A contractor’s life takes so many sharp turns and spins, it makes you want to vomit on your computer.
But you stop yourself because you remember it will be hours before Jacquie comes home from work to clean up the mess.
You swallow your apprehension, along with some partially digested Weet-Bix, and you take your new freelance life one day at a time.
What other choice do you have?
Take a look in the mirror. What do you see?
A consummately unemployable wreck of an early middle-aged proto-carcass with awkward teeth and smallish man-boobs?
It should be. That’s what you are, my friend.
You are no doubt flinching in disgust. We all are.
But it’s just us talking, making candid assessments of ourselves. (Thus the mirror imagery).
So swallow your pride, along with some twice-digested Weet-Bix, and face the facts.
You’re a freelancer because nobody will tolerate working in the same building with you.
Fair enough. They have their own Weet-Bix to digest, a process that could only be hindered by your physical presence.
Plus, everyone knows you wear Birkenstocks.
Your career, you see, is exactly where it needs to be. At home, with the blinds shut, handcuffed to the bathroom radiator except for two 15 minute breaks for breakfast and lunch.
Look at yourself in the mirror again.
But this time, with as much dignity as you can muster, gaze into your own eyes and shout:
“I am a leper.”
Now let’s connect the two metaphoric images central to this post.
As I’ve so ingeniously demonstrated, the contractor’s life is a curvy, bumpy, quaggy slog.
When you’re working, the stretches are sometimes smooth, sometimes tough to navigate.
But when there isn’t any new work coming in, you’re spinning your wheels in a rut, doing nada but make the mud fly.
You shut off your engine. You shake your head, and you catch yourself in the side view mirror.
Then you look at yourself, and smile with pride, as you scream:
“I am a leper. And my car is stuck in the mud. Can someone please help? You wouldn’t have to come in direct with my hideous putrefaction. Just call the automobile club. I’d do it myself, but I’m afraid to lose what’s left of my last finger-stump. You know, because I’m a leper.”
There. Was that so hard? Even if it was, it’s better if you come to terms with your present, grim circumstances.
Because now you can look at the bright side.
You’ll be tempted to feel sorry for yourself. Work has slowed down, you’re unemployable, and frankly, when I see you coming toward me on the street, I duck into a nearby shop to hide.
Only then do I realize that I’m in Auckland, and the nearest shop is a 27 minute bus ride away. So, I’m fucked, because you’ve already seen me and hooked me into this stupid conversation.
You’re “sad because the work isn’t as predictable and safe as you’d like, despite getting some pretty interesting assignments that you’d never have gotten before had you not become a freelance writer?”
Which is what I’m saying out loud as I type this, in a mock baby voice.
In other words, you know what your problem is, you big baby?
You see your situation as a glass half-empty.
That could be a good thing if the glass is half-full of arsenic-laced Diet Coke.
Or just Diet Coke.
But for the purposes of this metaphor, let’s say the liquid in question is water. Mmm. You like water, right? Everyone loves water.
Are you seriously going to tell me that you won’t drink up that water because you think the glass is half empty, knowing all too well that the glass is half full (and not with a poisonous substance, at least not beyond human tolerance, you know this to be true)?
If that’s really how you feel, you need a spanking.
And I can’t wait to give you one.
Figuratively, I think.
Maybe your problem comes from you not looking hard enough in the mirror.
When I look at you looking at yourself in the mirror, I see a person who is completely self-absorbed.
Why are you still looking at yourself the mirror? That bit is dead. Deader than dead. Was probably stillborn. But in any case. Dead.
If you tried looking on the bright side for a change, instead of in the mirror like you always do, you’d see you’re not in a quagmire. You’re on an adventure.
Uncertainty is an acceptable price to pay for the relative freedom, and variety, that comprises the contractor’s work life.
To enjoy being what you do for a living isn’t enough to keep your business afloat, however.
This might be a drag to you, but you are running a business. A business called Me, Myself and I, for which there is no such thing as down time.
There are always plenty of things to do when you’re not working on a money-making project.
It can be bookkeeping, marketing efforts, picking out an ergonomic chair, getting into a dispute with a call center employee because they no longer sell the ergonomic chair you want in puce, and so much more.
In my downtime, I like to demonstrate my superior writing capability and lord its brilliance over my trembling readers.
That’s one of the reasons I keep this blog, obviously: to demonstrate to potential business partners that I’m the best source of the best creative shit to ooze out of a person’s brains ever.
You know what I mean?
So, for instance, today I wrote this poem, which I call Introductory Rates for First-time Clients:
I am a leper.
My car is stuck in the mud.
Can you help me?
Will you help a struggling leper?
I can help you.
I have metaphors, such as my career is like a car stuck in the mud, and when I look at myself, I see a self-absorbed person looking back, but with much of his face missing.
I am a leper.
My car is stuck in the mud.
I’m on an adventure!
Will you help me help you?
Now you are saying yes.
Now I am locking my car and I am coming to you with an invoice, already.
Now you are pointing to my shoe, which I left stuck in the mud behind me
with my foot still inside
so, easy come easy go.
I’m a leper on an adventure.
Introductory rates apply!
The people seem to love it.
I post it on my blog, sit back, and watch the monie$ roll in.
Incidentally, I ran into the male Gummy Bear today.
He seems to have misgivings about his current sales role, cold-calling people to buy I forget what.
He told me that although he sometimes calls some of the women back after the shift to just “listen to their voices”, he doesn’t find the job challenging.
“Wha’ I go’ si’ behoind a desk for all day?” said the bear. “Leicester pe’pl are pe’pl pe’pl, if y’g’t m’y me’n’ng.”
“Yes, yes of course.”
And who could argue with him? He’s a big guy. He’s massive. He can lift a Sumo wrestler riding a giant pink unicorn named Sassafras. At least that’s what his Linkedin profile says.
“I’m loo’n’g for another jawb now, but I’m ofa-quawified,” said the bear. “So I’s can take a break and rest me weary ‘ead wi’ a game of ‘Double Solitaire.'”
What the fuck is “Double” Solitaire? I saw an ad on Facebook for a game app by that name.
Usually I play solitaire by myself. As the name suggests.
Solitaire is French for “stupid, tedious game for people who need a life.”
Obviously, I play it all the time.
But Double Solitaire?
Are there people so bored, who’ve given up on life so much that they will double-up on Solitaire?
Double Solitaire sounds like a game a giant anthropomorphized Gummy Bear would play.
It’s hard to imagine there are that many Gummy Bears running around, downloading Double Solitaire.
So, maybe there are other people in the target market.
People with split personalities, for instance.
It’s bad enough if you have more than one personality, but you’re extra screwed if all your personalities are the kind of loser who would play Double Solitaire.
But then if Double Solitaire were for people with multiple personalities, the makers would have to realize that each personality is a potential customer.
And if that were the case, why would they call it Double Solitaire. They’d do better if they called it Deluxe Party Solitaire with a note saying, “Great with 6 to 12 players!”
Oh, fuck. Where was I?
Right. Long story short, I was glad to have run into the Gummy Bear. He reminded me that as much as you worry about where your next gig is coming from, your work life is no longer highlighted by the brainless memes, game apps and office gossip that too often characterizes a nine-to-five job. Anything to break up the tedium of downtime.
So it isn’t so bad to be a leper after all.
Figuratively speaking, of course.
[[First draft. No pics. Light proofing. Pics later]]