A month or so ago, I took a walk around the neighborhood with Berta, as we often do after dinner when there's still light out and the heat isn't overbearing. These walks often contain what feels like awkward silence, or rather, they would if I would ever shut up. For whatever reason, regardless of the breathlessness the pace and incline induces on my completely out-of-shape and asthmatic self, I can't help but take the opportunity to fill the silence with some chatter. At some point, I'll have to ask Berta if she feels this is my habit and whether she'd rather walk silently, since although she does contribute, I feel like she'd rather just walk with her thoughts unpolluted.
Anyway, it was on this one walk when I found myself resisting the urge to offer the usual rhetorical diarrhea, and instead focused on some of my own internal contemplation. It was actually a really nice day, I remember. The temperature was just what you'd want in an early summer evening. The sky was not cloudless, but full of colorful pink and purple twilight-lit clouds. No cars on the road and a gentle, comfortable breeze.
Whatever the cause, I was in one of those weird "imagine if" mental scenarios, like the kind where you imagine yourself in an alley at night in the city fending off muggers, and you imagine in vivid detail the things you'd say and moves you'd execute to disarm and disable the attackers, and the results and cost of the scenario afterward. Except this scenario wasn't about muggers; it was a what-if about having a regular job.
I've been contracting on my own for two years, and the work I've done has been rewarding. No doubt. The ability to see the results of my own drive and tenacity have been both exciting and revealing. No concerns there. I think it's important to say that I know, and others who I'd care to prove it to know, that I can do it.
But I wasn't thinking about it in the abstract. I was imagining a concrete present where I was an employee somewhere, working on a project. I imagined the unexpected freedoms that come with not having to find my own work, receiving regular pay, and being able to take a vacation.
Seriously. I've said this to people before, but I don't know if it really sinks in. When you work for yourself, any time you're not working, you are also not being paid. There is really no such thing as a "paid vacation". Sure, you can plan out paying yourself to the point that you can be "paid" while you're not working, and that all works out. But for me, I've never been able to shake the idea that when I'm not working, I'm doing something wrong. It causes stress.
Imagining vacations and not having to worry where the next job comes from and a horde of other things... very attractive. I even imagined some of the potential concessions of this kind of employment, and I must say, the idea of being generally a better person (for a certain personal definition of "better") wasn't entirely off-putting.
I dunno. I probably should have written about this right after the walk, because it's not coming out right. It's not as simple as, "Oh! Employment could be easier!" There are other things in this imagined scenario about who I could be as a person, and how that could be better if given a chance to be someone different in one significant, catalyzing way.
I came around a corner thinking how great it would be to just be different. And weirdly, things were different. Just the way I thought about it was enough. Now I'm looking for hooks for changing habits to transform my life. Radical changes, really, spawned by small catalysts. Maybe it doesn't seem it on the outside, but I'm hoping I get there. I hope that one day Berta and I can be on a walk and she'll realize these changes, and maybe say to me, "You've changed a lot since that walk back then. I like it."