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Homework is not that easy

May 21, 2013
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

One of the advantages of folks having access to the Internet at home is that some of us can work right at our own dining room tables. Working at home, or from home, makes life easier for some people.

Working from home allows some of us to live in the Adirondacks when in earlier days it would not have been possible. It allows us freedom from having to "drive to work" every day, regardless of fickle gas prices. For some of us, it reduces the overhead of having to buy professional clothes for everyday wear. We can stay in sweatpants and sweatshirts, wear flip flops or sandals, and even be able to get the laundry done while downloading research material.


Advantages abound

In some respects, working from home sounds easier than going out to go to work. If your child is sick, you are not in a quandary about how to take care of him or her. If your car needs to be repaired, you are not penalized for arriving at your desk late; dropping off a car and finding a ride to work often are handicaps. And if office gossip and difficult coworkers were tough for your concentration, voila! What you have instead is just the quiet of your own refrigerator humming and the sound of the mailman dropping off your mail-no copying machine cacophony or endless phones ringing. Seems like a great exchange, doesn't it? Almost too good to be true, some say.

I've been lucky enough to have it both ways. I've been able to teach at North Country Community College a few days a week while working from home on the others. Here is what I've learned: It's a tough job to be your own boss. It's tough to prioritize the "work" you ought to be doing when the plumber shows up, needing someone to go out and dig up the ground around the septic tank. My own work slips below the surface when we have to get the snow tires exchanged with summer tires, when the doctor changes the time of the appointment, or when the garden needs to be tilled and planted before the black flies infest the air.


Helping get the job done

Sure, deadlines are helpful. And phone calls on working issues require that you must be near pen and paper or computer when you answer the phone, so taking a portable phone out to work in the garden with you does not count as "working from home." Don't let anyone tell you differently. You have to treat your "at home" work as you would if you were "at work." For some, that makes the job challenging.

Where I live there is no cell phone reception. For many people, that in itself would reduce the daily distractions of texts and phone calls. Instead, I check my email accounts up to eight to 10 times a day. Of course, much of what I'm expecting is related to work, it's just that a bit of it is not. I want to know about what's going on out in the world I'm avoiding by working from home. I am, after all, a social creature, even as I cling to my "hermit" appellation. We all are, to some degree, if you really think about it. We want to know there are others out there, like us, moving and going about their days.


Obstacles to success

In the past week, while "working from home," I did not accomplish a single full-day's work. I helped a friend take his cat to the vet, some 40 miles from home. I played chess with my friend Bruce who is recovering from a stroke. I kept three doctors' appointments. I cleaned out my car, which had begun to smell like spoiled milk in the warm sun. I put out my hummingbird feeders and began to watch the parade of the recently returned tiny birds to my backyard. I went for a walk every day, and meditated, sitting on a big rock in the woods, closing my eyes, relaxing with Mother Nature's smells and sounds all around me. I went off in search of the songs of the thrushes. I wanted to be outdoors more than anything I could think of, especially after such a long drawn-out winter.

By and by, pressure mounts. Deadlines look like they are coming to me, rather than me going toward them. Blackflies have hatched and swarmed, and now land on exposed skin for the jab. My inner boss just stood at my metaphorical office door, arms folded, glaring at me with my guilty face and dirt-encrusted fingers. Even though it is Sunday, it's time to go to work, no excuses. Just as though I were at work, in an office with fluorescent lights overhead and phones ringing behind other desks and doors, I have a job to do.

The sight of apple blossoms bursting into life will not deter me. The kitty litter needing to be cleaned will not deter me. Needing to plant kale seeds and potatoes will not pull me outdoors and away from the computer. So even though working from home is easier for some people, and the list of advantages is huge, people like me are so drawn to being outdoors in the beauty of an Adirondack spring day, I can only say the word "easy" is not always the same for everyone. And yes, my fingernails still have garden dirt under them. That is the easy part.


Randy Lewis lives in Paul Smiths, and is the author of "Actively Adirondack: Reflections of Mountain Life in the 21st Century," Adirondack Center for Writing's People's Choice Award for Best Book 2007.



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