All the surprising things I learned about myself since I started working from home
Anyone who knows me describes me as outgoing. I enjoy being around people, and doing so energizes me. My first job after college was as a newspaper reporter. I loved interacting with all sorts of humans and hearing their stories. I later took jobs in public relations, handling special events. I spent a lot of time with people.
My heart has always been in writing, though, so it wasn't long before I became a freelance writer. After several months, I made writing my full-time gig. I learned a lot about who I am since I started working from home a little less than a year and a half ago. It's changed the way I see myself. If you spend most of your time around people and suddenly find yourself alone a lot, you might discover a few surprising things about who you are, too.
The first thing you should know about my experience working from home is that solitary time for me doesn't necessarily mean boredom. When I don't have a ton of assignments, I come up with ideas to pitch and look for new opportunities. And since it's my dream to be an author, the more time I have to myself, the better. There's always something to do. I can read, write, and learn about the craft. Just having time to sit and think helps my creativity immensely. I'm sure a lot of people who like to make stuff are similar in this way.
Spending so much time at home, I soon realized I like having a cleaner apartment more than ever before — I used to be pretty messy. I can be obsessive about cleaning now, listing out the chores I'd like to complete for the day and checking them off, one by one. I get frustrated if I haven't finished my cleaning to-do list, even if my place isn't messy and I'm not expecting company anytime soon. I used to let that kind of stuff slide because my writing took precedence.
Being obsessive about cleaning isn't exactly what I had in mind for my new working-from-home life. So now when I notice I've been spending an inordinate amount of time on chores, I try to re-evaluate my priorities. Like, for me, one of the the best parts of working from home is having time to work on my fiction (and being able to sleep in, duh). I realized I had to schedule creative writing into my day, just like I do for paid writing assignments and cleaning. Otherwise it might not happen, and that would be unacceptable.
Although I don't suffer from boredom, I still thought I would want to be around people most of the time. Even when not working, my tendency has been to have a full social calendar of spending time with friends, going to events and volunteering. Many writers and full-time freelancers hang out at coffee shops to keep from going stir-crazy being alone all the time, but once I started writing from home I realized I loved being there by myself. I am not compelled to leave my apartment to work, unless I am meeting someone. I sometimes have writing dates with friends, mostly at my favorite museum that has an open seating area, but other than that my favorite place to write is on my couch. Or sometimes my bed, even. (Don't judge.)
Before I spent so many hours of the day by myself, I didn't realize how my anxiety affected me, particularly in social situations (this can be an issue for extroverts, too). I was highly nervous about the impression I made on others, but I had to power through it daily. Now that I see people less often, I realize how much I worry about certain things, like if what I say is taken the wrong way or if people like me. I don't feel bad about this. I choose to feel good that I haven't let constant worrying change my desire to make friends and try new experiences. I just didn't see how much effort and bravery it took.
To be honest, though, my newfound need to clean, lack of loneliness and social anxiety didn't surprise me as much as learning that, despite my extroversion, I'm a homebody. I go to networking events and hang out with my husband and friends, but not as much as I thought I would want to. As much as I continue to be vibrant when I am around others, I often want to stay home, even on the weekends. Before, I worried that if I stayed in my apartment I would miss out or people would stop inviting me to do stuff. I never thought I of all people would be grateful and relieved when a friend cancels plans so I can stay in for the night and read while my law-school-student husband studies at the library. But I have become that person — and I like it.
I am learning to schedule my time wisely. I can keep myself busy with meetings and tasks, but it's also important to appreciate the time I have to be creative. I discovered I need time alone. I need it just as much as I need social interaction (Yep, I know I need to make an effort to get out of my PJs and go out, too). Most importantly, I'm learning to be accepting of who I am, rather than who I expect myself to be. That, I think, has been the most surprising — and probably the best — part of working from home.