Just over a fortnight ago,on a whim, I applied to do a top-up training course. Today, I completed the first week of intensive workshops. I'm pretty shattered and tattered but it's been most interesting, for a number of reasons.
The biggest shock to the system was learning to commute again after a 6-year hiatus. Although I'm naturally a very early riser, I fought daily against the excruciatingly loud digital bleep of my alarm clock at 5.30am. On at least 2 mornings I was sorely tempted to roll over and crash out again. I don't know why this is - my insomnia frequently wakes me that early and I'm happy to get up, stick the kettle on and crack on with work. But I dislike jumping straight in the shower, deciding what the hell to wear and putting my face on for the day while it's still dark outside. Catching a bus at 7.10 is anathema, sitting on a crowded train even more so. It's bearable - just - as long as I have a large carton of coffee, a paper and don't have to talk to anyone. By today, I felt I'd just about got the hang of things again - nicely in time to unlearn them.
People. I'm naturally sociable, but equally like my own company and frequently crave solitude. This week has taught me that freelancing from home can definitely turn one into a misanthrope. Working largely alone for so long meant I had to learn to work in a team again, something long since forgotten (and, truth be told, after my last spell as a staffer coping with a colleague who was literally bonkers and made my team's life hell, something probably best left behind). I had a huge midweek bust-up with one of the other trainees, inevitable under the circumstances. It was resolved next day but it's served to remind me that in Q110 I'm probably going to have to button the lips that are normally left to speak as bluntly as they care to.
As for the rest, it was hard not to be aware of the age gap between myself and the other gang members. Interestingly, I was way ahead of them when it came to the geek stuff. Although I'm probably an early adopter, I generally expect 20-summats to be ahead of me there. So it was with some surprise that I discovered that 10 years of blogging, plus proficiency in Facebook, Twitter and a bunch of other social media stuff put me furlongs ahead. I was bored and a little frustrated, therefore, during the first couple of days while we were taught how to blog and exploit social media platforms. In the latter half of the week, I did learn new stuff - how to make a digital movie and audio slideshow, for example.
For me, the most bizarre bonus was undoubtedly the unexpected friendship I seem to have struck up with an investigative journalist who dropped in to teach the group how to dig up information on the deep web. A lot of the workshop was, again, stuff I already knew from doing this kind of work in the past but we not only had that in common but also some other things. We swapped cards, Facebooked each other and before you could shout "publishing deal" we were mooting the idea of writing a book together. How weird is that? No weirder than spending 2 hours in someone's company and feeling like you've known them for ages.
Some other points of note: I've had so little free time this week that I've been coming home to a mountain of email that I've had less than 2 hours to sift through in the evening, dealing with the urgent ones and mainly deleting the rest before collapsing into bed. I failed to put the bins out. I cleaned none of the house. The boy was undoubtedly very unhappy at being locked in all day for 5 days in a row. I was so tired one night I overslept the next morning by an hour (yet miraculously still managed to arrive at the course only 5 minutes late - don't ask me how). I was also so tired that I cancelled several evening social engagements I should have showed my face at. Just how do ordinary people manage all these things? I have clearly lost the knack and I'm wondering just how I will cope with 3 months of this when a mere week was evidently such a struggle.
I have a month's respite now, a month in which I have 2 books to edit for clients, plus do my other regular freelance gigs and somehow psyche myself up for returning to the external workplace for 3 months. Scared? You bet. Cocky? Damn right. Somehow I just know I'll pull it out of the bag even though it will more than likely be through my usual combination of winging it, bluffing it and shitting it.
What I really want to know is where it will lead afterwards. But that's another story. So stay tuned...