With exactly a week left until Thanksgiving, I’ve decided to devote the next seven days to blogging about things for which I’m thankful. Not the massive things like food, shelter, the health of my family and friends, my children’s happiness, the relative peace and safety in our immediate environment, but the quirkier things…the ones that don’t necessarily merit mention at a church service or a Thanksgiving dinner but which nonetheless grace my every day with their welcome presence.
Today, for example, I’m feeling grateful for my work life. When I lost my full-time job seventeen months ago, I believed the situation was disastrous. And quite honestly, there was no shortage of people agreeing with me on that count. My job provided my family’s regular source of income and our health insurance.
Nearly a year and a half later, I’m still self-employed. I haven’t given up on the possibility of finding full-time salaried work, but at this time of focusing on giving thanks for what I have rather than apologizing for what I don’t, I’m feeling so thankful for the way my workday has evolved ever since I lost my job. I now have six clients for whom I work with varying regularity, and they are all different. This week I’m feeling especially attuned to the variety since I have deadlines for all six.
One is a major city newspaper, which gives my writing a high profile, a widespread audience and an affiliation with an age-old Boston tradition. I’m honored to have occasional assignments with the paper, and I love tracking down stories. On the mornings that I have a section cover story coming out, I’m a little like a child on Christmas, bounding down the stairs to see what’s on the doorstep. And the funny thing is I’m not even the person in the story; I’m just the byline at the top. Which plenty of readers skip right over. But it still gives me a sense of delight to write for the Boston Globe.
Another client is our local community newspaper, for which I’ve written off and on since I was in college. In fact, my first paying job, when I was sixteen, was as a proofreader for that same paper. Now I write feature stories and monthly columns for them. While it doesn’t have the prestige of the Boston Globe, everyone in town reads the Mosquito and sees my work in it. There’s no great honor in being on the Mosquito staff, but there’s the pride any writer can take in a job well done, regardless of the newspaper’s standards. And I always try for a job well done.
One of my corporate clients is a medical website. It’s challenging work, writing SEO-driven content on topics I know very little about. It’s not always fun, but it’s a good workout for my project management skills, reminding me to focus on what I’m doing and fact-check carefully.
I also write for the Concord Academy alumni magazine. For that job, I interview alumni with interesting careers or accomplishments. They’re always happy to hear from me. Some say “I can’t believe you want to write about me!” and others say “I was wondering when you’d call.” But no one ever turns me down, and it’s always a pleasure for me to hear people talk about their passions.
Another corporate client is a municipal management firm. Although it’s something of a joke between the principal consultant and me that I know so little about the arcane details of municipal management, it’s a little like having an administrative role in a medical practice: that is, even if it’s not what you spent years studying, we all have medical needs so it doesn’t hurt to learn more about them from a professional standpoint. Not only did I not care what my community’s Town Administrator did before I had this job, I’m not even sure I knew we had a Town Administrator. Even if I haven’t exactly caught on fire with it professionally, I now know the difference between the Planning Board and the Zoning Board, and I know how to avoid violating the Open Meeting Law. Also the people we work with on things like town master plans are usually volunteers with a special orientation toward civic involvement, and as such they tend to be kind, smart, generous people. Even if drafting a study on how public versus private well water can meet the economic development goals of town X isn’t as much fun as some of my assignments for other clients, I’m glad I have this one too.
And the sixth one is a placement agency that occasionally sends me to random offices to do a day’s worth of editing, proofreading or copy editing in place of a sick or vacationing staff member. I like the anonymity of temping. Because you’re only there for the day, no one feels obligated to forge a relationship with you. They hand you work and generally ignore you. I wouldn’t want to spend forty hours a week in that situation, but it’s fascinating to be nearly invisible in someone else’s office for the day. And besides, when you’re temping you get to experience the exuberance of leaving an office for the last time, every single day.
So that’s what I’m especially thankful for today: the patchwork that makes up my workday, and the serendipitous fact that only by losing a job I never wanted to lose did I get to experience this. Not only that, but being self-employed gives me time to enjoy my own household, attend school events, walk the dog or go running midmorning, and generally live the kind of stress-free daily life that mothers who work full-time out of the house miss out on experiencing. I’m thankful for much bigger and more important things than interesting clients, but today, in the interest of being thankful for the smaller things, I’ll give thanks for them as well.