Late last week, I looked at my roster of work in progress and upcoming assignments and realized something tantalizing: it would be possible for me to wrap up all open assignments before Christmas and not have any new ones before New Year’s. And thus I set the goal of doing just that: turning around every undone work-related task within the next several days and seeing nothing on my work-to-do list by the time the kids’ school vacation began, which is a little bit after noon today.
And I did it. What’s remarkable about this to me isn’t that I managed to get through my list but that I was even able to acknowledge that as a goal. As a freelance contractor, my work life is generally devoted to the pursuit of accruing ever more assignments. Because my freelance salary will never match what I made as a full-time corporate employee, it never seems like I’m doing enough. And I never turn work down. As a result, I never quite reach the bottom of the pile.
Until now. There’s one corporate assignment I’m still in the middle of, but I turned copy over to the project editor and I don’t expect her to review it before Christmas, so even though revisions might be waiting for me by next week, there’s nothing more I need to do on it right now. I have one story under way for the newspaper, but it involves a school that is on break until after New Year’s, so there’s nothing much I can do on that one either.
In general, I like to keep busy professionally. A freelancer must by nature be greedy about work and feel that enough is never enough. Unlike when I was a corporate employee and was all too happy to snap my laptop shut on Friday at 5 and walk out the door, I like knowing there’s always a bit of a backlog waiting for me; with this kind of work, it’s not a desirable thing to see the well run dry.
But the past two months have been robust for me in terms of work, and it will be okay to have a week or two with no new assignments. I’m excited to have the same vacation schedule as my children. Normally when they are home from school during vacations or professional days, we have a good schedule worked out: I work during the morning and then devote the afternoon to them. But this week and next, I won’t even need those mornings. They neither need nor expect my undivided attention every minute of the day – they are old enough and independent enough that they both have things they like to do on their own, or with friends – but what a luxury it will be to make myself available to them without the stipulations of needing just an hour to get this article done or just a little time this morning to conduct phone interviews.
Psychologically, the situation of being deadline-free just puts me in a different frame of mind than usual. Even the projects that are awaiting information from other people – like my manuscript, in search of a publisher – isn’t on my mind this week, since it’s easier to just assume that everyone else is taking the week off as well and won’t have any news for me until after New Year’s. In the past, time away from work tended to involve thinking about more work: drafting new pieces or seeking out article ideas. But for now, I’m sated. I’m simply not going to think about work this week, or partway into next if possible. I’m even going to take the next two days off from daily blogging.
Instead, along with having time with my children, I’m looking forward to some household projects, visits with friends, maybe snowshoeing. (Getting the kids out on snowshoes would be an astounding feat, but a mom can dream.) Maybe in a few days I’ll have recovered from the mad dash of holiday baking and cooking enough that I’ll want to do some more cooking. Probably the kids and I will observe our annual tradition of going to Starbucks to drink hot chocolate and write thankyou notes one of the days following Christmas.
At the moment, I have three more hours while they are still at school, so I think I’ll use the time wisely by wrapping their presents. They can help me with other wrapping when they get home. And maybe, as I resolved in this blog yesterday, I’ll try to do some housecleaning.
It’s wonderful to be on vacation. I feel like a college student done with finals. I’m really grateful for all the work I’ve had lately. And I’m equally grateful to be taking a short break from all of it.