Transitioning from a 9 to 5 to Freelancing

I used to think that working at a regular, full time job was hard. Don't get me wrong, there were some days that were tough to get through and I also know that for some of you, work doesn't end once the work day ends. But - for me at least - a 9 to 5 was pretty easy.

It's simple really: wake up, get ready, go to work, work hard, eat lunch (or not, depending on the day), work hard, go home. And that was it. I could pull out of the parking lot and leave it all behind. I wanted to do well and I certainly put effort into my work and into improving my skills, but at the end of the day, my job didn't really affect my life. There were days when I would come home frustrated about something or would be thinking about the work that hadn't gotten finished, but I couldn't do anything about those things.

I worked in an office - and granted my office had a unique lack of windows and a great amount of aluminum dust floating around - and an office implies stability. I saw the same people everyday. I worked on similar projects in a similar order, and I could pretty much predict what was coming next. And looking back on it now, that stability was good. I was going through a lot of changes and some hard circumstances at home and with a stable job, I could go into the office and leave it all behind. Basically, I would pick up my work self at the door and drop it off when I left for the day.

When I left my job to move to Virginia with J, I thought it would be easy to leave that behind. Boy, was I wrong. When you don't have an office to go to or a specific list of duties and a time frame in which to do them, you can really start to flounder. Suddenly, my schedule was flexible - more than just the "I'll do this after lunch" flexible of a 9 to 5 - I could do anything I wanted at any given time.

I first day J went back to work after I moved, I filled my time with unpacking. I unpacked most of the apartment in one day - partly because all of those boxes were driving me CRAZY and partly because I didn't know how to stop - and then I was left with nothing to do. I spent the next day (a Tuesday, which is almost always my least favorite anyway) trying to relax. But relaxing is hard. At least for me. At one point, I got so bored that I was walking around Target fighting back tears just looking for something to do with my time. I could see it so clearly: hours, days, weeks, possibly months stretching ahead of me in a mindless, bored haze of watching tv and wandering the aisles of department stores just to feel like I was a part of the world.

The next day, I started freelancing. In some ways this was a mistake - I had worked hard packing up our house and working two jobs back in Pittsburgh - I never gave myself a chance to just hang out and check back in with myself and with God. But at the same time, freelancing kept me busy and kept me from making totally unnecessary purchases to fill the yawning void of boredom.

As the days turned into weeks and eventually into months of freelancing and blogging from home, I started to get into a rhythm. I discovered the times when I am most productive and when I just need to take a break. I learned that taking a day off here and there to run errands or help out a friend is a good thing - and much easier when I don't have to request a vacation day. But I still struggle. I struggle with loneliness at times: since I work from my apartment when J is at work, I have very little human interaction. I struggle with focus: sitting at a desk - with a window! - all day, my attention can be easily drawn to binge watching Netflix or browsing the internet for a new blog (I'm starting to realize that this is also a part of the whole loneliness issue - guys, I am going to have to work on that). I struggle with filling my days: at times, freelance work is light, I've cleaned the whole apartment twice, the fridge is full of food, and I've run out of things to do.

But as hard as transitioning out of a typical 9 to 5 can be, I've learned a few things along the way. And by no means have I got this down yet, but I'm working on it.

-The freedom to talk a walk outside on a nice day is exhilarating. And really good for getting out of the house.

-Don't rely only on Best of Netflix lists because a lot of times they are out of date and the show you so carefully picked is no longer available online.

 -Take a long lunch. Maybe even make a lunch and then sit outside enjoying it. You don't have to be back at your desk in 30 minutes, so why not?

-Watching too many documentaries about food will make you want to throw out everything in your pantry. Resist this urge - replacing all your food isn't exactly budget friendly.

-Youtube.com has some great exercise videos. For FREE.

-The lawn mowing company at your apartment complex will take MUCH longer than necessary to cut the grass. And it will be loud. And you will be trapped in your apartment until they finish blowing the leaves and grass off of the the sidewalks. And stairs. And outside your door (this will always take an abnormally long time).

-There is nothing wrong with sitting on the couch watching Law and Order: SVU if you just aren't feeling it one day. But you really shouldn't do this two days in a row unless you're actually sick.

-Speaking of which, taking a sick day is hard. Since you work from home, work is always there. Close the door, turn off the computer, do whatever you need to in order to step away and focus on getting better.

-You will get lonely. This is where the miracle of cell phones comes in. You have friends and family, so call them. Also, go outside: Find a nice park nearby or walk to buy or groceries instead of driving (but only if you aren't picking up too many).

-Finally, be thankful that you have this opportunity to explore your passions. You might not find it right away, and that's totally okay. Just never give up, because if you get one of those jobs you applied for, you may not have this opportunity again.