Just This

The Shape of This Thing

Though I left my last employer at the end of February, I only formally announced my latest professional endeavor a couple of weeks ago. Which means in the intervening weeks and months, I didn’t really have a lot going. Sure, I was working here and there. And I did take a trip to Paris.

But generally speaking, I was existing from day to day without much of a schedule. For most of that time, I didn’t wake up with any kind of alarm other than my own internal clock (and sometimes, my annoying cat). Any day could be a lazy, binge-heavy couch day. Any day was just as likely to be a crazy-productive errands and chores day. Either way, it was all on my own schedule. Or lack thereof.

This week, that all seems to have changed.

For the first time since leaving a job with an actual office and the hours to go with it, I set an alarm to wake me up at a decent time. I got up with it and went about my routine to get ready for the day ahead. Put on the coffee. Hop in the shower. Find something presentable to wear. Coffee and makeup and the morning news…

I wasn’t commuting anywhere or showing up for any staff meetings, but enough had come together that I knew by this past Sunday evening that I needed to approach the week as if I were. Meetings, tours, screenings, a mid-week field trip…I had a lot going. On Tuesday, I just so happened that I had a day that could’ve just as easily been on my calendar when I was gainfully employed by someone else. This time around, it was entirely of my own crafting – a surreal yet awesome feeling.

I’m far from the first person I know to work on a flexible schedule, and it worked out on this day that a fellow publicist and friend had a few hours open to meet up and co-work. This arrangement, which we’re hoping to make a weekly habit, has been a god-send. It carves out a few hours in the day to both dig into whatever is on my To Do list and get in some much-needed socialization, one of the biggest things missing when you work for yourself. We camp out for a few hours at a table at Soho House, and probably do as much people watching as we do working. It’s a highlight of my self-employed week.

Our work time only lasted into mid-day, as we both had more to get to in the afternoon (hustle!). So I made my way over to my hair stylist for a bangs trim (a monthly necessity to keep this look in check!). There I was, middle of the day on a Tuesday, sitting in a salon making small talk with the woman who cuts my bangs. Amazing how easy it is to get personal appointments out of the way when you’re not chained to a desk! I even had enough time after the trim to make my way from the West Loop into downtown to grab a quick lunch, which was also just enough time to check email and get through a bit more work on my laptop.

Soon as I wrapped up my solo lunch, I headed out for the next stint of my day: a private walking tour. It happened that I had three separate private tours to give this week, which is a welcome way to spend an afternoon. Not only do I get out and about around the city (hello, 10,000 steps!), but it’s also guaranteed income for me (whereas my regular tours are tip-based). By 3p, the tour group showed up and we set off for a couple hours talking about films and Chicago. They even tipped me a bit when we were done!

By now, anyone’s normal workday would be done, and I could make the case that mine had been quite full. No one would blame me if I’d called it a day and gone home.

But I had one more adventure in store for the evening, a special screening of The Big Sick (with the filmmakers in attendance!). Since I live so far from downtown, it wouldn’t make sense to head all the way home before the screening, so instead I snuck in just a little more time on my laptop. I had some social media client work to do, and though I considered stopping by a coffee shop next to the theater, I’d long since reached my caffeine limit for the day. Instead, I posted up at a pub around the corner (checking in advance that they had wifi!) for a happy hour pint and some content management. Because when you’re self-employed, work with a side of happy hour is the best way to work!

I made it to the movie on time (and not even tipsy!), and it was lovely. Not extraordinary, but quite lovely (review to come). Including the Q&A, I didn’t leave the theater until around 9:30p with an hour-long train commute home ahead of me. By the time I trudged up three flights of stairs (I’d been carrying my “office” around with me all day!), it was nearly 11p and I was home from a long, blissfully busy day. I’d left more than twelve hours earlier and packed into the day hours of client work, a tour, a movie and even a personal errand.

It takes discipline and (joyful) hustle, but when I keep focused and put in the effort, I can actually see the pieces all coming together in the shape of a day like this Tuesday. If I’d known this is what working for myself could look like, I probably would’ve made this leap months ago. Better late than never? Here’s to many more days as full and fulfilling as this one.