From Corporate America to Working From Home, Part III
Wow. I'm home now. And I've never loved my apartment more than I do at this moment. The idea of working from home has an entirely new meaning to me. By having no actual home these past several months, I realized that I didn't just work from home, but that I didn't work in an office. I had no place to escape to, and had no infrastructure I could rely on. I'm not an overly dramatic person, but I have to admit: it was a pain in the ass. Thankfully I had just started renting a studio space, but if any of you out there know what typical studio space in Brooklyn is like, you'll know it's not some place you can go to every day, all day. The heat is sporadic, and there is no internet service. So I ran out and got a space heater and a MiFi card, which is like a personal HotSpot (again, see Part II where you'll need more money than you think). My husband and I referred to every chapter in our displacement as a new adventure. And I like that. We explored different parts of the city and were able to break out of our routine. My routine, which as you know, was hard-won. Just as I had gotten down a schedule and some rituals, poof! It all disappeared.
So, a lesson I learned over these past few months is to be flexible. Yes, I think my case is a little extreme. It's not every day you're displaced from your home. And it's not every day you have to figure out things you normally take for granted like internet service, your comfortable office chair or having decent light. But, all of this brings me back to my corporate days and all the committees and meetings based on the idea of "disaster recovery". I had no disaster recovery plan. And I'm realizing it's not so much all the equipment or logistics, but it's your mental state. Simply thinking about and going through the exercise of "what would I do?" is helpful in preparing yourself. I was completely caught off guard, and realized that my work and productivity slowed down not because I didn't have my own space to work in, but that I had been mentally slapped around.
Now, I'm not sure if this next lesson is universal, but it was something that bothered me deeply, and I saw evidence of it when I was on my "adventure". Be prepared to be misunderstood. I'm not sure what throws people off. Part of it is the working from home aspect, and part of it is what I do. But, when I told people I quit my job and was going to persue designing knitwear full-time, it somehow meant that I wasn't working anymore. I kept getting asked, "How's not working?" Or, "What's it like being unemployed?" Better yet, "Oh, so you're just home knitting?" And when I would talk about the difficulties I was having in regards to work while I was displaced, I would get the occasional, "But you just need to knit, right?" In the beginning, I was offended. Then, I started correcting people thinking part of it was my fault, not explaining and educating people as to what I did. Now, I just smile and say, "Sure." Even though America was built on entrepreneurial expression, it is something foreign to most. All I can say is that we should redefine what "work" means.
Last, but definitely not least: Do what loves you. I know. We hear this all the time. Do what you love. But what exactly does that mean? Yea, sure - we're not going to go off on our own and do something we sort of like. (That wouldn't get you out of bed in the mornings.) And, I'm sure there's a laundry list of things that you love. I love to eat; I love to run. But when I think about true love, it's a two way street. (Eating is actually overeating and gorging for me, and running has given me stress fractures. I'm thinking these are one-way streets.) So, it’s also something that has to love you back. It has to suit you. One of my favorite books is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. And one of the themes in the book is that no one is really a natural. No one is really an overnight success. That if you were to examine all of the successful people out there, there would be a long line of experiences that has contributed to their success. And when I think about my own experiences, it’s a wonder why I hadn’t started designing hand knitwear sooner. My two absolute favorite subjects in school were Open Studio Art, and Calculus. I loved sketching, and loved numbers and curves. I wanted to be a fashion designer, and took classes at Parsons for a while. And having played piano, I developed a decent level of dexterity. Also, a major part of my last job was technical writing and editing. I can’t tell you how handy that’s been when I have to write out a pattern. All of these things, and all of those experiences created the right foundation for me to really take to knitwear design. It felt serendipitous in the beginning, but looking back, I'm realizing I had been preparing for it all my life.
Oh wait - one more thing. Take a break. How could I almost forget! I really never thought I'd have to force myself to take breaks, but here is the unfortunate result of doing what you love. Some days just sitting on the couch, watching tv and eating junk food is enough. At other times, a break can mean something completely different. They can be productive or fun and exhausting. I've been taking a Patternmaking class at FIT and having to go to class every week, and doing homework has forced me to take a break. I still feel like I'm being productive, and I like doing something related to my work, but I'm breaking from my regular patterns of thinking. And these breaks are so necessary to keep perspective and maintain creativity.
I hope my sharing these experiences and things I've learned have helped you, or at least entertained you slightly while you read my posts. May you all spend your days doing what you love, and breaking down the barriers of what we think of as work.