I took these photographs on Saturday after an entertaining day in which I attempted to work in the late afternoon. At first, the pattern coordination of my Zou Xou shoes and the retired beach chair in my dining room called me. An opportune time to take pictures of a spontaneous connection that would otherwise go unnoticed. As I pulled the chair out, I noticed the sand wedged between the plastic fibers that fell out. The chairs had failed to be shaken properly. Queen’s sand fanned over the living room floor. I looked further in the dining room and noticed the bags I also managed to not unpack from a few days before the beach trip. One small sleek black suitcase, and two little backpacks. I sat there to write about something entirely different, but what I mostly wanted to type out was an observation of one scene folding out of so many other happenstance ones.
It brought me to this moment of anxiety I had been sorting a week or so ago.
The kind of anxiety that doesn’t overtake you, but that sits quietly in the belly of your body, waiting for you to no longer ignore its presence. The kind of anxiety only settled with writing things down and checking them off.
Unlike the beginning of the pandemic, days aren’t melting into one. The sun shines and I wake up new. But because I have time, opportunity, ideas and plenty to do, they become revolving days in which work and life desegregate into mere split seconds. The writing I sit down to do, can be thwarted by the cleaning that I needed to undertake. The cleaning I did not undertake, monopolized by the idea of what I managed to not do with work and life throughout the days and weeks. And so it can go if I let it. No matter the hands at play, the objects of life move like jigsaws. Things get done. Many don’t get done. I set out to try anyway.
The task of working from home (or not), within our careers is one I imagine is on the mind of lots of folks lately as a summer boom rounds our days.
That same week of my anxiety, I decided that when the kids end school, I’m going to take a real week off. The kind of week where I give folks notice. The kind where I don’t pay a bill or answer an email. The kind I know I need. The kind that I know needs me. The kind where children are not involved, because at this point, that isn’t a break to me. (Although I love them deeply.) The kind of break where my body, my work, and who I am after this pandemic school year meet and assimilate.
This decision made me think about how others may be navigating their summers. Whether they work for themselves, or other companies. All of my friends’ scenarios differ tremendously. Some grow tired of their work-from-home lives, and are excited to be in the presence of others. Some are moving on in different directions. And others like me, will continue on in the same space, hoping to engrave a different work-space-feeling for a very different time.
Inevitably, there’s a great deal of work-space conversations in the media lately, too; whether to return, to leave, find a ground in the middle, and how many are coming back exactly, of course. And there are countless troublesome headlines that get my goat. “Why does the media continue to conflate “desire to succeed” at a specific company with “professional ambition”?” my friend Anja wrote today. “Plenty of the employed mothers that I know have exceptional career ambition, though they are constantly painted as “distracted” or “unavailable” and frequently marginalized because of those projections.” She went on to share that “This narrative also totally undermines the level of ambition it took for mothers this past year just to stay adjacent to the status quo while the world literally collapsed around them, regardless of whether or not they were employed. Why can’t we make it past this condescending, reductive narrative that only sees mothers as partial human beings with limited success in systems that continue to evolve in ways meant to undermine them?”
I imagine no matter if women work for themselves, others, return to work or stay at home, we’ll be sitting with this resounding lag in bodies and simultaneous problematic messaging spewed from headlines for a while. While many of us lost our jobs, many of us kept them. While many of us left—for one reason or the next— we remain. All, still quite as ambitious as before. I’d argue, as ambitious as ever.
As an accountability task at hand—one that excites me and soothes me—I’ve been sending word count texts to myself like Roxanne Gay. For the past few days, these texts have served as a reminder of everything that’s being done that I can’t see. And of course, as insight of the goals that I continue to keep.
How’s work lately on your end? And how are you feeling about summer, womanhood and the conversations about our post-pandemic ambition?