Broke People Aren’t Magic, We’re Just Resourceful
When you can’t afford to fail at working from home
Dear internet, I’m writing to you from half a makeshift standing desk in an apartment with more suitcases than furniture. This is my home though, I live here and have done so since the last day of 2019.
When you’re a freelancer, you tend to focus on how best to monetize your time. You can’t afford to let anything or anyone distract you from attempting to deflect hunger and homelessness with words. And I have been doing this for a very long time; my background is print journalism and public media.
Lack of funds often comes with the job but we still do it; it’s a mission.
I have a professional lifetime of preparedness when it comes to doing the work come what may. It’s never pretty or comfortable but it gets results.
You learn to make do with what you have, even if that’s one meeting table for two freelancers in a drafty corridor everyone walks through or a desk for more than one person at home.
I prefer to stand, my colleague prefers to sit so I plopped my laptop on a foot stool on my half of the desk and it’s roughly the right height. Before moving to the Netherlands, I spent a year living out of a suitcase between two continents and several countries.
I’ve worked from my parents’ dining table by putting a foot stool on it so I could stand and dance to music while working rather than sit and fidget. Music is my secret weapon and dancing flower mode is my default wherever I am.
I’ve worked from a kitchen counter with a foot stool on it so I could stand, dance, and be near an electrical outlet.
I’ve worked from two storage boxes atop a coffee table.
I’ve worked from economy class airline seats, train seats, ferry seats, standing on a crowded bus, from airports, from train stations, from ferry terminals, even from bed on very bad days. And from remarkably very few coffee shops unless they were located in airports or train stations. I’m that person lost in a bubble that generally looks like a party for one but others are always welcome to join, just wave or tap me on the shoulder.
And I did this relentlessly and I still do, although no longer throughout the night until it is day again. But only because exhaustion won’t let me.
And what no-one ever tells you is how dispiriting it can get, and how humiliating, too. I try not to focus on that; I already have the kind of depression that doesn’t go away, it’s enough of a handful without adding to it.
I’d rather write about how I’ve developed an appreciation for foot stools and those grippy dots on top that make all the difference.
Not creating is not an option, likely because your livelihood, sanity, or both depend on what you create. In my case, writing is how I’m rebuilding a life, word by word.
And as you have probably understood already, it is a painfully precarious lifestyle. The internet content roulette aspect of some of it is weird yet thinking out loud in print is still intellectually stimulating and satisfying.
Especially when you begin to connect words and people and imagine different.
The world I already live in has a lot more heart than the world the internet of greed and grabbiness keeps showing me. Then again, traditional media had a hand in creating a culture of unapologetic mediocrity before the internet came along so it’ll take a while to shift. Some of us believe this is not just possible but necessary.
Words are seeds. If you plant them in fertile soil, they will grow.
So will a different world. This, in essence, is the world I signed up for and service with words: A world that thinks forward, not in place or back. In that world, Trump is no longer the patron saint of an internet many of us cannot bring ourselves to co-opt or support. Until that happens, I do not have the privilege of procrastination or of not doing the work because I feel a particular way. I lost five years of my life to chronic depression and I am not going back there.
As long as we have a device and an internet connection, we can continue creating the future remotely. When you need a bridge, creativity always finds a way to build it.
We’re on a mission, remember?
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.