The Existential Dread of Working from Home

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My delightful red desk, warped after too many pools of condensation, no longer entices me. The bulletin board and stacks of neatly organized files no longer spark inspiration. My pens gather dust as my notebook patiently waits for me to open it and become productive again.

I cannot. All I can do is stare out the window, brain fried and unable to disengage from thoughts of my bed. My chore wheel bleeds into my task list even though I try to keep them separate. There is no longer any wall between my home life and my work. And I am a passionate individual who enjoys her job.

And so the inevitable has occurred:

And I’ve realized that it defines my entire life.

A Bit of Stage Fright

I started working from home months ago, before it became a necessity. Being able to govern my work life was a revelation: I was much more productive, limitless even. I’d leave my house for only errands and fun, and that was the perfect balance for me.

Now that I’m trapped at home, it feels oppressive and suffocating. The warped red desk where I have spent hours immersed in the bliss of writing now feels like a torture device. It makes me wonder who I am and how dare I sit here working while so many cannot.

Existential dread is our fear of what the world holds in store when we discover that we are but actors on a grand stage. We can’t see all our castmates, we’re blinded by lights, and we don’t even know the end of the play.

The red drapes in my home are the stage curtains that mock me, a clumsy actor who doesn’t know her lines.

Too Late for the Worm

I attempt to get up early to secure the time I need to achieve my to-do list. But every morning is a battle with my snooze button, and the light filtering in through the curtains is anything but inspirational. It’s a reminder of the world outside my reach. It’s all I can do to drag myself out of bed for another fruitless day.

I didn’t use to be this way, I think to myself every morning as I pour my coffee.

If only I could roll out of bed with a spring in my step. I’d feel in control of my life, even during this controlled disaster. Work and life would go hand in hand rather than the former crushing the latter. Now, work is what I must do to deal with the … situation.

It was all so much easier when we could go outside. When there were boundaries. When work was my departure rather than my escape.

I remain half-convinced that if I did get up earlier, I’d get that darned worm.

Life in a Box

Life in a box is better than no life at all.

— Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

I’ve learned to appreciate the little things. The walk outside to get the mail. The steaming dark goodness of the coffee. The padding visits of my cats. And yet I cling to my home office. It’s where I need to be. My personal box. Even as the walls are closing in.

Am I a writer? I wonder, as I turn in another draft. What story am I telling? What story do I need to tell?

Working from home defined my life. Now, working has become my home. The work–life balance is a moot point. How can you balance what composes the same thing?

I am a writer, but not in the ontological sense. I’ve defined myself through my work. I write, but I am not yet a Writer. To do that, I need to learn to live.

My life is not pointless, I realize. I must relieve my mind. It needs rest.

And so I leave the red desk behind. I turn away from the red curtains and my dusty pens. It’s time for me to learn my lines and rediscover the joys of home. For now, I’ll shut the door to my office.

Written by

Writer by day, circus artist by night. I write about art, media, culture, health, science, and where they all meet. Join my list:

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