Home Is Where the Office Is
Last week I “celebrated” 15 years of self-employment. That word is in quotes because, frankly, the economic freefall of the past few years has hit my industry even harder than most. In the ad biz, it’s common knowledge that when the economy goes south, advertising budgets are the first to get cut and the last to be reinstated. And today’s U.S. economy is further south than a penguin’s patootie in Antarctica.
For the last few years, at least, there hasn’t been too very much to celebrate. My friendly neighborhood bankers no longer bother to make happy talk with me when I come in for my regular juggling of rapidly diminishing funds. They know better. Like too many other folks, we’re holding on by our financial fingernails.
As a money manager I spoke with recently told me, “If you have a job, you’re okay. If you’re out of work or underemployed (that would be me), you’re hurting big time.” To which I can only say, ouch.
That said, I also have much for which I am grateful. Not the least of which is that – for 15 years now – I have not had to make the daily commute to the mid-Wilshire area where I was on the creative staff at various large ad agencies. I used to have to drive from our La Crescenta home through an hour-long gauntlet of traffic jams, stop lights and side-street detours five or six days a week. The ride home (usually well past sundown) was even longer, by as much as 30 or 40 minutes more. My dear, long-suffering wife used to worry endlessly (and often silently I found out later) about the immense stress that my morning and evening commute would add to an already demanding day. After all, the ad world is fueled by stress even in the best of times. One well-known agency with headquarters in Santa Monica used to tout their company slogan that warned employees, “If you don’t come to work on Saturday, don’t bother showing up on Sunday.” Nice, right?
By working from my home office here in the Crescenta Valley, however, my daily commute was reduced to a whopping 10 or 15 seconds, from either my bedroom or the kitchen. Traffic consists of stepping over a sleeping dog or two. That’s it. Needless to say, my stress levels are much lower – at least from the commuting portion of any given day.
Yes, my work still piles on the pressure of ridiculous deadlines, difficult and demanding clients who often don’t know what they want until after they’ve seen days worth of work that turns out isn’t quite what they didn’t know they didn’t want and now they remember some important details they probably should have told me in the first place and oh by the way the due date for this project has been pushed up by a few days! (Deep breaths, Jim. Look out your balcony office window at the Verdugo mountains and relax. Thanks, that’s better.)
However, the biggest, most priceless benefit of 15 years of self-employment has been the ability to simply be here as “Dad” – present and accounted for – 24 hours a day (mostly) as my kids grew from crumb crunchers, house monkeys and curtain climbers into the amazing young adults they are today. While actually working more hours during any given week (because you’re never really not working when your office is at home), I’ve been able to shift time as needed to late into the evening. Even working all night if need be – or long before the morning sun comes up – in order to have spent precious, irretrievable time at school events, field trips, ceremonies, helping with homework and other important times in our kids’ lives. Frankly, I wouldn’t have traded those opportunities for any title on a business card, regular paycheck or benefits package.
Now if only I could figure out a way to deposit some of that karmic-currency into my checking account.
I’ll see you ’round town.