to play with who are at my mediocre level. I need to explain to people why I can no longer join their Zoom groups during the day, and if I want to meet up with people, or just talk on the phone, I have to do that on weekends or at night. My part-time schedule, where I had to show up at a physical location, was random, but I worked around it and it added to the thrill ride-type of existence. Now my days are solid. I feel more calm, but I can't let go of having to have a backup plan in case the situation dissolves.
I was just talking with someone who worked at other places full time, so they didn't have to adjust like I did to showing up five days a week. But we both agreed that because the environment is professional, the job is enjoyable. No drama like at other places. Plus, my boss is probably one of the best I've ever had, maybe the best. They allowed me to keep teaching, trust that I will put in the forty hours (which I do), and trust that I will meet the deadlines. They leave me alone to do what's needed, and their constructive feedback is polite. I'm never yelled at or demeaned, and I can discuss issues when needed, and work independently successfully. I also don't feel like I have to dumb-down my speaking style with them, end my sentences with question marks or vocal fry, or act like an airhead to get their attention. It is very hard to find good bosses and non-toxic workplaces, and here's where I highly recommend the Asshole Survival Guide, which is a must-read for anyone who is working anywhere.
What I realized working full time is that I like to be in control of the process and work flow. Previously, I was in control of how I was shaping my work life, but I always had to follow what someone else wanted, and if I implemented it to their liking, I stayed employed. I couldn't really speak freely to suggest another way because the other person had already set a process that worked for them, or they basically didn't like people and didn't want to engage in unnecessary conversation. As long as I could effectively fake introversion and stay subservient, I was fine. I even had to be careful about what my emails contained; they could not include any personality. Now, even though I'm still working alone, which is what I've done for years, I don't have to fake bland introversion in emails as well as offline; I can add a smiley face, and it won't be held against me.
Now I'm the one in charge, and it's fantastic. No one works for me, but I'm still in charge of my occupational slot. I work with wonderful people who are conscientious, friendly, and deadline-oriented. I really appreciate them because I've worked with people who blow off work and don't care if other people have to pick up the slack, and others who mock the idea of having a work ethic. Since I can get work done on time or according to an optimal plan that I've created, people rarely bother me because the system I've set up goes smoothly. It's satisfying and seems nerdy because the accomplishment is in the details of implementation. Overall, I'm treated well, not nitpicked, and not perceived as weird, intense, or serious. At the end of the day, I essentially feel like I haven't worked. Because I have other gigs, I am tired, but I feel a lot more grounded and am really enjoying life.
I think one great characteristic of solopreneurs like moi is that we are used to being super-productive because the consequences of laziness or lying include losing hours, a class, a project, and our reputation. If we're jerks, people won't want to work with us. If we're high maintenance and can't learn things on our own or work independently, people won't want to keep us around. We are constantly being assessed because if we fail, we won't make money. So I should be able to be well-employed for the rest of my life because I bring a lot to the table. And as long as employers are open-minded to hiring Gen X'ers like moi who don't take anything for granted, I should be considered for future work as well.