It’s been nearly a year since I’ve posted in this space.
Since I last posted, I think I’m more focused than I used to be. I’ve been focusing on work, focusing on finding a new job, focusing on my family. I focus on things that I can change, as opposed to the things I can’t.
Of course, most of the things I can’t change involve people.
I’m not naturally good at people. If I’m good with people at all, it’s because of work. Being at the office allows me to practice my interactions with people. (“She said, not sounding like a space alien at all.”) I know that, most of the time, this isn’t a thing we have to practice. But I think, if we’re around non-family-, non-friend-people a lot, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Two years and ten days ago, I’d gotten a job after being out of technology for several years. In fact, I hadn’t had a desk in an office building since 2005. And this new office building was now 1:15 away from my home, door-to-door. I’d taken the job with the hope that I’d stay about two years, become current in my industry again, and then find a work-from-home job so I could be a mom, Girl Scout leader, writer, and home-renovator.
I remember when I first started working in an office again, I had to re-learn a lot of things: My face hurt from wearing the Office Default Smile – the one that says, “I’m friendly, and please don’t kill me.” There is subtle office etiquette in how you approach someone’s desk, in how you use their time, in how you communicate that you’re busy. You shouldn’t talk about politics if you can help it. You should, every once in a while, bring in bagels.
What the office taught me, after working at home for so long, was how to act within social patterns again. When I first started, I laughed VERY TOO MUCH HARD at jokes. They must’ve thought I had a medical issue. I didn’t know what to do with my hands while in meetings or in hallway conversations. (I’ve developed theories about hand positioning, subliminal messaging, and power dynamics. I mean. Not good theories.)
I would tell stories that would wander deep into the metaphorical woods, with little hope of finding coherence. “Where is the ending?” I’d ask myself, while in the middle of the telling. “Is that a punchline coming out of my mouth? No one is laughing… Am I laughing? Should I be laughing?”
“None of the nouns in this story make sense together,” I would sometimes realize, mid-story.
But after awhile, I picked it up again. I even got kinda ok at it. I mean, I actually sort of like it, now. (” ‘In fact, interacting with humans in real life is an acceptable amount of fun,’ she said, seeming not at all like badly programmed AI.”)
Two years and eleven days after I started that job, I finally am starting a new job that is 100% work-from-home. I missed my deadline by eleven days, so that’s not too bad. I’ve cleaned and organized my home office. I’ve even set up an elevated dog bed, so my dog (Fred) can sleep next to me as I work.
It’s a dog perch, really.
While I’m overjoyed to be working at home again, I’m also afraid. For instance, I have already started wearing yoga pants too frequently. I worry that I’ll forget to brush my hair. I’m concerned that cookies might loom fairly large in my regular diet. I can see an inclination towards a lack of exercise typically only exhibited by fictional people who communicate via wires attached to a jar that their brains are being preserved in.
I’m a little wary that I may start to understand my dog. I’m more worried that I may start to understand the hidden cultural anthropology of dog language, and that I’ll research the development of aural dog life by comparing the barks from domesticated and non-domesticated canis genus animals.
The last time I worked from home, I did so for 7 years. Most of the time, I was a normal-esque person. I did get a little weird toward the end, there; but I think it was after I gave myself a serious head-bonking, and things went all aswirl.
I’m going to say that I abused social media back then. To be fair, it abused me right back. But I’m going to try really hard not to do that. Don’t get me wrong: there were people on Twitter who I might not have survived those years without. That’s not hyperbole. Somehow, I found a group of strangers (plus Julie, who is not a stranger) who sustained me during a really terrible time (which I won’t go into here because this post is too long, plus I already have 11,000 words written about it, and that’s just the rough sketch) and many of them remain the ones I look forward to hearing from every single day.*
But the other problem is more fundamental to me. I don’t really care about social rules, aside from “be kind”. I’m not really averse to eating alone at a restaurant, or reading books in public about cult murders, or staring at things for a really long time while I’m thinking. Or, you know, doing all of that at once, which…is not a good look.
Also, I don’t have much of a filter when I’m out of social practice, and so the opening salvo of many of my conversations might be something like, “Hey, it’s nice to see you! Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you were somehow transformed into a tennis ball? Do you think a tennis ball would be a large enough container to store a human soul?”
So, I think I’m going to try to talk to actual humans more frequently. I’m going to try to spend more time in various coffee-vending establishments and libraries. I’d like to avoid saying, “I just realized, I haven’t left the house for four days.”
I’m hoping to maintain enough contact with real-life humans, that I can safely enter — and seem natural at negotiating — this world of people.
“She said, not at all like an emotionless half-robot whose task is to assimilate the people of Earth.”
*These people helped me during a very specific time, but I want to be clear that I love every one of you in a beautiful, possibly sinful, way. Thank you for reading my post and for being lovely.