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Freelancing and the Fear of Loneliness

Be afraid, very afraid, then move on…

I started writing this blog post about a week or so ago, then paused when I thought there was a more timely topic at that time – tackling the blues of late Winter. Ironically, as I sit down to write this one week later, the loneliness topic is undeniably and bang-on timely.

Here’s the thing. Loneliness is a major factor in being a freelancer or remote/gig-economy professional (look at me talking all millennial). It always has been. It has been a key factor in my decision, more than once, in choosing to work for myself or for others in an office environment. And I can tell you, I have no regrets. Why? Because I’m an excellent decision maker? Um, not quite. It’s because I’ve gotten pretty good at preparing myself for a challenge – fear based as it may be.

It’s just how I deal with scary things I cannot or should not avoid. I’m lucky that way I guess, but it is also rooted in how I saw my Mom deal with challenges all my life: stop avoiding them, understand them as best you can, and have the faith (and a bit of confidence) to trudge forward aware of the ‘devil you know’. She found faith in religion, I have meds – same diff.

Why I find the loneliness topic so timely is thanks to this now-unavoidable Corona Virus, AKA COVID-19 phenomenon. I’d hoped to avoid any personal commentary on this evil virus, but it borders irresponsible not to. Alas, I promise to keep it to a minimum – Something even my real-estate guru friend couldn’t avoid in his quarterly e-newsletter this week. Ugh.

With the latest news in Ontario, Canada, now just about everyone is forced to seriously consider working from home. Something my recently retired friend remarked I’m ‘SO ahead of the curve’ on. But seriously, this is a THING, and I anticipate some interesting observations, learnings, and trends to come in the next while. Not the least of which will be the trials, tribulations and realizations of the those not only new to, but forced into, working from home and the loneliness factor that comes with it.

In the meantime, I’ve done some digging. You know that process of preparedness I mentioned above? Google is an excellent enabler of that, good or bad, you decide:

As usual, it turns out Wikipedia had the nugget I was looking for:

“Loneliness is often defined in terms of one’s connectedness to others”.

This is perfect. Here’s why I chose it over so many other options. It’s objective. Not presumed to be positive or negative. In fact, the word itself is pretty new – dating back to the 1800’s – and only gathered a negative connotation over the past 50-ish years… something about The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby… but I digress.

The word comes from being ‘alone’, in solitude, therefore not to be assumed as bad. In fact, it’s the opposite of ‘crowdedness’, so there you go.

Being alone is definitely a factor in being a freelancer who works at home, therefore we should be aware of a likely heightened need to connect. The need to connect is fundamentally human, so just be prepared to exhibit, and satisfy, your basic human need.

Consider this your vaccine against fear and loathing in working from home. From your certifiable non-expert in preventative self-care. Here’s what I know, from a variety of working experiences, and humbly share.

The Two Sides of Loneliness

Loneliness the Ugly

Loneliness is everywhere: The feeling we all know as feeling sad and alone comes less from being by ourselves, and more from feeling disconnected. Often, having others around us only intensifies the negative emotions associated with this way of thinking. So don’t fall into the trap of associating alone time with being socially disconnected, especially today, when connectedness is just a thumb swipe away.

Loneliness is self-imposed: The negative aspect of loneliness comes from our own choice to disconnect and shouldn’t be defined by (or blamed on) the physical state of being by ourselves.

Loneliness is often in disguise: Loneliness the Ugly, as I call it, often manifests in ways that we don’t typically associate with sadness or feeling disconnected. The vulnerability brought on by feeling isolated can often be other nasty emotions like fear, anger, or guilt. These are the things that cause our disconnection and lead to the ugly side of loneliness.

I know, pretty bleak, but like any vaccine, I needed to inject a bit of the poison, so you know how to fight it. So, now I’m a doctor? Just work with me, It’s all good from here.

When we take the ‘bad’ out of the basic meaning of what being alone can be, meet:

Loneliness the Good

Loneliness is YOU time: No one to manage you and your time but you. Alone time means time to think, time to do, all how you choose to do it. Can I say ‘you’ again?

Loneliness triggers connection: Like I said before, needing to connect is the benefit here, so get out there and connect. However your preferred means – coffee, beers, facetime, are an old-school phone call – you now have the time and liberty to make it happen, with the people you couldn’t make it happen with before. You know, with all the meetings, commuting and traffic bullshit. No. More. BS.

Loneliness is self-discipline: No, not for everyone, but also not always by choice (I know that feeling), but if managing the what, when, how, and even why of your career, is important to you, this is an excellent way to test your ability to make it happen on your own terms. Welcome to potential bliss.

Loneliness is empowerment: Oh yes, sisters and brothers. No more excuses, this is a major step in owning it – your (new) life as a work-from-homer. Leader of one, It can be all about you.

I’ll take Loneliness for a thousand, Alex.

Hope this helps. Hang in there Pausers!

Now go wash your hands, stay home, and be careful out there.


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