Working from home for the most part of a decade has proved to be productive in a creative sense, but has also taught me things over the years about observing the difference between being alone and being lonely.
There is a depth that can be accessed from quiet, familiar, homeliness. But it’s important sometimes to reach out and be with people.
Offices are wonderful places for filling the water bottle or dunking the teabag and putting the world to rights. I use my local library for this as the librarians are kin to me. I also get the bonus of departing with a book under my arm - one that will speak to me and keep me company when I need it later.
This morning I chose to have a slow start with human company, and got chatting to our two local librarians about Britain’s split from the European Union.
One of the librarians – a volunteer – was from England. We talked about Government assistance, handouts, and the feeling of resentment among folk who’d worked continuously and fed their tax into the system while others seemed to collect it like an unquestionable birth right (or EU perk).
As a writer and lowly-paid journalist seeking flexibility over money, I’ve had tough times (cue the scarcity comparisons: ‘That’s nothing! We were so poor we boiled a leather belt to make soup’). But when irregular work flow felt like a pinch, I have always shied away from collecting a benefit.
I cannot say this isn’t a judgement on those who do. Apart from anything it would invite criticism because there will be a time that I’ve forgotten about. We receive working for family tax credits, which is a euphemism for a benefit, but one that I feel comfortable admitting to (because you work to get it, right?).
But I do not intend to imply that people who receive benefits are less than me. I am no hero. I probably wouldn’t be entitled to it anyway. My version of going without is laughable. I am probably in the top five percent of the world because I can still afford to buy a bag of organic coffee, and whenever I haven’t been able to prioritise this and outwardly lamented it, a friend has bought me a bag.
As a woman, it’s likely that when I worked for corporations, I wasn’t paid what I would have been had I been born a male. But apart from this, you could say my playing field has always been level.
My reluctance to even know if I could claim any benefit has more to do with how I feel when I’m in the building that you have to enter to find out. I would rather accept hand-me-downs from friends than risk believing I cannot make enough money from doing what I do.
To admit that it’s tough to feed my family as a self-employed wordsmith might knock my confidence, and when you work at the edge of alone and lonely, confidence can make all the difference.
If you're spending a lot of your day in bare feet, then chances are you have found the kind of balance that Hook & Arrow writer Alison Smith has found in life.