Freelance Journalist, Editor, Copywriter and Author – Dubai

The Lonely Freelancer

I’ve now been freelancing full time for about six months. Before I embarked on this latest adventure of mine, I had weighed up the pros and cons of working for myself. I, of course, was worried about the potential lack of work, not getting paid on time or at all, and not being able to keep myself motivated, among a few other things.

What I’m shocked to find, however, is that the one thing that’s become an issue above all is the one I didn’t expect: loneliness.

I’m lonely. Incredibly lonely. On most days, I have little to no real social interaction until the evening, unless I’m out interviewing someone or meeting a PR/editor. This happens a few times a week, but when you space these meetings out over five days, it becomes apparent that it’s not enough. The most interaction I have on the majority of days is the ‘hello’ I say to our building’s security guard (him and I are two hellos away from a Facebook friendship request. I can just feel it).

By the time my poor boyfriend comes home after a¬†grueling¬†day in the office, I’m so starved of social interaction that it takes everything within me not to pounce on him, cling on to him and beg him to never leave me again.

“If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company,” goes the famous quotation. Well, thank you so much, Jean-Paul Sartre. If that’s the case, I must be a complete asshat. I never thought loneliness would be an issue. Yes, I’ve always known that I’m a very social person who enjoys being out and about with her friends, but I’m also lucky to be completely comfortable with my own company.

I’m the woman who has no qualms about going to the cinema on my own. I’ll even happily take myself off to a restaurant for a three-course meal from time-to-time. I’ve also travelled alone and enjoyed every minute of sitting at the hotel bar on my own. It’s liberating and fun.

But I now realise that I enjoyed all this back when I had a full-time job, and therefore copious amounts of social interaction during the working day. I’ve also realised that over the years, I was always lucky enough to work with colleagues who were on the same wavelength as me – so much so, that many of them became some of my closest friends whom I still talk to today.

You take the daily interaction you have with people at work for granted. Take it away and you’ll find that you’re very lonely throughout the day. And you’re supposed to be working, so it’s not like you can take up a hobby that enables you to meet people. So what’s the answer?

These days I try to go to the local Costa coffee as often as I can (when their bloody Wi-Fi is actually working, that is), which somewhat alleviates the loneliness – it definitely helps to ‘sense’ people around you, which you don’t get when you’re sat in an empty apartment.

What pains me the most is that I love working for myself. I have the freedom I’ve dreamed of for years – if I want, for example, to do something non-work related during the day and then catch up with everything in the evening, I can do so. I can work where I want, on what I want, when I want! And, yes, staying motivated has been an issue, but I’m getting much better at working full days now. All in all, this situation suits me perfectly.

I’m therefore hoping that this feeling of loneliness is just temporary, because if it isn’t, I’m going to have to reevaluate my situation. I know the perfect answer would be to find a part-time job – but good luck finding one of those in the media in Dubai. The other answer is full-time employment, but am I ready to give up my freedom just yet?

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