My room with a view

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Road in Tahiti
Paul Gauguin’s “Road in Tahiti”

I’ve been working from home and my favorite coffee shop for a few years. I co-opted the shorter side of my family’s sectional couch for a while, working from my laptop, my supplies and files in a laundry basket easily swished away when visitors came calling.

Though far from ideal, it was all I had. And I was working in an area with seven windows that streamed light and provided me an ever-changing view.

Then I bought myself a small desk for a corner of my dining room, near a large, lovely window.

This, I told myself as I scraped along looking for work, this is the life: working with a view.

For years, as a newspaper editor, I had my own offices, all remarkable for their miniscule size, just large enough for a desk and two chairs; none had a window. So I provided my own view: a nicely framed print of Paul Gauguin’s “Road in Tahiti,” one of my favorite paintings, a breathtaking symphony of color and shape that transports me to a relaxing, inspiring place.

I love it so.

When my position was “eliminated” in March 2009, I hung my beloved print in the dining room of my house, confident that at any moment there would be a new office in which it would happily hang.

I sent out résumés and waited.

The weeks after my layoff stretched into months and then years. Résumé after résumé produced nothing. In three years, I had not a single job interview.

On the advice of a friend, I rewrote my résumé so my age and prior job responsibilities didn’t make me sound too old or too expensive to hire.

Still nothing.

The only thing to come from my job search, truly, was the realization that I am an optimist. There’s something to be said for the value of optimism — which sometimes feels a lot like beautifully blissful ignorance.

But that was me. I spent three years in the depths of the Great Recession, certain that right around the corner was the perfect job that would be mine, employment that would rescue my family’s battered finances and put to use once again the skills I have.

But that job never came.

While I waited for my next job, I did what I do: I wrote. I found unpaid, minor success on a national blog site.

For so many years, I wrote a weekly newspaper column. Whether I wrote poop or pearls, the column ran because its space needed to be filled. I never knew whether people read me because they sought me out, or because I was there.

When I started writing with no guaranteed space or readership, I had no idea how I would be received. Though I made not a penny from writing on that site, I learned a lot, including that people would read me, not because they had no other choice, but because they chose to do so.

It was a powerful, affirming lesson. At a time when my job search was its most depressing, knowing that I could produce something people wanted buoyed my spirits.

I began freelancing. I helped launch LivingstonTalk, the predecessor of The Livingston Post. I used that experience to help businesses launch their own sites. I taught myself WordPress and I learned some basic coding. I taught adult writing classes. I ghost blogged. I wrote copy. I birthed The Livingston Post and kept it afloat.

Then, a year ago, the perfect part-time job came my way, and I began spending some of my time in an office again.

Whether it was timing, or the good karma of working a job, or the harmonious convergence of my optimism and skills, work came looking for me, more work than I’ve had in years.

I continued using my little desk at home, and I claimed half the dining room table out of necessity. My work baskets multiplied. I felt as if I were swallowing all the space available in my little house.

Something had to give.

As I considered what I could do, along came a wonderful new office opportunity.

newdigsI am excited to be moving into the Frontal Lobe Coworking building on Grand River Avenue, smack dab in the heart of downtown Howell, just two doors down from Uptown Coffeehouse, which served as my unofficial office for so long.

I am now sharing a beautiful, big office with a fellow freelancer, with whom I’ve collaborated on some projects. I bought an inexpensive desk, and moved in my lumbar-supporting chair and computer. This office doesn’t have a window, but it has a beautiful brick wall and warm, wood floors; it also has the perfect place to hang my “Road in Tahiti.”

This optimist learned another valuable lesson: The job I was waiting for never existed. For me and so many others who lost their jobs in the Great Recession, the days of full-time jobs-with-benefits for an employer are long gone.

What I was really waiting for, I’ve learned, was the motivation and faith to create my own “job,” in addition to my own view.

About Maria Stuart 71 Articles

Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse.