Punching In and Out

There are a number of intangibles lost in the transition from full-time employment to hourly employee. For example, the freedom to stay and listen when you ask someone, “How are you?” (because a time card waits for no man). Or the ability to drop your smile, without having to explain to others what’s wrong, because there’s nowhere to hide in a shared cubicle. And, oh, the luxury of “alone time” – making a private phone call, repairing a droopy up-do or staring blankly, if that’s what you need to do. Not to mention the opportunity to simply leave the premises – run a quick errand or meet a friend for lunch – because 29 minutes is barely enough time to get to the parking garage (and did I mention the ever-ticking time card?).

During one of my two 15 minute breaks yesterday, I found myself lingering in the bathroom stall. My business was complete and I wasn’t avoiding anyone (come on, you know you do that, too), I just had the urge to stay. It was a handicap-accessible stall, so there was plenty of room, which I used to do nothing in particular, other than breathe and let my guard down.

Then I remembered my time card.

I’ve discovered there is something profoundly exhausting about being in public all day. Notice I didn’t say “being at work,” because the work doesn’t bother me, but being on display, with no respite other than the bathroom stall, does. I have nowhere to hide for 8 hours – not even during lunch, which I usually eat at my desk because it has fewer sets of eyes than the cafeteria. No, it’s not a paranoid everyone-is-watching-me thing, it’s just that everyone could be watching me and the need to keep my guard up wears me down.

I think I’m also struggling with the compartmentalization of it all. In this world I’m either on-the-clock or off-the-clock. The clarity of it is appealing, but the limitations are troublesome. The clock that runs this world will never err in my favor, thus cultivating a workforce that will never do more than it’s asked. Meanwhile, the world I write about and strive to create for my children is one where we all do more than we’re asked and expect that of the things around us as well. Recycling, upcycling, recreating ourselves, looking for possibilities in what others deem useless – seeing potential in everything (including and especially in ourselves).

At the very least, I suppose I can use my time on-the-clock to fuel my appreciation for the time that is my own. (Bonus: it inspired a new blog post, too!)

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