After almost ten years as a freelance writer and novelist, I have taken a full-time job. No more workdays in my pajamas on the couch, with Eddie the Cat as my only colleague. No more folding laundry or prepping dinner on my coffee break. No more spontaneous girls’ lunches.
What have I done?
Actually, I’m thrilled. My husband and came to the Middle East for his work, and it is very difficult (for legal reasons and cultural ones) for most wives to find full-time work after arriving here and settling in. Knowing what I know now, I’d have applied for work before we moved, so that I could have established my residency with a work visa. But I didn’t. Instead, I added local clients to my already-established freelance business. I pitched in on writing and editing projects that ranged from business proposals to book manuscripts. English is the language of business all over the Middle East, so pretty much everyone can at least get by—but native speakers and writers are in demand. I had a good run here as a freelancer.
Now, though, I’ve taken a support staff job at my community’s expatriate school. It’s a friendly, fast-paced work environment. At the moment I’m coordinating bus schedules and building maintenance logistics. I’ve also been trained to run the attendance desk. Who knows what they’ll have me doing next? No matter what the job description, though, everyone stops when a kid shows up with an emergency. (“Emergency” is a word with a lot of flex, I’m learning.) Left your trumpet on the school bus? I’ll try to track it down. Ran full-tilt into a wall at recess? I’ll find the nurse. Lost a shoe? (How do you lose one shoe?) I’ll direct you to the lost-and-found box.
I’m learning to be more efficient with my off-the-clock hours, and to respect the sanctity of bedtime. My workday starts at 7:00 a.m.—appalling, no? And I’m the type who needs a lot of sleep. These days I’m in bed by 9:00 p.m., or else I’m regretting it the next day. I’m doing more food prep on the weekends, and remembering what it used to be like the last time I worked a 40-hour office job. The weekends are as much about preparing for next week as they are about socializing.
My weekends, though, must also include some dedicated novel-writing time, if I ever want the third installment in the Jamie August series to see the light of day. Which I do! Hopefully soon I’ll be in the groove and able to fit some writing time into my normal schedule—the way the majority of other writers do. I was incredibly fortunate to have such a long run as an independent writer with the luxury of setting my own schedule. But as the clock towards retirement ticks closer, I’m grateful to have landed this fun, busy job.