Commitment Phobia

It is 8:45 am, Monday. I am soaking wet from an unseasonable snow the sky coughed up, that has blanketed the city with cold, profusive slush in the air, on the ground, on our coats, coating the walls. In short: it’s gross outside.

Inside my umbrella cocoon, gulping the watery coffee I bought in the biggest size possible this morning, I am nervous. I’m excited. I’m mostly anxious. Today is the first day of my new job. It’s a contract I got for my business Pedalogical, but this one is different from past contracts in that it is billed as “full-time, seasonal.” The way they explained this to me is that I am expected to work full-time for them from the start date (today) until the end date (August 18th).

This is filling me with the fear of God. I am absolutely terrified of full-time work. It makes my organs break out in hives. It makes my colon shrivel. It makes my breath shorten and my skin tighten. It gives me corporeal claustrophobia.

Why am I so scared of this? Why am I a commitment-phobe when it comes to work? I”m certainly not lazy. It’s not the amount of the work – it’s the location.

If this is what it's like when I get there, I'm running.

If this is what it’s like when I get there, I’m running.

One of the main reasons I left teaching was that I was controlled, temporally. I was not allowed to leave the building between 8:00 – 4:00, regardless of whether I had anything to do, whether I had finished my work, or just wanted sunshine. Even if I had fulfilled all my teaching responsibilities, made all my materials for the next day, and was literally sitting at my desk with my coat on for an hour waiting for the bell to ring, I was idiotically not allowed to leave the building. I was also told when I was allowed to sit or stand, when I could pee and when I couldn’t, when I was allowed to eat or drink water, which room to be in at which moment, every day, unrelenting. Other people didn’t seem to be as bothered by this, but for me it was anathema. It made me so depressed and angry, I can’t even tell you. It was, eventually, what actually made me leave the classroom – I couldn’t take it any more.

And now here I am, signing up for a job that is asking me to be in the office from 9:00 – 5:00.

Well, to be fair, it’s only for today that I’m going in from 9:00 – 5:00. For the rest of the week it’s unclear. In an email to me, I was told by my new supervisor (which is also weird to say) “be expected to generally work a 9:00 – 5:00 schedule during the time of your contract.” Well, to me this means that I am working for them eight hours a day – but that might mean a meeting off-site, or working on a presentation from a different space. I even asked during my interview whether it would be OK for me to not be on-site all day, every day. They said so long as I was transparent about it, it shouldn’t be a problem – that sometimes they, too, work from home – but my terror around this is so great, the panic of an animal who realizes it’s unwitingly stepped into a trap covered by leaves, that I have convinced myself that a) they were lying, b) I misunderstood or misremembered, or c) they’ve changed their minds.

But here’s another thing to remember. I am a professional. I am an adult. I have grey hair all over my head, not just at the temples any more. That counts for something, no? I get my work done. I’m not going to get in trouble. They’re aware that i have other work that I’m doing, and I have been transparent with them. I do not need to ask for permission to use the ladies room. And if I do, I can always quit.

So today we shall see – is this productive exposure therapy which will allow me to get over this fear and do some really interesting work? Or, is it a big mistake, and I’m becoming an indentured servant to the master whose grasp I wrenched myself away from so difficultly over the past four years? Will the structure make it easier for me to do my civic work, and will the job itself be interesting enough to make up for the sacrifice of freedom? Or will my volunteer projects further fall by the wayside, and will I have foreverhives on the inside of my heart until August 19th?

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2 thoughts on “Commitment Phobia

  1. Corporeal claustrophobia = my new favorite phrase. I completely understand why the thought of a full-time job with a “supervisor” is terrifying, but I bet (hope?) that after an hour or so in the new space, you felt a bit better about things? Looking forward to reading the follow up 🙂

  2. Oh hi, soul twin. I freak out about this all the time. I freak out about doing even things that I love full time, or on a totally regular schedule. And then I freak out when I go too far to one side and don’t have enough structure. Although I like my tasks to be structured with clear goals and outcomes, but the way I do them totally autonomous.

    I often think that for someone who does an immense amount of good stuff, it’s kind of hilarious how freaked out and boxed in I feel by “work” when it’s classified and structured as such.

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