togetherness is happiness

[think kit. day eighteen.] BROWN LINE // CHICAGO — Independence should not beget loneliness. Often, it does.

I work very much on my own, checking in periodically with my editors in New York. Even with those regular calls, it’s just me here in Chicago. I work remotely, which is a fancy way of saying I can work in my pajamas and have a very productive day without ever leaving the house.

It’s a wonderful luxury to have the option of working from home. When it’s your only option, it’s stifling. That’s how it is for me, at least. Upon starting the work-from-home thing, it quickly became clear I wasn’t well-suited to sit in my apartment with my dog all day, my only human interaction coming in the form of short phone calls and emails.

That’s why I joined a community space in Indianapolis after three months of slowly going crazy in my “home office.” My life instantly improved. That was in November 2013, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made, both professionally and personally.

Fast forward to July 2014. I moved from Indy to Chicago, and despite the abundance of coworking spaces in the city, I wasn’t eager to join one for a very simple reason: Cost. I was looking at spending five to 10 times more money on a space, which I wasn’t willing to do.

That is, I wasn’t willing to do that until I realized I couldn’t do my job in my apartment. The distractions, the loneliness, the confinement — it quickly closed in on me, to the point I would break down in tears every time my dog started barking at me. Not a great work environment.

It didn’t take me long to commit to a new space and return to that happy contentment I felt at the Speak Easy in Indy.

I’ve worked in half a dozen cubicles and had one office to myself before going remote, and I’ve learned this much: My regular workspace must include others in order for me to be productive. It’s funny, because my current situation is both my least and most favorite: I can only work from home for one — maybe two — days each week, otherwise I start to feel trapped. As such, I usually go to NextSpace everyday and work in an environment where creativity, conversation and coffee flow freely.

There’s something remarkably invigorating about working alongside smart, productive individuals who happen to have nothing to do with your professional life. There’s camaraderie without the politics or arbitrary boundaries that fracture conventional offices. I get to hang out with my friends all day, but there are no hard feelings when you say, “I have shit to do, so leave me alone.” Everyone does. It’s a workspace.

I highly doubt I’ll spend the rest of my professional life in a coworking space, but the experience will certainly play a role in how I navigate my career going forward. I’ve learned so much about myself and my work style. Thus far, it’s been worth every dollar.

[think kit. dec. 18 prompt: Have no fear – no numbers needed here. Who (or what) made a difference for you this year? Were they cognizant of their effect? Did it add to your life…or detract? Was it a momentary encounter? A year-long helping hand? Someone who took a chance on you, or vice versa? What would’ve changed if you’d had to go without, or go it alone? Imagine the alternative scenario.]

{image: the view of the NextSpace River North office from the Chicago/Franklin Brown Line platform.}

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