Prior to going freelance, every job I encountered had one thing in common: it sucked hairy baboon testicles.
I’m no pollster, and I don’t have a degree in social sciences, but I’d go out on a limb and speculate that the feeling that one would rather be having fun than working is more or less universal. Especially if you work a desk job, or find fulfillment in hobbies such as sports, Wii, Settlers of Catan, crocheting, and other activities that both don’t pay the bills and usually can’t be enjoyed during the workday. Getting up on a Monday is roughly as anticipated as oral surgery.
Even if you like your job, it’s likely you have that complaint. That one thing that will help you keep your head held high on the fateful day you carry out your cardboard box, filled with desk cactus, photograph, and word-of-the-day calendar. The one thing you’ll fixate on for hours as you construct your brilliant letter of resignation. That nagging thorn in your side that is at the bottom of many a five o’ clock brew.
For my own amusement recently I constructed a list of past jobs and my main gripes. It went as follows:
Surf Shop Clerk – It was my first job, and I got it through my parents, who were desperate to have me interact with something other than a Depeche Mode poster and reruns of Headbangers Ball. I was 15. I was a goth. The shop specialized in long boards and Billabong gear. The clientele were wannabe Spicolis. I spent many of my shifts doodling intricate methods of torture involving curved fins and surfboard leashes.
Video Store Clerk – For a film student, to work at a video store specializing in independent film is a rêve humide (wet dream for the Will Ferrel set.) The only complaint I ever had was that its location, on a secluded street in a somewhat desolate area of the West Village, was prone to gangs of teenagers with more moxie and homemade weapons than an entire season of 21 Jump Street. The kids would regularly steal the boxes off of the wall, not knowing they were empty. It was more of an annoyance to straighten up afterwards than anything else.
Studio Assistant – I worked for a relatively well-known, older photographer who often did the covers for publications including VIBE and Rolling Stone. A well-paying, exciting, and somewhat swank gig if I do say so myself. The average workday involved a lot of permitted recreational reading, answering phones, and running errands for the stars of hip-hop and R&B. I had a coworker, however, who took a particular interest in slamming doors in my face, swearing at me whenever I was in earshot, and blaming me for everything that went wrong, ranging from her parking tickets to power outages. I was young and didn’t understand the idea of paying my dues early, so I left. Foolish of me. By now I could have been in the clink with Lil’ Kim, or ridin’ dirty with the likes of Chamillionaire. Bummer.
Fish Monger – Take your pick. Any complaints I had are obvious, and would have been easily prevented if I had just taken five minutes to rethink the offer and chose to stick it out as a cubicle crony.
Paralegal – I would have had roughly as much success if I had become an assistant to, say, an astronaut, or a prima ballerina. With no legal background, more tattoos than tact, and a boss who was more patient than that Dog Whisperer guy, my main gripe for this gig was my own ineptitude. I probably would have stayed in that fluorescent lit litigation tank forever, if Simon and I hadn’t gotten back in touch. Instead I fell for him like Lindsay Lohan after one too many quote-unquote Red Bulls and put in my two weeks’ notice after pushing papers around and misplacing a notary stamp.
Assistant to the Owner of a Pilates Studio – I documented this early on in Jerk Ethic, but many people have experienced the catastrophe of contagious crazy that comes with working for someone who is mentally unstable. Between the “emergency” calls at 7AM on my one day off that pertained to her misplacement of personal items in her house, to the relentless, high-school level jabs at my hair and my outfit, to the paranoia that rivaled Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, I eventually realized that either she would need to go on Haldol or I would have to spend even more of my paycheck on booze. Which was nearly impossible, ‘cause back then I was a pretty serious alcoholic. Chicken or egg, your guess is as good as mine.
Now, of course I don’t condone complaining for the sake of hearing one’s own voice (unless it’s my voice, then it’s just fine.) I wrote this list to illustrate one crucial difference between working for yourself and working for others. Sure, since going off into this scary, shaky horizon of freelance with my partner in rhyme, I have had many a negative or less-than-pleasant experience, ranging from deadbeat clients to projects that fell through to editing jobs that rendered the most intriguing parts of a piece mediocre mush. But with every irksome experience on our own there wasn’t a whine at the end of the tunnel. There was a lesson. And usually a make-out session to make each other feel better. Freelancing is like that. Sure, you could kick, scream, and complain about everything that doesn’t go just so, or you can learn from it and let it go. It’s that cheddarific line of “happiness isn’t the journey, it’s the destination.” Only it’s more like, a successful business isn’t grumbling, it’s the note taking. And the tonsil hockey.
Don’t worry, I’m not going all New Age granola or anything. I’m still filled with piss, vinegar, vagina jokes, and general cynicism. But I’m learning that learning itself quells the displeasure of work, especially when you’re doing something you want to be doing.
As for the rest of it, well, don’t work in a surf shop if you’re a dead ringer for Trent Reznor, bro.
My boyfriend’s blog is better than mine. Seriously. I hate him for it.
Thanks for your donations! Makes the working day go by quicker. (Well, actually it doesn’t, ‘cause as a freelancer, just like for Kanye, hard work is never over.)
In good company.
Getting negligent with this. Probably ‘cause I’m trying to put food in my mouth instead of bile on your screen