Sunday, November 26, 2017

Not for the extroverted?

I officially started freelancing January 1, 2013. I'd worked full-time for a Market Research company for six years, and, for the most part, enjoyed working there. This company had the established culture of a larger organization while still allowing its employees fairly easy access to C-level executives - the CEO of the Americas was a family friendly guy who had his office right on our floor, and we all called him by his first name. After six years of bliss, our beloved company was acquired by a much larger firm with an entirely different culture, and my position was eliminated.

In January of 2013, I met with the CEO of another market research company based in Pennsylvania with the hopes of launching myself as a bona fide freelance designer. He didn't have much to say or have much of a reaction during our meeting, but right after I left his office, I got a message from him: he'd decided to hire me for a few trial projects. January 3, 2018 will be the fifth anniversary of our continuing relationship. I was lucky to have landed a good client right out of the gate.

Since his office location is a three-hour trip away from my apartment in Manhattan, most of work I do for his company is off-site - in my home office. So, with the exception of a few onsite gigs here in New York City, I've spent the past five years working in quiet, semi-dark, solitude at a desk in my room. How was this isolation affected me? Was I becoming the unkempt, ornery, rarely-seen ogre who lives in Apartment 1L? Were legends started to be written about me?

Well, maybe.

Mostly, though, I think that working from home has helped me to achieve a kind of focus that I could never achieve at the office. My desk, when I worked full-time, was situated right on the main aisle, and, since I'm a fairly friend guy, (or used to be until my transformation to Igor), just about everyone stopped by to chat for a minute or two. Don't get me wrong, unless I was insanely busy, I loved those interruptions. I formed friendships while working at the office that I still have today, almost six years since my leaving. However, when it comes to productivity, those two or three minutes spent chatting start to add up. The few times I was allowed to work from home while I was employed full-time were godsends. I would get so much work done. Alas, working remotely was against the company's policy, so, despite my consternation, my manager would have to deny most of my work-from-home requests on principle. The company's position on working remotely was that, although productivity might increase slightly(!), camaraderie suffered. I could see their point if we were a social club, but a business?

Later on, the reason my company may have adopted this policy became clear. They probably wanted to prevent the "introverted" silo-ism that might have resulted from too many folks working from home - people becoming very focused on their particular corner of the business to the detriment of the very spirit of teamwork and fellowship that made the company such a special place to work. They wanted an "extroverted" workplace, where interaction outside of your immediate team was the norm rather than the exception. In the end, I saw the point. The great irony is that the company that acquired us in 2011 had exactly the culture they were trying to avoid. What I hear from colleagues who still work there is that no one really knows each over, and the New York office which used to ring with laughter and animated conversations when I worked there, is now mausoleum quiet - and I use term deliberately. Maybe I was one of the lucky ones.

My Myers-Briggs score on the Introverted-Extroverted scale is about 48 - which means that I lean only slightly toward introvertedness, and am, more or less, evenly balanced. I see myself as far more introverted though. I get my energy from spending quiet time alone, or in the company of a one or two intimate friends, and, even though I make friends fairly easily, I tend to shy away from large gatherings of people. I'm way more comfortable dealing with one or two new people at a time. And, I love working in the comfort of my own home, where I can control how brightly lit, and how noisy the environment is. As I mentioned before, I prefer working in an environment that is softly illuminated by lamps rather than by bright overhead fluorescents, and I really must have silence when I have to concentrate on intricate, detailed design tasks, so there're not too many commercial office spaces that I'd be happy working in.

Over the past five years, working at home, I've really fine-tuned my creative process. I believe that I'm in the sweet spot of having a good base of design knowledge and experience where I'm confident about the advice I can give to a client, and being ready to learn more about exciting, emerging design trends. I'm eager to join the team of brilliant designers at Toptal Freelance Visual Designers Community. They are a professional bunch who are passionate about what they do, and how they communicate. I loved Jorge Juan Perales' article demonstrating that, by asking intelligent questions, designers can partner with decision-makers to develop design solutions that truly reveal the product or service they represent. Jorge's article articulates a process that I've had to discover on my own as a designer. It's so encouraging seeing thoughts I've had in mind expressed so clearly. I look forward to the opportunity to share my own discoveries with the Toptal team, and beyond.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dreams: May 11

Was on the phone trying to get information about a test I wanted to take. The person that I spoke to was not at work. She was at home, and had guests over, so I was actually disturbing her. I don’t remember whether I became a reporter, or pretended to be a reporter to get information from her about the test, but the reporter thing was in my mind as I was talking. She gave me some information before I let her go. While we were speaking, it was as though I saw a diagram with different areas that the test targeted being highlighted. The diagram was a gold-ish reddish color. It was a rainy day, and it almost seemed that the woman I was speaking with was in the house next door.

I was on a ship or a large boat. Someone had died, and their ashes were about to be scattered in the ocean. There were a lot of us on the boat – about 20 people or so, and, when an announcement was made, we all went to see the ashes being scattered. We weren’t allowed outside, or there were no exits, so we had to look through windows which only gave a very limited view. I stood near a window, pressing my face up to the glass, and strained to see something. Someone near me said, “There’re the ashes on the water.” I saw a spot of something on the surface of the ocean that was only a slightly different shade than the water. The water was a very dark color – bluish blackish – and the smudge that was supposed to have been the ashes were a dark grey – barely distinguishable on the ocean’s surface. I thought momentarily about sneaking around the boat to find a better viewing spot, and then gave up, disgusted.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dreams: May 8

A very unusual dream situation:

I was in the house I grew up in – at least, that’s where the dream ended up. The earliest scene that I remember is that I was constructing a display about the British monarchy. I started with an early king and got as far as the first woman who was queen in her own right. Her name should have been Mathilida, but in the dream it was Gertrude. There was either a television on in the dream, or the scene changed to The Night Of The Living Dead. There was a woman running toward her house (with blue socks) because she thought she’d just seen her husband. I can’t remember whether he was a zombie, or whether he was dressed as a woman, but by the time she made it back, he was still wearing a wig and makeup. He didn’t have a shirt on. He tried to play it off like he didn’t know who she was, said something insulting to her that I can’t remember, and slammed the door in her face.

Then, somehow, where I was, making the display in my room in the house I grew up in, became a part of the movie. There was a man in the room who was my husband. He revived, and I started running from him. He chased around the house. I managed to get outside, ran down the back steps, and in the downstairs section of the house. A couple times he caught up with me. He was very strong, but I managed to fight him off. I made like I was going to jump through a hole in the brickwork, and tricked him into doing it himself. He was outside, and I had a few moments before he figured out how to get back in. I ran back to, and up, the back steps. I shouted to my sister who was there in a flowered short dress, casually talking on the phone. I told her to come inside with me, but as she turned to me, she suddenly grew very old – her hair turned gray, and her face wrinkled, and she became feeble. She couldn’t run. I ran back down the stairs and picked her up, and quickly brought her into the house. I managed to close the door just as my husband was coming up the stairs again. I closed the door and locked it, and ran into the living room. I turned to my left and could see the shadow of a figure climbing through the window in the bathroom. He’d found his way in. I screamed, and that’s when I woke up, still screaming.

(I’d spent just about the whole previous day watching television. There was a show on about the moguls of Hollywood which contained a 5-second clip from Night Of The Living Dead; the husband in the dream was the husband-patient in a documentary about the emergency room of a hospital who couldn’t stop screaming; the last thing that I watched between sleep and wake before turning the TV off and going to bed was a documentary about British monarchical history on Netflix)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dreams: April 28

Was in a living room - might have been my deceased grandmother's house, but not sure - with other people, including my eldest uncle, Roderick. Ruth, a former friend of my mother's, entered the room. She was emotionally/mentally unstable. (Ruth has had a history of unstability in waking life. There is also a past episode invvolving her and this particular uncle.) My uncle Roderick began to undress himself in order to deal (exorcise?) with the situation. The room was darkly lit - like late evening. My uncle took off items of clothing and handed them to me - his shirt, his pants, his jewelry - he handed me gold chain with a three-cross pendant. I wondered about the three crosses. The chain was solid gold and very heavy. Soon he was butt naked with his back to me, facing Ruth.

I was in an apartment building that seemed familiar. It might have been the building where I currently live, but it was quite different. My upstairs neighbor had some kind of a leak, and I could see the paint on the ceiling of my apartment beginning to swell. I put my hand on the wall, and I could feel the water running under the paint. She came to the door, and we started talking. She seemed to be headed out somewhere - she was well dressed. After she left, I went upstairs to another apartment which was really large, with very modern stainless steel fixtures. The apartment was so large that I couldn't see the end of it - it wrapped around other apartments in the building in an L- shape. I went to use the bathroom which was also very luxurious. I was sitting on the toilet remarking to myself how nice everything looked.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What do I want?

I was talking on the phone to Hall from the SETH group today, and he asked me the following question: what would make me happy? And it set me to thinking. What WOULD make me happy? What do I want? If I could do anything with my life, what would it be? I saw the movie Limitless yesterday, and it was a reminder that Life is really wide open. We're so used to thinking along particular lines that we don't really consider that there might be another way of seeing things. We dismiss out of hand anything that does not make immediate rational sense. But, we can only be rational about what we know, and there's far too much about the Universe, Life, our own bodies, that we don't know to rely so heavily on rational thinking. It just won't get us very far. And then we'll die, and that'll be it. What would we have done? Spent our whole life thinking that this was all there is. It seems like a dreadful waste.

What does the Limitless Me look like? If I could turn on every now-latent capacity and talent I possess, what would my life be like? What would I be doing? If I were confident that the Universe backs me up at every step, what would I do? What does that even mean? The truth is that we don't know how our bodies function from moment to moment. We don't know what keeps our hearts beating, or what keeps the myriad processes that it takes to keep a human body alive going? We live by faith already from one moment to the next. Could we take that faith even further; how much further? How far will faith carry us?

When I asked myself the question: what do I want, here's what I came up with:

To be in a position, physically, mentally, and financially, to determine the direction of my life;

To have an experience of life from a much broader perspective;

To write or tell stories like Limitless that leave us wondering how much more we can be or do;

To have an opportunity to be in the company and to listen to the words of a wise person;

To experience the beauty of the natural world, and to capture as much of it as I can;

To perform from the depths of my being;

To believe that there are available solutions to every problem.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dream: April 12/13

I was singing in a choir - getting ready to perform the Messiah. We were rehearsing in what seemed to be a narrow room, all standing, all wearing black. One of the girls in the choir was near the back of the group, leaning against a wall, sleeping. Another person directly in front of me was talking while were singing. The conductor told them both, and a third person who I couldn't see, that they would not be participating with the choir at this performance.

I was at work, and was heading out to purchase West Indian food at a particular place on Madison and 33rd Street (there is no such place in real life). I could visualize in my mind, the cook preparing ochroe and rice, and my mouth was watering on the way there. I took a very strange route. I went all the way to the east side, walked uptown, and then made my way west again, all the while having this cooking vision in my head. I was able to see the street that I was on, as well as the place that I was heading to very clearly - one as clearly as the other.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dream: April 11

Judiette C. and I are standing on a corner a block away from the building in which we work. It’s dark and the streets are deserted. As we stand there talking, it begins to feel less and less safe. We see a man coming up the block, and we decide to go inside. We begin to walk the length of the block back to the office and we break into a run. There was light on the corner on which we were standing, but it’s dark along the way back to the office. We get to the building entrance where it’s light again. The entrance is all glass, and there’re a lot of people milling about. I overhear someone complaining about the heat. I think to myself that it’s 52 degrees, and not hot at all. At the bottom of a staircase near the entrance, I see Winfield L. talking to a woman. I get the impression that he’s interested in her. She looks older, and she’s carrying a baby in a carry-carriage. She’s wearing a white shirt and a black skirt. As I’m going up the stairs, she looks at me looking back at her, while Winfield is talking to her. Winfield sees me, but does not acknowledge me at all. I continue up the staircase which seems to be suspended in midair. Everything is well lit and modern. On the way up the stairs, I see Christine L. on a landing below. She sees me, gives me a curt nod, and turns away. At the top of the staircase, there’s a very small office. It’s locked but I have the key. As I open it, another man comes in dressed in a suit and tie. He makes a comment about the heat, and I tell him that I don’t it’s hot at all – it’s only 52 degrees.