The fog of other people’s voices and personalities blurs you out. You’ve developed this persona, based on clichés and what other people seem to like best about you. Developing who you are based on actions that reap the most positive rewards. You learn to play nicely with the other kids and modify yourself to suit their preferences. Likability takes on new meaning now because of Facebook but in my mind, it’s always been there.
They say at 29 years old, you’re at your most popular. But walking around the place grinning and high-fiving people isn’t really living. Or so I’ve come to believe. Those people crowding around you and laughing at your jokes aren’t your friends. They’ll go as quickly as they came and you’ll realise (almost 10 years on) it really doesn’t matter nearly as much as you thought it would.
A year since flying the office nest and I’m now full-time freelance – just like my Grandma’s old cat who was bizarrely called that. To my absorbent child mind, maybe Freelance (and her son Freeway) were the seeds that bloomed into the colourful flowers I now see. And sometimes I wonder whether life isn’t just like a novel; cleverly concealed clues enclosed in my chapters.
So I’m freelance, not just in job title but in personality too. I’ve forgiven myself mostly for my misgivings, stopped giving such a fuck what people think and started following my happiness. If I’m not as popular today as I was when I was 29 then fuck it, at least I don’t have as many Christmas cards to write and at least I can lavish my love on the long-suffering lot that deserve it the most.
Hearing from those still on the inside, and not much changes in office life. The bitches are still bitches and the arse-licks are still licking arse. Besides a few pregnancies, it doesn’t sound as though I’ve missed much. And what I’ve gained is so valuable: the resurrection of myself before the rigmarole turned me into a reactionary puppet, torn between the principles of my personality or the pay-packet that would help me progress.
The best part is that now I spend most of my afternoons writing guilt free, without worrying Pawel from IT will grass me up for packing my PC full of fat files bursting with words that I can’t seem to stop myself putting together. I no longer need to get my kicks leaving abusive remarks in white font at the bottom of emails, telling management what I really think of them. Or fraternising with frustrating fraudsters who like to send me riddles, just to feel connected in a deeper way with daily tasks. I don’t have to hate the one I called ‘Getting ahead in advertising’ for being a cunt to women who outrank him in almost every human way. And best of all, I no longer have to suffer the insipid chatter of women who’s only source of confidence is slating everyone else. For this I am constantly and unfalteringly grateful.
So I high-tailed it out of there, moving literally up and I realised this:
- moving sideways can sometimes be more rewarding than moving up
- wearing smart shoes instead of trainers is a form of torture
- having a woman boss isn’t always an improvement on a man
- I’m really not at all good at keeping my mouth shut no matter how much I tell myself that I am
The fickle footholds of the financial ladder flip you back down onto your arse just as quickly as they cured your ailing accounts and before you know it, you’re back to square one. Scary though it is, both the universe and the girl with the universal soul knew kicking me out of Kingmaker House once and for all would finally force me to do the thing I have always wanted to do. Finding a soulmate who favours meaning over money, she shared her certainty in spaces reserved for doubt and sent me a ‘the sky’s the limit’ card that to this day still makes me roar with laughter.
The only things to be missed are the fuck-load of free tea, the brilliance of the bantz back at the beginning, pensions and paid leave, surprising snow days and the few genuine friendships formed through the shared drudgery of working for the man.
Eager to start work each day, I enjoy the variety that making money remotely offers me. I love that I can work from my very own little office for a company that just wants to make kids and customers happy. I love the contacts that I have made and the lovely people who have enjoyed my writing and helped pay my bills. I love the piles of prose sent for me to whip into something suitably salesy. Essays to be edited. Words in bunches wadding out websites like keys that open a company’s door to the surge of search engine shopping frenzies. All of it, even the really shit stuff, I totally and utterly love it all.