If I had to decide what I missed about working a real day job during my years as a home office freelancer, I would say with all certainty that it's the amenities. Sure, being able to steal office supplies is nice, but that's not what I mean. I missed the little classes, the seminars, the workshops all provided for free, under the philosophy that, employees who are also fulfilled people will contribute more to the company, longer.
Whether you believe that's true is irrelevant. But I missed the little seminars and talks that were provided to me by some entity at no charge, and now that I work in an academic setting, the pickings are even better than your garden variety corporate time management class. After all these years of working in a vacuum, I feel like a whole new world of knowledge has been stuffed into tiny, poorly air conditioned conference rooms, and served up for me and whomever else has a free hour and the desire to consume as many as three different kinds of refreshments. It's a beautiful thing. I say that, of course, after only seven months or so on the job, but let's let pessimism court itself for a while.
I've already been to talks on the future of digital publishing, parenting, conflict management, and today's gem: Art therapy. It's my favorite so far, hands down (scroll down for the pun). Today, a little slip of a young art therapist taught us the restorative properties of creating mandalas, an ancient and sacred art form known for its healing properties. Under her gentle tutelage, we took a crash course in the mandala--Sanskrit for "circle"--and its origins before getting the chance to make our own. "Try not to think about it too much." she said, as a latecomer came in and took the last seat next to me. "Remember, you can't get it wrong,"
As we all got down to work with pieces of black paper and white pencils, the woman next to me mumbled and fidgeted with her supplies. She adjusted and readjusted her chair. "I don't think I can do this in front of everyone," she said.
At last, she put some scribbles down on paper, and asked the therapist if it was OK to look at other people's work. "Of course," she said. "And if you see something you like, try it yourself." It's the way inspiration works, she said. "Sometimes the most personal image is the one that's copied."
At the end of the class, everyone held up their art, except for the nervous woman next to me; she left early. Everyone looked proud, and restored, and totally psyched about the leftover lemonade. Here's mine. I can't wait to take it home and finish it--in secret, of course, as any art supplies in eyeshot immediately become the property of a certain five-year-old who is already proud to make art in the presence of anyone who will sit in the same room.
*See also: Fart Proudly, by Benjamin Franklin.