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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?

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 was hired for a nice freelance job by a new client this morning, which always, always feels good. I haven’t had work from new people in a couple of months, so even though this is just a web page content job, and even though the project is due the day after Christmas (!), I couldn’t be happier. It’s a new contact and a new future writing sample and a new little notch for my belt.  

Sure, I won’t be able to go crazy at the company holiday party this afternoon, as everyone was probably hoping, but it will be one more nice check to deposit into my Escape from New York savings account.

Speaking of freelancing, it’s now been almost exactly a year since I started looking for writing jobs outside of my crappy office job. Including this new project, which I’m fitting in right before the year-end bell, I’ll have completed 29 separate writing assignments for a profit of just over half of what I make annually as a company drone (before taxes). And every single penny of my freelance money has been nestled safely away. I think that translates to my being half-way to my goal of getting out of this skyscraper and into a pickup truck.

This is all so hard 99% percent of the time, and Ben and I have been so stressed and fatigued and a little hopeless lately, but moments like these are enough to keep me moving forward.

I’ve heard a lot about how you shouldn’t take your game face off at the company Christmas party. You should act just as professional as you would inside of the office – remember: you are still surrounded by your coworkers, managers, and executives! Don’t drink too much wine, don’t take gross advantage of the buffet, and don’t giggle too much when someone tries to talk to you about a project! People will remember how you acted come Monday morning!

Well, I think it might be time for some different advice – advice for the people earning under $30,000 a year and with no company prospects. People like me. Personally, I see the holiday party as my one annual chance to eat and drink money away from my company – money that they are so stingy with when it comes to my paycheck. Sure, I might make $11 an hour – but you should see how many dollars worth of steak I can eat in an hour. Or how many $11 glasses of wine I can drink. I might not be very good at many things, but I am an expert passive-aggressive eater.

My own company holiday party is tomorrow afternoon. It’s one of those always-fun mandatory parties where you can either attend or stay at work and log hours, which I find always puts everyone in a festive mood. The mailroom people are never invited, and we’re never supposed to say anything about it. There will be a lunch buffet, and open bar, and a lot of forced smiling.

I’m especially mad because today I tried to mail a personal letter (a cable bill) at work and got called out for it in a company-wide email MARKED WITH A RED EXCLAMATION POINT! They really know how to push my buttons. They didn’t know who tried to do it and they are holding my cable bill hostage until I come forward and get a scarlet M pinned to my chest (The M in this case, would stand for Mailing personal letters at work). All for a 40 cent stamp!

I mean, they’re acting like not every single person here has mailed personal letters and packages from work. And if they think I’m going to come forward and confess just so that I can reclaim my unsent letter, they are so, so wrong. I’d rather wait for the next bill and pay a late fee. Instead, I’m going to go out of my way to eat an extra 40 cents of food tomorrow, even after I’m full.

Here’s the main point: you don’t have to act like you’re at work at your company holiday party. You don’t have to talk about work (it wastes precious time you could be chewing). Don’t hesitate to sample every dessert, maybe even without using the provided utensils. Giggle when the president pronounces Hanukah as if he were Jewish and also deaf and congested. Giggle loud – he should really know better. Most importantly, leave early.

I’ll let you know how things go tomorrow.

mighty mouseNow, I don’t want to get into a big pissing contest with anyone about whose job makes them feel the most worthless. But I do want to say this: I spent the morning frantically tracking down two adult size full-body Mighty Mouse costumes for my boss.

Have you ever had to explain to a complete stranger that you don’t have a superhero/rodent fetish? Well, I’m getting paid approximately $11 an hour (after taxes) to do so.

Me: Hi, I’m looking to rent two adult size full-body Mighty Mouse costumes. I have neither a rodent nor superhero fetish. It’s for a sales meeting.

Costume Shop Lady: A sales meeting?

Me: More specifically, it’s for a sales meeting I didn’t plan. They always have silly themes. No weird fetishes here.

Costume Shop Lady: Yes, we have one available – it includes the head, hands, cape, and spandex.

Me: I actually need two. I need Mighty MICE. And I swear to you on everything holy that the second one isn’t for my significant other. We just like holding hands and watching movies.

Costume Shop Lady: We only have one. Why in the world would we have two adult size full-body Mighty Mouse costumes??

Me: Why would you even have ONE?? Freaks!!!

It doesn’t help that this task was given to me by my new boss – the one prone to marking all emails with the high-important red exclamation point regardless of their importance level. Here’s a timeless and fool-proof business tip for managers and bosses: if you have a new assistant and are trying to make her feel welcomed, useful, and like a human being with real hopes and dreams, do not ask her to track down two adult size full-body Mighty Mouse costumes. Or any sort of other costume. For at least a couple of weeks.

Well, I have to go now and make some more important business calls and try to talk over the laughter of my cube mate while I ask questions like, “Is the spandex one size fits all?” and “What are the mouse hands made out of?” and “Didn’t I already explain that I’m not into weird mouse stuff?”

My dear cyberfiend Beth From Avenue Z has tagged me for a meme. After looking up meme in Wikipedia and then wondering what else I don’t know about modern culture and how soon teenagers will be rolling their eyes at every old-timey word I speak, I decided to go ahead with it. I don’t want to make it a habit or anything, since it seems kind of forward-y (do email forwards still exist, or is that so five years ago? Now I’m doubting my every move and word.) but I also don’t have anything pertinent to write about today. Just like so many things in life, sometimes I need a little jumpstart.

So – the deal is that I write seven facts about myself and then tag seven people down below and they write seven things about themselves. Because obviously we don’t talk enough about ourselves on our blogs.

  1. I had an intricate daydream this morning during work that my cube mate (the one that would be an affable, normal person except for the fact that she sits next to me all day and is therefore annoying) accidentally got pregnant and had to start working from home due to some complications that required bed rest. Everyone was so happy – she’s engaged, so it’s not a terrible kind of unplanned pregnancy, and I’d be without a noisy neighbor who pronounces things weird for nine months, not including her maternity leave after the baby was born. And maybe by that time she’d decide to become a stay at home mom!
  2. Not to mention that I would be comforted by the fact that it wasn’t me who got accidentally pregnant – you know, that great dodged-a-bullet feeling? Except that in this case the bullet is a baby?
  3. I never have intricate daydreams about having children myself. It’s not that I don’t eventually want to have them, it’s just that I spent many years as a nanny and have a pretty realistic view of the vast rainbow of bodily fluids that babies and toddlers produce. While other women my age only see pictures of friends’ babies dressed up like Tigger or sleeping soundly or doing something adorable with a spoon, I saw the things that you don’t take pictures of, like tantrums and oh god it’s been two hours and the tantrum is still going on.
  4. One of the other things I like to do during the boring time at work other than daydreaming  is look at what kinds of houses I could buy in different parts of the country for the amount that Ben and I spend renting our “cozy” railroad apartment in Queens. It makes me feel that weird happy-and-sad-at-the-same-time feeling.
  5. And I secretly kind of like feeling sad. So the happy-and-sad-at-the-same-time feeling is actually like feeling double-happy.
  6. If you’re struggling to understand what it means to feel happy and sad at the same time, I urge you to think back to the ending of Charlottes Web.
  7. The book, not the movie.

I realize I probably didn’t do that right. Okay, now it’s time to pick some victims (and no, I won’t get offended or sad or even happy-sad if you don’t do it): Molly, Hilary, Amanda, Nora Rocket, my new evil twin Slurredpress, Dan will probably not do this, and neither will Brian. Wow, that was surprisingly painful.