I'm trying to figure out what the fuck my problem is, so I took a long walk this morning to try to clear my head. It seems obvious, now that I've had time to think about: work has been more chaotic than usual lately.
My usual circumstances, as far as privacy and autonomy go, are fairly good: I work in an office with three other people. Our desks are equipped with tall partitions. None of our tasks are usually related. As long as we're all working at our desks, I can work at my own pace and have time to think and goof off.
But for the last week or two, things have been changing. One of my colleagues is moving to a different position in the same organization. Since she's been training somehere else, my colleagues have had to pick up some of her duties, which means they sometimes need to ask for my help with some trivial task. I'm happy to help them, because they're just as annoyed at the situation as me, but it means my baseline anxiety level has been raised several notches.
People have been in and out of the office at a fairly regular pace, or walking around the office talking to each other. I have my headphones so I don't have to actually listen to their conversations, thank god, but it still puts me on edge to be observed. I'm getting my work done but I still feel an obligation to look busy, even if none of my immediate colleagues particularly care what I'm doing. I can't relax enough to daydream, and certainly not enough to actually write.
The workflow I've settled on is this: I write in a web-based markdown editor. I can't include anything that would be traceable to my online presence, in case I'm being monitored, but I can get the skeleton of a post down and add links and stuff later. That way I can only conceivably get in trouble for writing on the clock, and the worst they can do is tell me to stop. I save the post outline as a text file, copy it to my phone via USB, and either fill in the missing details and post it, or wait til I get home.
If I have a few hours in the morning where everyone's just working at their desks and I have some mental and emotional breathing room, this goes pretty well. If people are milling about and I have the looming threat of interruption, I'm constantly on edge. Not only can I not write, I can't even do the daydreaming required to think of something to write. If I have my markdown editor open, I can plausibly look like I'm working, but if people are walking back and forth by my desk, there's always the fear that someone will see my screen and ask what I'm doing, and I won't have an answer for them. It's not likely, but try telling my anxiety that I shouldn't worry about unlikely events.
I feel like the whiniest baby in the nursery, because I know my job is so easy compared to most of the viable alternatives, but the fact is that the only way I can have a chance of feeling happy and fulfilled is if I have a job with enough quiet alone time to think about and do what I want to. When that's not the case, I can deal with it, I'd survive, but I wouldn't be able to do the blog. Or anything else I care about.
I'm going to keep the blog streak going, because I believe the state of things at work will get back to normal, but if it doesn't, I might end up having to put it on hold, in which case I'll refund the sponsors the part of their yearly pledge for which I wasn't able to hold up my part of the deal. This is why I'll never be able to do a patreon or try to hustle enough for "quit my job" levels of income—there's absolutely no guarantee that my job will continue at a level that will allow me to deliver what I promise until I get there. I can't get the momentum to take off when the runway is full of holes. They could come to me on Monday and tell me I have to spend my 8 hours a day digging metaphorical ditches from here on out, and I'd have no choice but to do what they say, because to refuse means potential homelessness. And if I do find a different job, there's no guarantee that wherever I manage to get hired will be any better.
I've just barely made it to the fourth level of Maslow's pyramid, a few times, but from that point on, it's just too steep. I inevitably slip back down. I'm not in the category of people who get access to psychological pitons and grappling hooks, so that's gonna be my lot in life, it seems.
So yeah, work sucks, welcome to the club, we meet at the bar, yadda yadda yadda