I'm currently enjoying a brief and well-deserved respite from work.
My field is advertising, and as any agency slave knows, the work knows no hours. It's even better when you're freelance, because THEN it doesn't matter which 18 hours of the day you work.
Been freelancing for close to a decade now and have been blessed with a steady stream of work from clients. One major client's stream, in particular, has, over the years, gradually swelled into a series of tsunamis. I'm not one to knock blessings, because in freelancing, lean seasons can reach famine proportions. But when it rains, oh how it pours, and the resulting tidal surges have just swept me along and swept everything else aside.
I was born in the sign of water, and it's natural for me to go with the flow and ride the tide. But I remember years ago, back in my agency drudge days, my sage ACD admonished me. "Why do you always have to go with the flow? Make your own waves!" he said.
That piece of advice has, for the most part, been observed more in the breach, when I examine my work vs. life ratio. It is August, and I have barely kept my head above the water with the relentless crashing of wave upon wave of projects and the infinitesimal problems they come with. Like a drowning man, I've only managed to thrash to the surface to get a gulp of air before being sucked by the undertow again.
Truth be told, I've been so busy my checks often run the danger of being stale. You know you need help when you're too busy to deposit your check payments. I also have unbilled projects from last year, and client has chided me repeatedly for not billing. "How can I bill you when I barely have time to even sleep?!?!" I wailed.
And it's true. I enjoy the adrenaline rush of handling multiple, overlapping projects, but all it takes is a major setback in one to create a pile-up worthy of "Smashup on Highway 59" proportions. It's then that I feel like Mickey Mouse in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", trying valiantly to stem the onslaught of marching broomsticks dumping more and more water on an already overflowing well.
My stock answer whenever anyone asks me how I've been consists of one four-letter word: "Work." That four-letter word has caused me to miss my mom's birthday, my dad's birthday, their anniversary, a friend's funeral, and countless other personal engagements. I can't even remember the last time I had sex. There.just.simply.isn't.time.
Oh, I can hear you now. "You MAKE time for important things, you fool!" "You just need good time management" "Maybe your priorities are screwed" Good and valid points, all. I never in a million years would define myself as a workaholic, but my behavior suggests otherwise. Work takes precedence over everything else. When I am working, I am incommunicado to anyone outside of work. "How r u" texts either get deleted promptly with no response, or if a response is actually made, it is "I'm busy."
The few remaining friends I have left already know the code. "I'm busy" means "Go away don't bug me dammit I don't have time to listen to your personal drama please do not bother me unless you're about to die and even then I'm not sure I can make the funeral."
It makes me a horrible friend and a terrible son. Then again, it's been ages since I was a sweet-faced choirboy. I find myself trying to buy my way back into everyone's affections, like a chronically-sinful Catholic on an indulgence subscription plan. When I have rare moments of introspection such as this, I find myself trying to justify everything. I have few memories of my father when I was growing up, because he was often abroad for years at a stretch on business. He made up for it by giving us material things, but the cost was that I never really knew him, and is the reason why our relationship today, while better, is still tentative and cautious.
It must be a blessing that I have dogs in lieu of children. They don't see me for weeks on end sometimes, but when I finally call them, they come gleefully. All is forgiven, we love you still. But then again, while I love dogs and their affection is sweet, their slavish devotion is also cheap. My Persian gets more brownie points the rare times he deigns to rub up against me asking for some fur stroking.
There's a scene in "The Devil Wears Prada" where the boyfriend tells Andie "The person whose calls you take - that's the person you're having a relationship with." I guess that means I've been having a very long relationship with a married woman who's my human alarm clock.
The curious thing about all this is that, yes, I finally, finally have my long-awaited break. Projects are done, they are on air, feedback is good. I have made enough money to be able to afford not working till next year. Client hasn't texted nor called me for two days now. I should be happy and enjoying this blessed idleness.
So why am I sitting by the phone waiting for the next briefing?
Work has become my life.
Ergo - I have no life.