Not All Free Time is Freeing

“You got that nine to five, but baby so do I.  So, don’t be thinking I’ll be home and baking apple pies.”  - Meghan Trainor


So, I quit one of my jobs recently, yes?  I casually mentioned it a couple posts ago.  For the past three years I’d been serving and bartending at a place out in KCK.  I worked weekday lunches, so it was essentially my nine to five.  I put in my two weeks towards the end of October and had my last day a couple weeks ago.  I wasn’t unhappy working there, it just took up a lot of my time and cut into my availability for job number two – the radio station – which, I felt, should have been more of a priority than my bartending gig.  So, after much debate I decided to hang up my apron.  Now, I’ll be honest, this next part is going to get a bit long winded, but I assure you it will eventually lead to a point.

So, last week Doug and I were in Vegas for a developer conference and when you’re in Vegas with time to kill while you’re husband is in conference sessions, what do you do?  Eat?  Yes.  Drink?  Obviously.  It’s Vegas.  That’s pretty much the majority of what I did.  A little bit of walking up and down the strip and five dollars worth of gambling, but essentially just eating and drinking.  So, I did my best to get up every morning and go to the hotel fitness center and run off a handful of the previous night’s calories to make room for the ones I would more than likely consume that day.  Well, I recently discovered this running mix feature on my music app that lets you pick a genre of music and then you start running and it detects your pace.  Once it has your pace – mine is 160 (I’m slow.) – it generates this random playlist of songs and weaves them all together, smoothly fading them in and out making this continuous beat to keep you going.  It’s fantastic.  So, I’m using this on the treadmill at the fitness center at the hotel and Ludacris fades out and “Dear Future Husband” by Meghan Trainor starts playing – fading in right at the exact moment she sings the lyrics in the intro quote to this post, and here’s the thing…

Those two lyrical sentences have my name written all over them.

While I do fancy myself a bit of a baker, I place a pretty high value on financial contribution.  Not shaming any stay-at-homers out there, it’s just not for me on a few different levels.  Growing up, my parents always stressed responsibility and hard work – Doing your part.  We were expected to help out around the house – folding laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, cleaning the cat’s litter box, making our beds in the morning.  As we aged, their expectations grew – mowing the yard, weeding the garden, sweeping out the garage, vacuuming the house.  When we were old enough to stay at home without a babysitter during summer break mom would leave us lists of things to do while she and dad were at work.  I remember going over it with my sister and putting our initials “B” and “E” next to the chores we wanted and arguing our cases and negotiating on the ones we didn’t want.  We didn’t get an allowance, we just did what was asked because that’s what you do – Your parents make rules and you follow them.  When we were old enough to get part time jobs, mom took us each to the bank to open our first checking account, teaching us to put a portion of our paycheck into our savings and depositing the rest for responsible spending.  We’d get our statements in the mail and every month mom would make us go through it and balance our checkbooks (I hated balancing my checkbook.  Ask anyone.  Mine was always off.), making sure we got them right down to the penny.  If we needed more money for gas to drive to O’Neill (the nearest town with shopping and restaurants and stoplights – civilization in general) and see a movie with friends, we’d pick up extra shifts at work.  That’s just how it was.  Work ethic was very important growing up.

So, for me, the decision to quit a job that provided me with a steady stream of income was kind of a hard decision to make.  Now, it’s not like I was leaving myself jobless – I still have my job at the radio station – but what radio makes up for in experience and connections and the occasional free show now and then it lacks in compensation.  I made significantly more money in tips at the brewery.  You can imagine how that can give a person a bit of a complex.  Taking a person who values contribution and independence and making a dent in both of those – making them less of a contributor and more of a dependent – can kind of make a person feel a bit inferior.  It pokes at my pride a little.  Now, you could argue that the contributions of a radio personality/bartender hardly compete with that of a senior software developer anyway and you’d be right.  Still, it’s the principle of the matter.  Isn’t that what people say?  It’s the fact that I used to spend the majority of my day at work and I now spend it at home.  I used to take a fat stack of cash to the bank every month and now I have a quarter of that direct deposited into my bank account bi-weekly.  I’m not used to it.  It’s limiting.  I feel bad spending money that I’m not making.  When I was bartending, I left with cash in hand so I had no guilt using it on a night out or dinner someplace or coffee – I worked hard for it.  It was like a reward to myself, ya know?  It’s not like I would run around town throwing money all over the place, but I feel like I don’t have the right to do as much spending as I used to or that – if I do go out and spend it – it needs to be on necessities.  It’s a hard mental hurdle to get over.

Aside from that, I’m a creature of two kinds – a social one, and one of habit.  Starting with habit – I need a routine to my day.  I used to get up every morning at seven, shower, have a bowl of cereal, maybe make a pot of coffee and be to work by nine thirty.  My bar reliever came on at four, I’d cash out my remaining tabs and clock out between four thirty and five.  Sometimes I’d stick around for a beer, if not I’d head to the station, record my shift for the night, then it’d be gym, home, dinner and Netflix, head to bed and I’d do it all again the next day.  It might sound laughable, but I had a generous amount of anxiety leading up to my last day knowing that I’d be schedule-less.  The time I spend at the radio station is only a couple of hours a day, past that it’s an “I’ll call you when I need you” type thing.  I fill in when the need arises.  Now, I’m not ragging on free time.  At all.  There’s nothing better than a couple solid days off after an exhausting run of shifts.  I’m just the kind of person that needs the accountability of a daily grind.

As far as my being a social creature goes, I think the loss of that on a daily basis is more difficult to cope with than loss of routine.  It’s one of the reasons I took the job in the first place.  I needed something to do and I needed to be around people.  Not that my own company isn’t pleasant (I’m enjoying it right now, in fact.), I just thrive more around conversation and community.  There are some people out there that can work from home – I can’t.  I embrace the distraction.  I need the dynamic of coworker interactions.  At the radio station my shift starts after everyone has left.  I walk into an empty building, sit in an empty studio and essentially talk to myself.  At the brewery I was around people constantly.  Greeting guests as they walked in, welcoming back regulars, charming my bar top with over exaggerated stories, catching up with coworkers throwing my two cents in on the latest workplace drama.  It was energizing.  I looked forward to it.  It made me feel valued.  Like I had a purpose.  I need that stuff – Conversation.  The company of others.  Maybe it sounds dumb, but I put a lot of stock into that kind of thing.  It keeps my morale up.

My last day was a Wednesday and the next day I flew out to Miami for the weekend, got back and was on the road to Oklahoma City for a week and then boarded a plane bound for Vegas the following Monday.  I just got back to Kansas City three days ago, so things haven’t really set in quite yet.  I’ve essentially just been on a giant vacation.  Yesterday was my first work-less day.  I spent it hanging a generous amount of lighted greenery above most of our doorframes and windows inside the house.  I took a little break to walk to Ace to buy zip ties and then to the post office to buy holiday stamps (My car is in the shop, so my mobility is limited.  Plus, walking kills time).  It was pretty uneventful and – if we’re being completely honest – I already felt a little restless.  I’ve got some fill in time at the station coming up and I’ll be spending a good chunk of time back home with family for Christmas, so I suppose things will be fine then, but once the new year hits – who knows.  In my mind?  I see myself sitting around the house going stir crazy and my mood souring from boredom and lack of socialization.  Is that an overly dramatic generalization?  Perhaps a bit.  But, don’t worry.  I won’t be posting a whole bunch of brooding monologues in the coming weeks.  I tell friends all the time that the only people who get bored are boring people, so I suppose I’ll take my own advice and get creative – Embrace the change, cross my fingers and hope for the best.