I might have mentioned once or twice that I work from home, a job that started out full time and has since been reduced to 3 days a week (my choice, so I'd have more time for writing). I've worked from home for the past 4 years, when sudden unemployment for my husband resulted in me being forced to change jobs. I left a low paying job at a school working with special needs preschoolers (which I adored, by the way) to work from home as a customer service rep. Sounds great right? No need to get dressed up every day. For that matter, I can work in my pj’s and no one is the wiser. Don't get me wrong….it is a good job and I'm grateful it came along when it did. But even though it took me about six months to settle in and get used to working from home, I'm now so housebound it's become a problem, something I hadn’t realized until today. The fact that I'm a writer too and any free time I might have is spent hiding out with the craft, just compounds what is a very bad problem.
Recently I went to get sandwiches for my daughter and I. A normal, regular occurrence, right? As I stood there in line feeling as if all eyes were on me, I suddenly realized this ...my “at home” job and lack of car for the past year has turned me into a recluse. Whereas I once clamored to get out of the house more than a few times a day, now I find reasons to never leave.
Here's what you need to know about me. I'm a people person. I'm the one in the checkout line striking up a conversation with the person in back of me. I’ve never had a problem talking to strangers or shooting the breeze with someone I just met at a party. My job is in customer service, so talking to people about miscellaneous things is as easy as breathing.
That was the old me. This new me who has been housebound for 4 years and without wheels for over a year is far too comfortable with seclusion. I make my weekly trip to the grocery store, and if I’m lucky there might be a dinner out with the family to pull me out of my cave. But that's the extent of my "social" time. And up until today I didn't realize what a hit I'd taken personally by locking myself away in my office. Until today I never felt old, different, or judged.
I'll have my own car soon and most likely these feelings of insecurity will pass. But for everyone who thinks working from home is a breeze, I tell you this....what you sacrifice in not having to put on pants every day you lose in your ability to walk among crowds without feeling claustrophobic. Standard jobs provide lunch and break times, whereas I’m pretty much tied to my desk for the entire day (I’m on the phone a lot). And last but oh-so not least…when you work from home people think you DON’T actually work. Granted…on slow days I really don’t. On slow days, I’m able to schedule posts on social media, polish my blog posts, and generally have a bit of free time that all authors (especially self-published ones) strive for.
I realize I’m far too comfortable in my home, in my office; not talking to people face to face or blundering through a sandwich order. Standing in that shop today I felt energized from all the people around, and just a bit overwhelmed too. The guy in line behind me was standing just a wee bit too close (or so I thought), the flurry behind the counter had me tripping over my words and repeating the same thing over and over. When I finally stepped out into the sunshine, it was with relief…which was quickly followed by “Oh shit…what has happened to me?”
As I said before, this too shall pass. Seclusion comes in waves, that’s for sure, and there are days I relish the quiet of my house while I work. Once I acquire some wheels, I know I’ll have to force myself outside the house, when it would be far too easy to spend my day off cleaning or doing other menial tasks.
So to my fellow workers from home, I give you this…..don’t allow yourself to become housebound. Step outside once in a while. Have a conversation with the person behind you in the grocery store line. Fumble through a sandwich order, feeling grateful that you’ve escaped your “prison” and are able to do so. We humans need that physical interaction; something I never realized was so vital until today. I sit at my desk each day and am surrounded by two computer monitors, and yet I really see nothing. Too really “see” something, you need to feel it; breathe it in, absorb the emotion. Thankfully, what I “saw” today was a me I didn’t like; a me I’m changing right here, right now.
Housebound update: Since I first penned this blog post in April, I’ve since gotten some wheels and am striving every week to get out of the house. It’s a work in progress. I’ll keep you posted.