So I started a new job yesterday.
I don’t have an office as such, so I can’t quite hide an art print of Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife behind the door or anything. The extent of my decor so far consists of one X-Files mug, which I bring to the coffee maker in the morning. And technically this is a limited position – in six months I find out whether I can stay longer, and I also have the option of switching somewhere else within the company before that six months is out.
But on the other hand – it is not a temp job.
I have been living on temp jobs for years now. In my mid-30’s that was by choice – I was sustaining a theater career and told myself I needed the flexibility, and the extra money from theater did make up for the diminished salary. Theater was also giving me a “something to live for” and somewhere to channel my outside-of-work energy.
Then the recession hit approximately two and a half hours after I decided to retire from theater.
For the past nine years I have been living with a subsistence-income mindset – not that I really had a subsistence income; in fact, I made enough as a temp to not just get by, but to put tiny bits of money into savings and to take great whacks at a credit card balance. But the only way I could manage that was by watching the minute, day-to-day peaks and valleys in the cash flow – working extra hours in advance of all my three-day weekends, so my wallet could absorb the hit of not having paid days off. Timing the piddly few vacation days I had allotted to me to wrap around weekends, so I could get extra time away – and also so I wouldn’t have a break in income (two partial weeks was better than one unpaid week). Not using my sick days unless I absolutely had to, because one day off for sick leave was a day I couldn’t use for vacation time.
That much attention to your day-to-day income makes anyone crazy.
There was a year and a half when I did have a job, but it was longer-than-average hours in a profession I hated, and I accepted it mainly to knock a big dent in debt. So while I did use the vacation time, I’d still already channelled most of my money to debt and had to scrape things up to pay for my fun. And I also had to scrape up the mojo to even enjoy myself after having been wrung out by the job itself; one vacation week I simply stayed in my apartment all week, watching Law and Order reruns.
A year ago I started a temp gig at a place I realized I really liked. And, they really liked me. And when the temp gig was about to run out, and both the plans that both my other bosses hatched to keep me around full-time either got delayed or ran dry, a third department stepped in and brought me on board simply to keep me around. It’s different work than I’d been doing – instead of secretarial work, I’m doing a lot of data-entry form-checking type of busy work and paper processing.
And I love it. It is coming across as a mental break – everything I do is either a yes or no answer, and when I cannot deliver one, then there is nothing I can do but punt to someone else. It’s taking a huge mental weight off my mind.
But on top of that, I already had ten sick days when I walked in the door; I have paid holidays; and over the course of the next six months, I will be accumulating ten vacation days. And I’m even getting a teeny-tiny baby little raise, which I will not have to hover over and nurse into anything because I will have those paid holidays, already.
And what this means is that finally, for the first time in a very long time, I will be able to have the time, the headspace, and the funds available to actually take care of myself. If I’m sick, I can take the time off. If I want a day off, I can take it, and still have the mental energy to go do something with it. If I need something, I can go get it without worrying how to pay for it. And best of all, I can regather the energy I’ve spent trying to just survive and turn it back towards me, towards the kind of mulling and self-reflection I need to actually grow my own self.
My position is basically entry-level where I am, but from where I’m sitting, I’m feeling more like I’m finally my own boss than I have in a very long time.