I once thought the epitome of “making it” was finding a career that could be accomplished from bed wearing stretch pants. I would - of course - change to fancy grown up clothes for out of the office meetings, but if I were in charge of the corporate dress code, the corporate dress code would be elastic waist. Sure, this sounds like a simplistic view of a home office, but never having to deal with fitting into a number-size outfit first thing in the morning? Sign me up.
Oddly, despite these lofty casual goals, I generally bordered on overdressed for the office. Heels and wrap dresses where jeans and Converse were more appropriate was my MO: dress for the job you want, not the job you have was in my head. Although I could not quite identify the job that I wanted, I did know I wanted it to be one where I had enough money to buy pretty clothes.
If we are going on the “dress for the job you want” mentality, apparently the job I now want is “hobo.” Having really “made it” with this new funemployment situation, there have been a number of days that the sleep clothes never did give way to the waking clothes. It just seemed so wasteful to put on jeans when I was already wearing perfectly comfortable silk flower boxer shorts. Besides, I had all but seen people wearing what looked like my pajamas at Coachella a couple weeks ago, so I must still be on trend.
But now there are instances of leaving the home office in pajamas; I can’t say that I’m proud of that.
The pajama radius got a little too far last week. What started as an innocent early morning (11AM) trip to the private backyard to let the dog out, turned into a puppy’s-got-high-energy walk down the street. Even that started at just Blackburn - and residential streets barely count as “in public” in a city where no one knows their neighbors. But once I was on the street, there was no turning back. I needed milk - and it seemed wasteful to go back to the house to put on appropriate convenience store attire before getting milk (like…pants), so I just went for it.
Up to 3rd street I went, the girl with nothing to lose in silk flower boxer shorts. I think even my dog judged me when I walked into the convenience store for my purchase.
When the guy buying plastic bottle vodka in a paper bag at 11AM gave me a look, I knew something needed to change.
I wish I could say I have made a huge change, but here we are, 12:30PM on a Thursday, and I’m in not-outdoor-appropriate stretch pants and a sleeping shirt (to clarify: not a nightshirt. That is definition “I wear Looney Toons oversized shirts and have given up on life completely” attire. Call an intervention if it gets to that.). My home office attire will probably stay in this zone for the foreseeable future. My low moment convenience store incident, however, was the wake up call to have jeans and real people clothing on hand for anytime I leave the house and may encounter real employed people.
At my office, we call this progress.
Ahhh Funemployment, where the downside of not receiving a regular check is balanced by the upside of working from home. 30-second commute from the bed to your desk! Conference calls in your underpants (totes joking if I’ve had a conference call with you in the past month)! The ability to take running or nap breaks throughout the day! It is the sweet life.
What makes it even sweeter is that my boyfriend works from home most of the time as well. And we share a home. And therefore an office. And therefore every waking and sleeping second of every day.
While having an office affair is something I have been meaning to try since Jim and Pam’s first kiss circa 2006, the reality of a couple who offices together necessitates some guidelines.
During the workday, you are officemates.
There are certain characteristics that are amazing when found in a significant other, but the most annoying thing in the world when found in an officemate. A boyfriend who shares all of his thoughts? Jackpot. An officemate that shares all of his thoughts about work all day while you are trying to get work done at your desk four feet away? Military-grade torture device. A girlfriend who asks you questions about your day? What a sweetheart. A girlfriend who asks you questions about your day…as it’s happening…in very real time? We call that an ex-girlfriend where I’m from. Share a sweet activity where you each write down the traits you love so much in one another. Then cross most of those off with big red X’s. That’s your appropriate office behavior.
Which leads to…
Practice Church and State.
Just because you are witness to all of your significant other’s work day activity does not mean you can later use that against him. Remember when you worked at a real office, and no matter how busy it was, you needed to check your Facebook and Gmail, watch viral videos involving puppies, and take a few personal calls to get through the day? That still happens at the home office. So when your boyfriend can’t make dinner on time because his day was too busy, the appropriate response is not an incredulous, “Really??”
Identify your officemate’s quirks and select coping mechanisms to deal:
My officemate needs periodic music breaks throughout the day. One might think that an easy coping mechanism for this is to request he use headphones, but that would be based on the (false) assumption that this music has an electronic source where such headphones would work. In fact, these music breaks are live and in concert…and louder than most computer speakers. The guitar is out. The vocals are booming. The passion is palpable. This is when you request noise canceling headphones as an office warming gift. These have saved more relationships than any Dr. Phil book, I am sure.
Identify your own quirks and acknowledge how annoying you are as a human:
I can sit still at my desk for exactly 15 minutes at a time before I am overcome with an urge to change activities. I know this because I have an hour glass on my desk I use to mandate that I stay seated and focus for said 15 minutes. Between those bouts of work, I need to get up and take some sort of productive rest break. Move the laundry. Do some sit ups. Watch a segment of Mad Men. Run around in circles playing tag with my dog (he plays back, promise). I acknowledge that, while I find these moments productive, they are incredibly loud and might be disruptive to my officemate. Especially because they are accompanied by such cheery narrations as “Time to move the laundry!” While I’m standing by the noise canceling headphones for this one as well, it is a good will gesture to try to modify your own quirks a little. I’m at 30 minutes of seated productivity at a time these days, and I am making significant efforts not to narrate my break activities.
Talk to yourself as infrequently as possible:
This actually requires no further explanation beyond the more you talk to yourself, the less your officemate will respond to you when you are actually talking to him. And it applies to singing to yourself as well.
But when it really comes down to it:
Just buy the noise canceling headphones.
I don’t know how to say this without sounding like an e-mail forward from my mom, but great friends are those who invite you over for leftover wine.
It’s rare when a night comes around when the gals find themselves free last minute for a girls night. Except me, who is super free all the time now. But when it happens, there is no time to waste.
And what’s more of a waste of time than heading to
Whole Foods Trader Joe’s for wine and snacks when there are perfectly good open bottles of wine and just slightly used containers of dip in the refrigerator?
An unopened bottle of wine should really be reserved for serious occasions - like house warming parties, or nights when you already drank the old bottles of wine. Any “friend” that requires pristine wine is really someone who you should be meeting at a bar for one glass of wine, not having over to your house for girls night.
Opened bottles of wine are a glorious roulette. Was that the bottle of wine from dinner two nights ago, or the wine that got stuck in the back of the fridge two weeks ago with all those non-fat greek yogurts I’ve promised myself I’ll eat? That’s the grand mystery (that you’ll likely figure out immediately after the first sip). And if it’s totally gross? That’s where the 1/10 full bottles of fruit juice come in: (sort of) Sangria! (See recipe below.)
Yeah - (sort of) Sangria is not a beverage to be consumed by anyone but the very closest of friends. But those are the only people who should be in your house on a weeknight anyway. Besides, friends and (sort of) Sangria pair so nicely with a half a tub of Pub Cheese.
Caila’s (sort of) Sangria:
Whatever is left in the bottle(s) of wine/champagne that is too old to comfortably drink
Whatever is left in the bottle(s) of juice/sports drink in the very back of the refrigerator
Whatever fruit looks like it’s going bad soon
Any ice that doesn’t completely taste like garlic
Optional: Any weird liquor left by a misguided party guest (Yes, they DO still sell Raspberry Smirnoff)
Fancy serving pitcher
Combine the first 5 ingredients in the fancy serving pitcher. Let sit until everyone has had a few other drinks. Serve.
“I was wrong to grow older. Pity. I was so happy as a child” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
It’s 2012, and I have grown up to become am a normal, clean, funemployed-but-self-funded grown up. I do my own laundry, wash my own dishes, make my bed, pay for my food - all that stuff that is to be expected of people old enough to vote. Except the working thing, but we are looking past that at the moment.
To the best of my knowledge, the timezone change when I fly back to Baldwinsville (real place), New York doesn’t change the year, but yet it becomes 2000 the moment the plane lands. To start with, regardless of how inconvenient the timing may be for my family, it has never occurred to me to take a cab home from the airport. It is as though my hailing hand is disabled during my visits.
My brother and I have a tradition to go straight from the airport to the fancy restaurant in high school: The Olive Garden. The only real difference from when we were in high school is the large bottle of wine that pairs so nicely with the soup, salad and breadsticks (any wine snobbery I’ve developed over the years goes completely out the window at the OG, where I am completely fine with the 1.5 liter bottles that come in the red, white or pink varietals).
Once at home, I immediately become a messy teenager. What is it that compels me to take everything I meticulously packed in Los Angeles the night before, and straight up dump it into a pile of my childhood bedroom floor? And keep it there. For a week. It’s the time warp. Laundry is not a thing that I do at home.
Perhaps the same disability that renders me incapable of hailing a cab has also affected my detergent pouring skills. My parents even have “in-unit laundry” (cause - you know - they own a house). Coming from the urban renting world, this is quite a luxury. But I’m not doing laundry. That’s what moms do. Cause it’s 1950. It just keeps getting earlier in this time warp.
In 2012 Los Angeles, I’m a fairly healthy person that easts vegetables and works out. Yet in the time warp, my metabolism (apparently) returns to it’s 2000 level (or at least that is the theory on which I base my dietary choices). I’ve been on an all-carb and trans-fat diet of Ruffles, pizza, hot dogs and candy. Candy! Not like the Atkins bar “candy”, or one small and fancy chocolate truffle, but the stuff that the Easter Bunny delivers (Oh, sorry - did I not mention that? I got really fussy when my mother floated the idea of the Easter Bunny not stopping at our house this year, so in between loads of laundry she created Easter baskets for us. I am a terrible daughter.).
Perhaps the worst of it is that I don’t pay for anything at home. Honestly I have no idea where my wallet even is right now. It’s not limited to when my parents are with me, either. I actually - high school-style - ask my dad for money every time I leave the house. And he gives it to me. Even as it’s happening, I know it’s ridiculous. But I can’t fight against the time warp.
I don’t know why I left 2000 to begin with - revisiting it has been pretty great. 2012 me (who has both dignity and a scale) is going to slap me in the face for the amount of work I’ve created for her this week when I see her on Thursday. Luckily consequences aren’t things that exist here in 2000, so I shall continue to enjoy the time warp.
I was going to save money.
I was going to be a really thrifty employed-ish individual. That’s how it was going to work. I would clip coupons for the minimal groceries needed, not go out to eat, buy absolutely zero new clothes, and drink way less (because alcohol is just a waste in so many ways, right?). Vacations were not a thing that employed-ish me would go on, because that is a luxury that only the employed should enjoy. I would save in every way possible.
The past tense in that last paragraph was not by accident. Things started innocently enough…
I hadn’t been home in forever, and decided that this new found time was a perfect opportunity to reconnect with the family. So I booked a ticket…
…only - in the booking process, it became pretty clear that I could easily save about $100 if I traveled on one of those airlines that sound like they only go betwen Iowa and Chicago. But my status and mile accumulation is on Delta. So I assessed that I would really be wasting money by saving money, in the sense that I would not be earning miles that would ultimately get me a flight for free. Someday. In the distant, distant future.
Minor slip up, I will admit this. Setting oneself up for upgrades is a luxury of the fully employed. I won’t let it happen again. This was going to be my last flight for awhile…
…only - when I was on the phone with my mom about the trip home, she mentioned there was a family trip in the works to go to Ireland. I have never been to Ireland. I have way too many freckles for this to be ok. And when am I really going to have this time again, so…
I booked it (and since it was so expensive anyway, it seemd like a drop in the bucket to spend the relatively insignificant extra cost for Delta). But that was going to be the last thing, swear…
…only - coming from California, it seems relatively silly to just visit one country while in Europe. So…that one week/one country trip quickly spiraled into two+ weeks/ three+ countries.
But experiences are cultural investments!
And then I felt silly saying no to a girls weekend trip, a family reunion trip and meals out because of the cost. It just felt hypocritical.
I’m not even going to last a year in a home that isn’t also a sedan, am I?
If it were just the buying of “stuff” that needed to go, I think I’d be ok. I read enough InStyle to know how to take last season’s clothes into summer, and my apartment is filled with plenty of items. Stuff is great, but I can give it up.
But I will go broke on experiences. It’s time to accept that.
I am now two weeks into being employed-ish, and perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned so far: it is unbelievably easy to accomplish nothing in a day.
I truly thought shooting the moon in the writing productivity area was going to be virtually impossible. I had to wrote something, even by accident, right?
So. Very. Wrong.
Here is a timeline of how to accomplish nothing in a day:
Midnight - Good night, world! I am going to have such a productive week! Let me just set that alarm for 8:30. So reasonable. I never slept more than seven hours a night when I had a full time job, so this is really luxurious! With a good night of sleep under my belt, I can accomplish anything tomorrow! I’ll have half a book done, pretty much!
8:30 - Alarm goes off. Press snooze.
8:35 - Press snooze.
8:40 - Press snooze.
8:45 - Boyfriend grunts “JUST TURN IT OFF.” Turn alarm off.
9:45 - How is it already 9:45? Time to get up, I guess.
10:00 - Or watch The Daily Show. I have to catch up on the news.
10:30 - Alright, I am up. Good for me! It’s way before noon, too. I am going to accomplish so much before Hawaii even goes in for work. Time to write!
10:45 - One of the great things about being unemployed is eating a great breakfast. I’m going to actually separate my egg whites today.
10:47 - Eh fuck it. This is a salmonella risk…and someone somewhere said something about good cholesterol.
11:15 - Ok, time to write!
11:20 - I should take the dog for a walk.
11:50 - Ok, time to write!
12:00 - Shoot, if I don’t go to the dry cleaner now, it’s just not going to happen. The dry cleaners close, I can write at all hours of the day.
1:00 - Ok, time to write!
1:05 - What should I do for lunch? I should really be eating 6 small meals a day, now that I have time for that. I’ll note that for tomorrow.
1:30 - Arg I’m behind on my food diary, let me just real quick enter in breakfast and lunch, and then it’s really time to write.
2:00 - Jeeze distinguishing between all those kinds of oven roasted turkey cold cuts took longer than expected, and now that I have all this time I should really be accurate with my calorie count input.
2:05 - If I don’t work out now, it’s just not going to happen, but there’s not a bar method class until 3. Hmmm…I could write for an hour - but it’s really already 2:05, and I need to leave by 2:50 to get to bar method - and I need to get ready for it…my brain will be ready for writing after sweating it out.
4:10 - Ugh I can’t write when I’m sweaty. I should shower and pull myself together for the day.
4:45 - Ok, time to write!
4:50 - I should really call my mom. It’s getting late on the east coast.
5:20 - Do I have groceries for dinner? I better run to the store. Take out is for employed people who can afford Mozza2Go.
6:20 - If I don’t start cooking dinner now, it’s going to be so late before I eat.
8:30 - Ok, time to write!
8:35 - Shoot - I didn’t send any network-y ish e-mails today. I need to tell more people about how I’m writing now.
9:35 - I have to catch up on Mad Men from last night before someone ruins it for me.
10:30 - It’s too late to start writing today, isn’t it? If I stay up late, I’m never going to have a productive day tomorrow. I should just have a glass of wine, relax, and focus some positive energy thoughts on how I am going to have a productive day tomorrow.
Midnight - Good night, world! Ready for a productive day tomorrow starting at 8:30. Well…we should just change that to 9:00. I probably didn’t accomplish much today because I was too tired.
Unemployed in LA is very different from unemployment anywhere else. It’s just so…the norm.
Let’s start calling it “employed-ish”
Just about half the people I know are employed-ish. Employed-ish covers any number of different situations: freelancing, owning a business, working from the “home office,” working on spec, on hiatus (the real kind), anyone who goes to auditions on a regular basis, and countless other scenarios.
Basically - anyone who has the time to hop in a car on a Thursday afternoon and head to Santa Barbara, but also has the money to pay for said car and said trip, is employed-ish.
I’m new to this. I was one of the weirdos that had a full time job in LA, enviously drove past Joan’s on 3rd or Urth on the way to meetings, and constantly wondered “what do those people do that they can be lounging at 3PM on a Tuesday, eating $18 side salads in $100 fedoras? Sigh. I can’t even pull off hats.”
I’m on a mission to become successfully Employed-ish…minus the fedora. I still can’t pull off hats.