Last night, half-awake in someone else's house, wallowing in those strangely lucid moments before a heavy sleep, I got to thinking about my 9-5 phobia. I mean my fear--however irrational--of being bound to a job which requires my presence in an office or--horrors--cubicle between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm, Monday-Friday. I've often considered the origin of this fear (it wasn't always with me), tried to decide whether or not I should fight it or submit to it. But listening to the night-snuffles of sleeping dogs last night, a new thought occurred to me, and I was just able to hold it in my mind before I dropped into a dream about ordering Chinese food with an old friend near an unamed harbour. The thought was this: I'm a project-based worker. It's why I always had a freakish love of writing essays and research papers as a student, why I'm happy to devote years of my life to writing a book but bridle at the very thought of spending a week chained to a desk. It's why I think I'll make a great freelance writer but a terrible anything else. I want the work I'm doing to have shape; moreover, like an overprotective mother, I want to see it through, from inception to final presentation. I'll happily write late into the night, wake early, devote weekends to a project; but the endless toil of working for an organization, the banality of spending a few hours each day doing things which will never result in a finished product, makes me feel actually, physically ill.
I don't know what this says about me. Perhaps that I'm vain, that if I put in time and effort, I want to see a result more tangible than increased profit figures or a well-organized office--I want to see something that is all my own. Or perhaps that I'm obsessive, unable or unwilling to multitask but happy to pour every last iota of energy into a single sentence. Perhaps it's only an inability to move beyond the simple reward systems of primary school.
Whatever it is, it's a huge and increasingly undeniable part of who I am and how I work. It occurred to me too, that in my current position, I'm wasting energy at an alarming rate; my days split between, essentially, two jobs (my office job and my writing), I can't concentrate properly on either. But at the moment I need both to survive--without the office job, I couldn't pay my rent, and without the writing, I couldn't stay happy. As good old Yossarian might have said: it's a Catch-22.