Breaking Up is Hard to Invoice
February 10, 2004

When you meet for the first time, you go through your closet, pulling out all sorts of outfits. Do you go for hip and professional or smart and classic? You stand on one leg and judge the effects with high or low shoes. You don't even know where you're being taken for lunch, so you agonize whether a vintage jean skirt and black tights are too casual for the the meeting. Is a hat ever a good idea?

You carefully brush, curl, and finger your hair so it looks natural but not too unkempt. You put on enough color to brighten your face and hide your imperfections, but not so much that it looks like you will be expecting a paycheck that can support a raging Tarte-M.A.C.-Smashbox habit.

Once you're there and they spring the company family on you, you fervently wish you'd worn the superfine suit instead of the slacks. But with a cup of coffee in you, you stun everyone with your background, ideas, and industry witticisms.

The relationship goes well for a goodly amount of months. You and the job are never out of each other's company. You wake up thinking only of the job, you go to bed thinking only of the job, and you find yourself dreaming about the job. You can tell that the job is just on the verge of proposing something more permanent -- a long-term engagement or your own office. You even start making big plans for the future -- a car, trips together, maybe even a house.

Then all of a sudden, the emails and phone calls become less frequent. You have time for the job, but now the job doesn't have time for you. You analyze the "letting you down easy" email, giving you the typical It's-not-you-it's-me-we're in-a-hiring-freeze-can't-handle-commitment line and immediately call a girlfriend for even more analysis. The two of you come up with a carefully worded response, geared to make you sound breezy (not needy) but still trying to ask the "What did I do wrong?" question without actually asking it.

You wait for the phone to ring but don't want to wait for the phone to ring, so instead of watching the clock when the phone doesn't ring, you make an effort to busy yourself with other things. Washing dishes, you think you hear the phone ring so you immediately shut off the tap and listen intently. When it turns out it was just the sound of water splinking the glasses, you sadly turn back to your task and think longingly of the time when you weren't waiting by the phone. You recall when, in the early flush of commerce, that job didn't give you a moment's peace.

You realize that you gotta get out of the house, so you go for a walk and start thinking about other jobs that are after you, wishing you felt the passion for them as you do for this One Perfect Job. You can't live without this job. You love this job's pay, location, history. You know, deep down, that you and this job are destined to be together and that if you leave it alone, give it some space, the job will come to that same realization and want you back.

You see that you have new mail, your heart speeds up as you gulp it quickly down and then go back to take it all in careful, smaller sips. It's not as bad as it seems -- the job just doesn't have time for you now, but it also doesn't plan on seeing other people. It still wants only you, it just needs to get other things in order first. You're relieved but lonely for the job. With fond remembrances you go over all the things you did together. You've collected papers, notes, and layouts in a pretty little manilla folder and think about how it was all so new.

In the meantime, chocolate to heal the freelancer.

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