I entered the full-time work force a mere six months ago and like everything in life, I did it a little differently. While completing the last leg of my marketing and journalism degree, I realised I didn’t want a full-time corporate gig at a newspaper or TV station. Instead, I wanted to live the life of a #girlboss. I must admit working from home seemed particularly enticing for a 23 year old who still couldn’t drive. I told you I did things differently!
To my surprise, the freelancing gig was actually working for me. By the time I graduated university, I no longer had to consider getting a ‘real job’. I was going to work for myself. But as much as I loved my job, I wasn’t prepared for the unpredictability of 18 hour days followed by weeks of lounging in my pyjamas and watching every episode of Pretty Little Liars on Netflix. And don’t even get me started on the multiple breakdowns and ‘I give up’ moments.
This is the perfect place to note that I have, in fact, never had a full time job. Unlike a lot of girl bosses and entrepreneurs, I don’t know how it feels to want to ‘escape the daily grind’ and break out from the hell that is a corporate job. For this reason, I believe 11 hour work days are particularly traumatic for a girl who should have been ‘easing’ into full time work after 18 years of education.
However almost twelve months into my freelancing career, I’m proud to say that I’ve struck some sort of harmony between having the right amount of client work and earning enough to pay the bills. But what I’ve realised over the last few weeks, and what has really surprised me, is the guilt I feel when I don’t work the standard 40 hour work week. More specifically, when I don’t spend 40 hours a week working on my client’s projects.
Crazy, right? I’m doing work that I love and I’m earning enough to support my caffeine addiction but I still feel like I should be working more. I’m not here to give any advice (as my life experience has been quite limited so far) but to pose a question that I find really interesting: are we obsessed with our work?
Why do I believe that I have to ‘earn my stripes’? Why is full time work considered an important rite of passage? And why am I ashamed to tell my colleague, who works 70+ hours a week, that I’m soooooo exhausted after a 40 hour work week?
I took this question to my life coach who immediately, and very lovingly, called bullshit. It took her less than five minutes to realise that I only track the time that I spend on my clients.
“But I don’t want to track the time I spend on my own business, I love that work!”
But apparently, work is still work. Even when you love it. Who would have thought!
We continued to talk about my situation and were able to identify that I actually work seven days a week. I don’t go for a coffee without taking my laptop and writing an article. I complete my invoices on a Friday night in front of the TV and I’m always replying to emails during my lunch break at my part time job. There is nothing wrong with that and I certainly do love it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t work.
This whole experience taught me a lot about myself as well as the expectations placed on me through society. Seemingly, work is something that have to do and it isn’t always something that you love.
While I’m still coming to terms with the idea that work is still legitimate even when you love it, I’ve definitely learnt to be a bit easier on myself. Today that looks like giving myself the permission to work from my favourite coffee shop on a Saturday morning and still recognising it as hard, productive work. How lucky am I?