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Unless you’re meeting me for the first time on Karaoke Night when I’m five shots in and belting out “Man! I Feel Like A Woman,” I tend to be introverted in social settings. I like my personal space, and small talk before 11 a.m. is my own definition of hell. None of these tendencies make working in a large, open-concept office particularly thrilling for me, but I’ve adjusted to the basic horrors of office life and come to accept them the way you accept getting a cavity filled. Sure, it’s uncomfortable and you’d rather do a lot of other things before leaning back in that weird chair and then drooling uncontrollably for three hours afterward, but it’s tolerable. I had grown accustomed to the toil of a normal working day, my will to live worn down like a rock tumbled smooth in the interminable swell of ocean waves.
And then, one day, everything changed.
I’ve always had a laptop at my workspace, but I hadn’t had the permission to use it for remote work until recently, when some permissions were altered for my division. I don’t understand why it became possible. I just know that it did.
Like the corporate stooge I’ve become, I still didn’t consider putting in a remote request until weeks after the changes were made. The idea bloomed in my mind like a single, perfect rose in the dead, gray garden that’s become my mind. Before I knew it, I had requested and been approved for a remote work day for the end of the week, when I would work on said projects outside the office.
The experience was so exquisite, so foreign in all its pleasures, that I scarcely know how to accurately convey it. I tasted freedom, my friends, the sweet flavor of it rich on my tongue, like honey.
The purest delight in working from home was the avoidance of people, and the ability to do things on my own schedule. Even in a casual workspace, that ability just isn’t present the way it is outside the office.
I didn’t wait in line at the coffee machine. I didn’t awkwardly shuffle out of anyone’s way in the hallway. I didn’t have to make eye contact with coworkers at the sink in the bathroom, or be forced to listen in silent agony to the unknown woman taking a dump in the stall beside me while I peed as fast as possible in order to leave the hellhole that is a work bathroom.
If I wanted a snack, I stood up and went to my fridge. I didn’t wait for a jam-packed kitchen to open up so that I could fight for a four-minute microwave slot. I didn’t have to drive to pick something up to eat, sitting in agony at stoplights as my lunchtime ticked away. In the morning, didn’t circle aimlessly in the over-crowded parking lot only to get a spot requiring a half-mile walk, in heels, before I reached my office building.
I sat cross-legged on my couch, or at my kitchen table, instead of resting on a squeaky, uncomfortable office chair. I grabbed a sweatshirt and a blanket when I got cold, instead of shivering for an entire eight hours with ice cold hands pretending to be focused on work and not on my plummeting internal temperature. I threw my dog’s ball for him when I needed a mental break, and my cat kneaded the blanket on my lap as I typed happily on my laptop. When I wanted some background noise, I turned Spotify on via my TV, not bothering with headphones. When I got tired of music, I turned Netflix on low, because who was going to stop me?
No one came up behind me while I was working to interrupt me, which I hate because it always makes me jump. I didn’t have to deal with my other coworkers standing behind me chitchatting and being distracting. I didn’t have to pretend to care what they were talking about. I didn’t even have to put a bra on.
Unfortunately, the next Monday I was back in the office.
The issue now is that the bliss of working remotely has ruined me for the in-office experience. Now, what seemed tolerable, if irritating, is a consistent agony. Getting up every morning to battle traffic and then sit myself down in sea of gray just isn’t going to cut it anymore. I did this to myself, I guess. I let myself experience bliss, knowing it was out of reach, and now I’m paying the price for my day in the sun.
I miss you, freedom. I miss you so much. .