Work Isn’t A Four Letter Word
(Post by Whitney Tibolt, WorkBar’s Host for the last couple weeks while Evona was touring Europe)
“What do you do all day?“ asked an old friend who came over for coffee one afternoon.
“You should come teach English again,” said a former colleague.
“My Dad is a lawyer. My mom cleans the house,” my 7-year-old daughter wrote in a paper for school.
That was it, the death knoll for my career as a housewife. It’s been 7 years since I got a paycheck, except for counting the homeless for the US Census 2010. I have helping/volunteering/housekeeping/keeping-myself-busy fatigue. I want someone else to keep me busy. And I want to be paid!
“I have a proposition for you!” Bill said one night at a party. Actually, he probably yelled it to be heard over the sound of the 7 little neighborhood kids running amok. An offer of temporary employment? A chance to test-run life in my house with two working parents? You bet!
This is how I came to fill in for Evona, the host at WorkBar Boston, a co-working shared office space for folks looking to escape home or Starbucks. Easy, I thought. Make coffee, empty the dishwasher, answer e-mail, be friendly. Just what I do at home and on the playground. And I was curious about this co-working thing. Here was my chance to see what Bill does, and maybe gain some insight into why he’s so happy all the time.
15 minutes before the alarm clock went off on my first day, I jolted myself awake out of a nightmare. I had followed some supposed friend off of a very high platform to fall to my death. First-day anxiety? Worried I didn’t know how to use the alarm clock anymore? I had to be at WorkBar at 8:30 to open the door for people who come in to work. They’ve paid. I can’t let them or Bill down!
I hit the ground running. Do the dishes left piled in the sink from the night before. No complaints from me, I’m getting paid to do it! Hey, this kitchen could use a good cleaning. I’m qualified for that. The rooms need straightening. The walls need wiping. The cabinets need organizing. I’m good at that. 7 years of housekeeping have really paid off.
But the hard part came soon enough: filling the massive personality void left by Evona, making the office fun, making the office run. Excel: hate it. Gmail: never used it. Word: yet another new version to learn. Twitter: never cared. Blog: why? Remote printer, Pandora radio via some small computer: is this the Starship Enterprise? Master’s degree in teaching not so helpful. I should have studied machines. May Silicon Valley be hit by a magnitude 7 earthquake.
By the end of my third day, I was wiped. My husband stepped up to make all of our meals, including packing lunch for me. The laundry overflowed. Our wet camping gear still hadn’t been unpacked. We bought milk from the extortionists at the corner store. My daughter’s room was a disaster. I hadn’t exercised. My mail bin was jammed full. I hadn’t dealt with my e-mail. AWESOME! I love working! I love WorkBar!
Why? WorkBar is a place where people work for themselves mostly. It’s a community of people creating new ways of doing things. In a way, they are responsible for why I don’t recognize the office environment anymore. But they seem happier, more engaged than other office workers. They brainstorm a heck of a lot. They share knowledge freely. They are excited by new things, not frightened by them. They don’t seem judgmental, or brought down by failure. Failure is part of experimentation. And they are connected. They don’t hide in cubicles or in their own brains. I see why Bill is happy.
And me, I’m a normal person again. I am confident that I can rejoin the world of working stiffs. I’m nice to my husband again. I don’t resent my daughter’s sloppiness. I just leave her mess and ask her to clean it up. I don’t worry about ending up like many spouses I know who don’t work: pissed off and contemplating divorce. It’s been a nice 7 years of planning my own days, but I’m ready to have some constraints placed on me. Captivity can be good for the soul.
Now to find which shackles fit best for me…