“What do you do during the day?” Karen asked.
Pulling my head out of the refrigerator where I was looking for an elusive bottle of balsamic oil and vinaigrette salad dressing, I responded, “Do you mean for work or what?”
“Just generally, I guess.”
Luckily, Husband interrupted my answer when he announced that the salmon was ready to come off the grill. Luckily, because I have a difficult time answering that question in a way that sounds sufficiently productive–in my estimation. I dislike not being or sounding productive.
For almost five years I’ve created a non-corporate life that combines teaching, writing, blogging, freelance marketing consulting, taking classes, active volunteering and reinvention exercising into an ever changing collage. It’s as if the glue I’m using to piece the whole together doesn’t want to dry so there’s always room for change. So saying what I do, generally, on any given day doesn’t come tripping off the tongue.
When Husband asks, “What’s your day look like?” I usually answer, “Writing” or “Working.” I think the latter sounds more productive even though writing is the majority of my work and would be more specific. If I answer, “Writing” and he asks, “About what?” I usually answer, “You.” He likes to hear that I’m working more than writing.
I’m not sure why I feel more compelled to justify my daily doings today versus when I occupied a chair in front of a desk in a high-rise office building off of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. The activities today and then are much the same: check email, respond to email, initiate calls/meetings, follow-up on calls/meetings, call the Help Desk, do research on and off line, write up research findings in various formats but mostly power point, try to persuade people to my point-of-view, try to inspire people with what I’ve uncovered in my research, and so on.
Sound exciting or interesting? Not especially, not with out the context of the email, research, persuasion, or inspiration. And therein lies the rub, how do I describe what I do so that it sounds like I’m really doing something and not just dealing with email, writing reports, wishing I had a Help Desk, and updating my social media presence – which is a big part of what I do today and didn’t do yesterday. I’ve learned that writers, not just social media managers, need to update Facebook, and tweet, and tumbl, and pin, and so on, and so on.
“Who cares?” you might ask. “I do,” I will answer. I wasn’t unhappy when the layoff came. I didn’t like doing what I was doing at the time. But I certainly wasn’t ready to stop doing in a meaningful, income producing, having something to talk about with peers and former colleagues, sort of way. Which brings me back to where this post began. When Karen asked what I did during the day my insecurity around how to make collage-making sound meaningful, income producing and interesting announced itself. Especially the income producing part of it. Seems the value of my collage lies mostly in the eyes of the beholder, at least at this stage!
Karen is on the precipice of a big transition, closing out her corporate life and wondering how she’ll fill her time. “Don’t worry about that,” I told her. If she chooses to worry – which I don’t recommend – then worry about other people filling her time before she has a chance to fill it. It’s difficult to say no when the calendar is suddenly free of corporate clutter.
“Take time to figure out what you want your new life to look and feel like,” I told Karen. “And give it a name, something you can call it when talking about your new life. You could be in transition, working freelance, acting as a business advisor, going back to school, or even semi-retired.” So what do I do now? I’ve gone from having a corporate to a collage career that focuses on communication. Some days I talk more than I write. Other days I write more than I talk. And everyday I tweet – which feels a lot more like play and harder to explain to Husband that tweeting is part of writing. So I just don’t try and tell him I’m working instead.