Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Trapped in the Confines of Outside

It must be true that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. As I continue my pursuit for a new job, I’ve restricted my hunt to office jobs in lieu of the outside sales position I currently have. My friends that spend their days cooped up in cubicles, constantly under the eye of their superiors, envy my liberty to schedule my own day or work in from home some mornings/early afternoons. While the draw of outside sales is certainly independence, my role isn’t quit as glamorous as it is made out to be. I spend a large portion of my day shuttling back and forth between customer meetings and prospecting visits during the day, trying to reserve the last couple hours of the day to follow up on action items and catch up on the stacks of emails and paperwork. Sure, there are many afternoons where I get back home around 4, slump on my couch in sweatpants with CNN on in the background and fire away at emails- a more comfortable set up than sitting rigid in the office with my feet stuffed into a pair of black stilettos; but having, in essence, a home office means that work is always with you.

I don’t mind working late, putting in extra hours and going the extra mile, but the feeling that I am always working when I get constant customer emails and calls after hours or on the weekends, it’s hard to feel like the work day ever ends. Call it a character flaw, but I feel guilty not doing all that is asked of me quickly. So even if it is a Sunday afternoon, and I’m shouting at the TV when my team isn’t performing, I feel an obligation to check my work phone to see if there are any emails I need to attend to immediately. And when I neglect to respond, I'm wrought with the stress of not immediately acting.

I crave that glorious sense of separation of church and state: Work (state) in the office and church (personal life) is everything else. In college, I completed all my studies and work on campus: in between classes or at the library until late at night. Sometimes I’d be at the library drilling away at a presentation, or refining the formatting on a project until two or three AM, but the moment I stepped out of the library doors and hopped onto my bike, I was “off the clock”. I’d completed my work and was retreating to my sanctuary of a late night snack and some Food Network reruns.

I know I’m not alone in daydreaming about what it’s like on the “other side”, and my envious longing to retreat to an office every morning sounds a bit masochist to those clawing their way out of the cubicle jungle each day, but I can’t help but fantasize about the camaraderie of an office. In Disney’s Aladdin, Jasmine and Aladdin, when lamenting of their inverse realities, say in unison, “Sometimes you just feel so trapped.” Those in the office, when I’m striving to land, feel trapped by the walls. Me, I’m trapped by my bellicose cell phone and the sense that if I’m at home, I am technically still at work.

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