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ripsAfter getting a few hours of writing done after work, Ben and I walked up the street and returned to our apartment with a few deli wraps and a bottle of wine.

We then spent the night watching mixed martial arts fights on TV, toasting to various things, and envisioning how the next few months of our lives are going to unfold. Now that we will both work from the home, how are things going to change?It was quickly decided (after two glasses of wine) that as far as our growing home office was concerned, Ripley would be named Chief Executive Officer. It was also quickly decided that Rips would look really, really cute in a tie.

I thought it would be a good idea to install a water cooler in the living room so that we could take breaks and talk about the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars. We both agreed that any emails we sent to each other would now be referred to as “office-wide memos.”  

Ben also suggested that we instate a company policy prohibiting interoffice relationships in order to promote professionalism, but Ripley and I quickly struck it down. After three glasses of wine, we decided that instead of “dress-down Fridays” we’d have “drunk Fridays” – you know, just to keep everyone comfortable and to keep company morale up.

The list of things that our office wouldn’t have was highly encouraging, though. No more commutes, no more bagged lunches. No more dress code, no more dour 15-minute birthday celebrations. More importantly, no more spreadsheets (or, at least, very few), no more working on projects I don’t choose, no more phone addict cube mate.

I know that the challenges ahead of me are hard, but at least they’ll be my challenges. And even though my new boss demands to be fed twice a day and makes me clean up her poop, at least she doesn’t have the ability to talk. Or use emoticons.

I’m feeling elated and terrified.

I like the idea of being responsible for my happiness, production, and income on a daily basis. I also like the idea that even if I fail, at least I will have tried and gotten it over with.

My (good, non-emoticon) boss seemed almost as happy as I did. I would say that I liked working with her as much as I hated my job. She’s going to tell my emoticon boss that I’m leaving so I dont’ have to.

I also somewhat brashly asked for a weeklong vacation before officially giving my two-week notice. It was granted. This will give me one paid week in which to get a jumpstart on writing and marketing my ass off.

Anyone’s company need a freelance corporate copywriter?

 * The new website is going to be another day or two as we work out tiny kinks. It’s pretty damn exciting, though.

* I spent the entire day writing biographies of famous boxers for another web content freelance job. It was surprisingly inspiring to write about a bunch of guys over the last 150 years or so who held a vocation that I would describe as the absolute opposite of having an office job.

I was especially inspired by the story of Jack Johnson, the son of two former slaves and the first African-American to win the World Heavyweight Title.  To read about his against-all-odds struggle against racism at the turn of the century was unbelievable – and I immediately Netflixed Ken Burn’s PBS documentary about him on Ben’s recommendation, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. I’ll tell you how it is.

And, since I like for everything to be about me, I’ll point out that in each and every one of the boxer bios I wrote today, there was this moment in each fighter’s career when they quit their job at the factory/farm/army base/post office and decided to take the plunge and be a professional boxer. Just like that. (I won’t mention that many of their lives ended in heartbreak and financial ruin.)

* My insomnia is getting worse and worse. And although it makes my mornings painful and takes away from my daytime production, I’m enjoying the surreal hours I spend in the dark on my computer, from about 3 AM to 6 AM, scheming and planning. It’s almost as if things are more possible in the middle of the night than in the light of day. It’s like I’ve replaced my literal nighttime dreams with my figurative career-aspiration dreams. I feel like some sort of freelance writer vampire in that regard – the person inside me who truly believes that I can start up and run my own business retreats to a coffin at sun-up, hissing at the light.

* In fourth grade, it was mandatory for everyone to take swimming lessons at the high school pool. I passed everything except for the diving part and, therefore, I failed gym class that quarter. To this day, it’s been absolutely impossible for me to dive into a body of water – something deep in my brain won’t let my body jump headfirst into something. And yes, even my ten-year-old self understood the blatantly obvious and lame metaphor about diving as it translated to my larger life.

* In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day
, I’d like to post a link to the speech Barak Obama gave yesterday in Atlanta.

Ever since I made a big decision about my job/life (to be disclosed in further detail in the coming terrifying weeks), my crippling insomnia has returned and made itself at home.

I have what I refer to in my head as “Type II Insomnia.” This means that I have absolutely no trouble falling asleep at all but that I wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and that’s it. Sleep is over for the night. Tossing and turning is acceptable. Getting up and doing something is acceptable. Dozing or snoozing is not.

But here’s the thing: I kind of like it. It feels like… every night feels like the night before Christmas when I was a kid. My mind is simply too excited about things to sleep. The last time I had chronic insomnia was for the two years I was in graduate school – doing what I loved and constantly thinking about what I would do next. And now I have it again. It’s as if it pops back into my life whenever I’m actually thinking about possibilities and acting on them.

If you were really a fan of terrible metaphors, you could say that while I’ve been in this office job, I’ve slept well through the night, but what I didn’t realize that I’ve also been sleep-walking through my days.

And so I lie in bed and have these intense thoughts about all the awesome plans I have and how I will execute the beginnings of them the next day. I write stuff in my head and file it away, where I can access it surprisingly intact sentence by sentence the next day (including this blog post)(including these parentheses!). If I get bored, I hug up on Ben and tell him embarrassingly corny things – and he’s helplessly unconscious and unable to prevent me from doing it.

The bad part isn’t being up at night at all – it’s the part where I have to go to work in the morning and function. I’m doing pretty well so far, but if this continues for many more weeks, we might have a problem on our hands. I might spend all my energy planning stuff at night and be exhausted during the day. Already, after just a few night of sleeplessness, I’m falling asleep earlier and earlier (I didn’t make it to 10 p.m. last night) and waking up earlier and earlier (last night it was two in the morning).

I suppose I can get out my dusty bottle of Simply Sleep (insomniacs everywhere: this is my favorite product ever) and get things back on track. But the point is that, in some sort of strange backwards way, my insomnia is proving to me that I’ve made the right choice. My brain has been jolted awake and is poised at the starting line. Even if  I am scared and hesitant during the day, at night a calmer, more organized part of me is diligently and methodically preparing itself for what is to come.  

Again, as if there was indeed a force greater than just us humans, life tried to speak to me for the second time today. I applied for a freelance job today and heard back from the guy in literally under five minutes.

We met after work today at his offices and I’m hired. And here’s the force-greater-than-just-us-humans part: this one little project pays almost exactly to the dollar what my regular office job paycheck is.

It made me think, as I sat on the couch this evening and got to work on my new freelance assignment, what’s the difference between these two checks (other than the fact that one is for 80 hours of work and the other is for roughly 10 hours of work)?

The answer is that I truly dig it. I enjoy even the most boring of the creative non-fiction writing genres. I enjoy sitting on my couch with my lap top and cat and Ben typing away in the other room. I enjoy that with each new project I get to learn about a whole new subject and world. Oh, and I enjoy choosing which hours I work and whether or not to wear pants while I work.

And here’s the thing: even though I never ever, ever hear back from real full-time jobs that I apply to, I’ve gotten the last five out of five freelance gigs I’ve applied for. Again, capital-L Life is probably banging his head against his desk right now. (Life has his own desk, right?)

The tiny hitch lies in the fact that freelance work doesn’t come regularly. It’s risky. But I might be ready to take some risks after a year and a half of no surprises. Even if it means getting a second job as a clown or stripper or, if push comes to shove, the dreaded clown stripper.

I know this blog has gotten a little more journal-y than usual in the last few days, but this is all I can really think about. Tomorrow I promise I’ll write about something else. At least for one entry.

Sometimes it feels like capital-L Life is a little frustrated with how I ignore the little hints and clues he gives me about what I should be focusing on. He’ll give me a light nudge or poke and I still sit there doing nothing (or working on a spreadsheet). Then he’ll get more and more obvious with his point.

Today, for example, he seemed to be jumping up and down, wildly waving his arms, and shouting at me to pay attention to what he was trying to tell me. My manager emailed me my annual Personal Growth And Development Questionnaire, which I am to fill out for my yearly evaluation tomorrow. It reads:

1. What are your goals/ambitions?

2. How do they fit with the needs of our business?

3. What are you going to do to achieve your goals/ambitions?

Now, this survey is meant to be answered in the context of my job as a marketing assistant — for example, the first question could be answered with, “Become a marketing manager for a textbook company” — but I can’t even imagine what to write or how to answer them seriously.

And, if I look at the questionnaire in a more general way, outside of this company, I only get excited at the possibilities. I have a lot of “goals/ambitions”! And exactly none of them fit with the needs of your business! Thanks for asking!

Maybe I should mail myself this questionnaire every year, just to keep on track.

Apparently it’s yearly review time here at work and upon looking at my bank statement this morning, something was peculiarly different. Moments later, my (good, non-emoticon) boss called me up and informed me that my performance over the last year earned me a raise (this is normal, I think pretty much everyone gets one).

It’s almost as if they could hear my soul dying from inside my cubicle and decided to do something about it.

But how much is this raise? Is it enough to raise me out of my enraged and depressed funk in which I’m pretty sure I am wasting my youth, energy, and, ultimately, my life? Is it enough for me to rethink this office job stuff?

No. It’s a $24 bump per paycheck. $12 a week. Not even enough to push me into the coveted four-figure paycheck. In other words, it is the most demoralizing raise ever. It is two movie tickets (no popcorn, no sodas). It is FIVE PERCENT of my monthly student loan bill. Most importantly, it does not compensate for the extra work, effort, time, and energy I’ve had to put into my job.

And did I mention that we’re only allowed one raise per year? And that my job has no upward mobility? This is the last bump I’ll see for a while.

The good news is, though, that it serves as a kind of wake up call for me. Even if I am rewarded for my hard work at the office, the reward only further reflects everything else about my job. Four percent of a pile of shit shit is a marginally bigger pile of shit. If I’m going to be poor anyway, shouldn’t I be poor and happy?

I mean, I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Twelve extra dollars a week is $12 I didn’t have before. But at the same time, it makes me feel like Sisyphus, if Sisyphus was given a spreadsheet to fill out and each time he finished it he was handed a blank spreadsheet.

I think a big change might be coming – I’m just not quite sure how to act yet. Either way, I’m planning on taking a week off from work to simply calm down and evaluate things. Who knows, I might even write a less self-centered and money-focused whiny blog entry. We can only hope for the best.

I’m trying out a new little feature today – a little bulleted entry that’s kind of like a to-“done” list of things that affected my day. Let me know how it goes. Is it too boring, indulgent, or both? Let’s hope for both!

  • I finally walked up to Guy Talking On His Cell Phone At The Gym. I walked up to him and I didn’t say, “Please don’t talk on your cell phone,” or “Your constant cell phone usage ruins my cardio workouts at least three days a week,” or, “The gym is for working your body, not your mouth.” But, no, I walked up to him, looked him in the eyes, and simply said, “CELL PHONE” and walked away. He then made a couple of lame comments about me to his friend but I take comfort in the fact that he didn’t have the nuts to walk up to me and say anything to my face. He’s in the running for a Douchebag of the Year Award, no question (that’s going to be another new blog feature, maybe).
  • I got in separate fights with both of my parents over politics today. I don’t like this. We’re all stubborn, and, although my parents raised me with Southern values, I was raised, geographically, in Boston. You know what that means. I know they’re wiser than me and in a way know better, but I also know that I truly feel and know what I feel and know. Mostly, I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk about these issues with my parents and that I should have restrained myself. Mostly, it’s taking every inch of my will (will comes in inches, right?) not to have BROOD officially endorse Barack Obama in the coming days. We’ll see how this pans out – I also don’t want to bring politics to my blog just like I don’t want to talk with my parents about politics. Kind of.
  • Both of the above points obviously stem from how badly my job has been going since the big merge on January first. I no longer have time to rest or think or even take lunch (or write regular blog updates! Or write in general!) during the day, and the whole time I’m bitter about the fact that I’m working with twice the book list, twice the bosses, and the same exact pay. I need something. I shouldn’t be crying every day when I get home from work and I shouldn’t be lashing out at my parents or even at Guy Talking On His Cell Phone At The Gym, even though I’m somewhat sure he should be shot to keep his chatty genes from being passed on. I just feel very enraged these days. Anyone have New York City job leads? I’ll try anything that involves keeping most my clothes on. I’m serious. I know a few of you will write (maybe both my dad and Ben’s dad) and tell me it’s not so bad, but I also know that if I fill in one more fiscal spreadsheet, I will lose a part of my soul. I need something different. I need to lose a different part of my soul for a change.
  • Being enraged also means being emotional in general. Today I came home from work and found that Ben had cleaned the kitchen. I don’t mean that he simply washed the dishes, I mean that he cleaned even the inside of the refrigerator and, therefore, emptied about a dozen terrifying old leftover Tupperware horrors that have been sitting there for months. These horrible leftovers were so terrifying that I’m not sure I could have done it without crying and jumping up and down a little in that grossed out way. But as you can guess, when I walked into the kitchen after work today I cried. Because I am an emotional wreck with a great boyfriend.

I have been trying for over a year now to synchronize my monthly subway pass with my monthly birth control refill. The plan is just plain genius: two things that I have a tendency to forget about would work together so that I forgot neither. If I tried to get on the subway and found that my card had expired, it would immediately alert me that I needed to refill my birth control prescription. In the same way, if I first realized that I needed to refill my prescription, I would then know to renew my MetroCard.

However, things just aren’t that easy. I feel like I’ve been trying at this forever – and putting in real thought and effort. But life has a way of getting in the way of things I’m trying to do to make life get in the way less. The dream seems very far away now – and the dream of synching these two things up with my rent (Can you imagine! The genius!) seems even more impossible.

Then today, with my subway pass running out weeks before my prescription despite my best efforts and most intricate plans, I realize that I need to move on.  Give up, if you must. And I wouldn’t consider myself the giving up type.

It’s like when I tried for years to achieve an underwear drawer that consisted of 100% matching bras and panties. People in the movies do it – why should it be that difficult? I have many pairs of matching socks and even two to three matching outfits – why shouldn’t I have a collection of cute and coordinated underthings?

But it’s impossible. It’s cold fusion. It’s a wild horse with a free flowing mane that you will never catch or tame.

Basically, it’s math. The elastic on underwear and the stretch on the bras have different life spans! And do you want to throw out perfectly good pair of underwear before their time? Or throw away a well-fitting bra just because its partner in crime lost a well-fought battle against my waistline? Sure, I could purchase bras that are all the same style and color and matching underwear that was all the same style and color (maybe black or white or beige) but that would thwart another impossible ongoing life goal of mine, which is to look cute and different all of the time.

I have to get it through my head so that I can focus on other things: I will never have all matching underthings. I will never have a well-organized Tupperware set – the ones where the lids snap together so you never lose them and so that you can store then easily. I will never buy fruit and eat it all without 70% somehow going bad in the bowl, before my eyes, as if I’m helpless to eat it – not matter how much fruit I buy at the grocery store each week.

I don’t throw in the towel all that often. On a larger scale, I’m pretty sure that I will one day fulfill my career aspirations and become satisfied with my station in life. But these smaller things – these subway pass Tupperware things will never come to be. It’s something I have to come to terms with.

It helps for me to think of people I know who do have these little things under control. You know, those people with the perfect fruit bowls and weekday lingerie sets? They’re always a little creepy, right?

After an almost week-long absence, my annoying cubemate is back in full force. It seems even worse this morning because I think I lost some of the tolerance I had built up for her while she was gone. It feels like rolling around in the snow naked after being in a hot tub as opposed to simply rolling around in the snow naked.

The problem is that she talks on the phone ALL DAY – she literally picks up the phone and dials someone before she sits down in the morning. She doesn’t get coffee or turn her computer on first, she is on that phone like it is crack and she is a crack addict. A crack addict who also loves talking on the phone.

Mostly, when she is not on the phone treating her fiancé like he is a toddler incapable of the simplest tasks or understanding of the most basic emotions, she is talking to her girlfriends about how fuuuuun things are and how cooooool and aweeeesoooooome things sound. She is also getting married soon, and the incessant wedding talk somehow permeates even my loudest and most rocking iPod defensive strategies.

Her second favorite topic, aside from the minutiae of her lame Valentine’s Day wedding, is how much work she has to do. It makes me wonder how much she could theoretically get done if she, I don’t know, hung up and worked on a project or two. We may perhaps never know.

And it isn’t just me that’s bothered. The only other two people in her vicinity have already written me emails this morning with similarly hopeless-yet-caustic comments about the deterioration of the quality of our workspaces.

This morning in particular, I am overwhelmed with an idea I had in which I would spend the whole day on the phone myself, not hanging up between calls but merely tapping the receiver in between dials. I would talk to everyone I knew, telling them how much fuuuuuuun I was having and how aweeeeeesome and cooooool and niiiiiiiice their weekend plans sounded. I would hold the mirror up to her face, and she could partake of her ugly, ceaselessly chatty reflection!

The calls would get more and more obviously annoying, as I said things like, “Ohmygawd I just have so much work to do – sometimes it feels as if I don’t even work at work, but merely regurgitate the cloying details of my 30-something social life! Details that often only consist of drinking a responsible amount of white wine and being nitpicky about my fiancé!”

Or, when I started feeling especially evil, “You know what’s a really interesting topic to talk about exhaustively? My cubemate’s totally clichéd Valentine’s Day wedding! Let me tell you more about the flower-ordering process in such a drawn-out manner that you will get nauseous the next time you even smell flowers.”

And I would go on and on, all day, until my cubemate got the message that maybe – just maybe – it was neither aweeeeeeesome or cooooooooool to ruin everyone else’s work environment.

Or maybe I should just get some work done. Talk to you laaaaaaaaaaater, sweeeetie!