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Do I Know How to Hiatus?
What should I do with an extended amount of downtime from work?
For the first time in my life, I’m a freelance worker. The gig economy lifestyle can be an uncomfortable place for a lady raised in a corporation. I spent years reporting to the same building in Times Square, working for the same company, with the same routine. What I learned during that time is I like my nine and I like my five. What’s better than an assigned cubicle with corkboard “walls,” perfect for hanging up mementos and funny pictures of my kids? I like knowing that each morning my keyboard will be precisely where I like it with my “to-do” folder and notebook on the left. Consistency comforts me.
I’ve recreated my corporate setup in my freelance life as best I can. I have a tiny desk in the corner of my bedroom complete with a keyboard and notebook. I don’t have corkboard walls, but I have taped up some inspirational quotes on the side of my dresser that is next to my tiny desk. I take a walk in the morning to replace my subway commute. I sometimes shower. Don’t judge. Nobody can smell me through a Zoom call. I stay on that nine-ish start with a five-ish wrap-up time.
Some days I work at the library to prevent my wife and me from murdering each other while we both work from home. (I mean why won’t she use headphones for conference calls? I’m just saying.) I take a lunch hour, which is usually me shifting from my tiny desk to the living room couch where I can watch “Suits” while jamming a Lean Cuisine in my mouth.
This is my freelance life, and I like it.
I’m currently on a long-term project with a hiatus for the entire month of August. Since I learned about this upcoming time off, I’ve had dreams about how glorious it’s going to be. But now that August is here, I’m not 100 percent sure I know what to do with myself, and I worry I’ll devolve into the worst parts of me.
I’m not concerned about finances because I am that financially obsessive, spread-sheet lady, who pre-saved her salary for the hiatus. Of course I did. My main concern is what does a month of freedom look like?
I worry I will end up sitting around my apartment, in pajamas, only leaving the house to get candy because I’ve crashed off my food plan. Sure I start on August 1st excited about all the downtime that I “deserve,” but it quickly morphs into slothlike behavior with a side of low-grade “what does it all mean” depression, complete with greasy hair. I have an equal amount of fear that I will piss the whole month away, blowing off even family responsibilities because “I’m on hiatus, goddammit!” Then September rolls around, and I’m behind the eight ball on my creative projects, as well as kid’s doctor and dentist appointments, and all I have to show for it is five, possibly ten, who am I kidding twenty additional pounds parked in my midsection from all the “fuck it” cheesecake.
Moderation is not a friend that I’ve made yet. I’m working on it.
As I ping pong between panic states, I can hear my Dear Headspace podcast co-hosts, those wise meditation teachers, whispering in my ear about how I’m all bunged up. “Robin, use the STOP technique! And use the force.” They don’t say the Star Wars part, I just like saying it. STOP means to 1. Stop what you are doing. 2. Take some breaths. 3. Observe what in the hell is going on. 4. Proceed with the next right action.
Okay, I’ve stopped spinning enough to formulate a plan.
Here’s what I have so far: I don’t have to do this hiatus perfectly. I am going to avoid a setup for failure where there are only two options, I do too much and don’t use the break to take care of myself or I completely take a break and feel irresponsible. I can find the middle ground. (Probably.)
I do know myself well enough to know that I should set some parameters. Left to my own devices, I tend to wander off, so I’m setting a reasonable goal of completing some small work items each week. These Substack stories ain't going to write themselves, you know. I also know that I need a weekly plan. Without one, I wake up and forget that there are a million and one things available for me to do in New York City, and I end up saying, “Well, I guess I could see what’s on Netflix…” So, I’m creating a bucket list of things that I want to do. How is it possible I’ve lived in New York City since I was 22 and I’ve never been to the Statue of Liberty or Governor’s Island? There’s a weird house museum I drove by during COVID that’s only open a couple of times a week that are not convenient when working. That’s on my list too.
So, I’ve got a plan that combines fun and fun work. I’m going to embrace my inner tourist, and hopefully hit a lot of movies, dinners, and picnics in the park with friends and family. I’m going to refill my cup. Sometimes with margaritas.
No idea if this is going to work, but it’s good to have goals. Wish me luck. I’ll report back.
Of course I will.
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