At a recent job interview, the subject of this column was raised by my perspective employer. Because I've written about such diverse topics as pornography, alcohol, homosexual gentrification, politics and my preference of watching "Hitler blunder" documentaries over ESPN, I occasionally feel a bit apprehensive when someone asks me about "TMC." I've expressed my opinions fairly nakedly over the past two and a half years, and that's my real name up there. When people Google me, this column has usurped my 16th place finish in the North Carolina state cross country championships as the first hit.
My potential vocational evaluator had a pretty simple question: who is your target audience? My answer: men and women between the ages of 22-40 who work in a cubicle and have 15 minutes to read something interesting (but not too taxing), while eating Stouffer's Lean Cuisine Glazed Chicken at 12:42 PM on Fridays, praying for the weekend to hurry up and get here.
There was a time, not so long ago, when I dreaded becoming a member of my target audience, but sure as death and parking tickets in Washington, DC, I became of them. That reality is just not what I envisioned for myself as a wee pup when I pondered my future, and you probably didn't either. Remember that great Monster.com TV ad?
I want to file all day ... I want to claw my way up to middle management ... I want to have a brown nose, be a yes man, yes woman, yes sir, right away sir.
Yet that's exactly what happened to me. And it happened more than once.
As a manager of a golf course for a couple of seasons, I'll admit it - I had it pretty good. I had my own office, crummy as it was, but it certainly beat mooing my way through the cube farm of my previous life as an Editorial Coordinator of a scientific journal. However, sixty hours a week for lousy pay with no overtime - not to mention the same endless daily golf banter escaping from the mouths of hopeless golf addicts - has a mind-numbing effect on a person. Listening to early retirees talk about how they just missed breaking 80 because a rouge breeze carried their eight-iron over the green ... for the 183rd time in a month ... oh, joy.
The alternative? Get a job at some government agency or Inc./LLC/Ltd., make my cube as much of a home away from home as humanly possible, while slogging through the same repetitive tasks day in and day out. Maybe I'll get a raise. Maybe I'll get a real office. Maybe I'll get thrown a bone every once in a while as I stare out the widow and watch the world float by.
Oh adult angst! Oh melancholy existence! Oh the feeling of crushed dreams! Oh ... borrrrrrrring.
All that is about to change.
Henry David Thoreau once famously wrote, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." Well, as a kid, I dreamed of being the quarterback of the Redskins, or of being the next Jimmy Page/Mick Jagger, depending on the day. Today, I have a simpler dream, at least in the short term; I want to work from home, doing what I love to do. I want to write for a living. I want to freelance as my main source of income. So screw it. I'm doing it!
Think of it for a moment. No more rush hour commutes in beltway traffic. No more gray, carpeted walls incarcerating the soul as well as the body. No more mindless office banter: Good morning! How are you? I'm great, how 'bout you? Are we having fun yet? Hot enough for ya? Is it Friday yet? And the best of all: No more answering to someone who views you with the same relative importance as the computer that sits on your desk.
Or sure, there will be problems that do not exist in other jobs. There will be demanding clients, and most of my time will be spent finding them (and not getting paid in the process). There's no certainty of that same predictable paycheck every two weeks, but for a guy like me, that's actually a plus. I like a challenge and detest hum-drum. Then there's the lack of health benefits, so I'll need to take on a part-time job while I get this thing off the ground, which will take a minimum of six months. For most people, this is entirely too unstable and distracting to be a tenable work situation. For that, I am thankful. I'm not looking for competition!
Speaking of competition, I'm not the only one with this idea. There are a lot of freelancers out there who are already established. It will be an uphill battle to get noticed at first.
However, there's so much upside, I can barely contain my excitement. Imagine - anywhere can be your office. Anywhere a laptop can go, you can do your job, and it's totally up to you where that "anywhere" is. Coffee shop, park bench, mountain drive, cabin in the woods, chair in the gym lobby - the world is your workspace.
Imagine taking the afternoon off because it's just too damn nice to be cooped up all day, and you don't have to lie to, or ask permission from, anyone to do it. Imagine taking a vacation at a moment's notice, while still fulfilling your work obligations at your leisure on a beach in Belize.
Imagine having different assignments to keep your mind stimulated, while still being similar enough to be slotted into your comfortable skill set. Imagine having the freedom to accept jobs that interest you and politely reject the ones that don't. Imagine doing a job that lit your fire, where you actually did for a living the same type of thing that you did for enjoyment.
Imagine there's no cubicle. It isn't hard to do. No walls around us. And no jerk boss, too.
Evan Redmon gets a lot of spam. If you are not spam, please feel free to drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.