Blog / 2009 / In Defense of the Freelance Life

December 23, 2009

Working for an institution is like driving a car.

In certain cases, a car can make getting from point A to point B a lot easier, but, in order to do so, you usually have to stick to roads. Even if you go by the paths less taken, you’re still probably going to keep to well-paved routes. In an institution, breaking traffic laws comes with hefty fines, and vehicles require a good deal of maintenance. All this might be a little stifling, but once a person gets the hang of it, working for an institution can become second nature, and the speed and convenience of it can be thrilling.

The problem is that not everyone who works for an institution fully understands the responsibilities and dangers of driving. Some suffer from a kind of social road rage.

We’ve all seen it: their self-image expands to encompass the entire vehicle which is taking them places, and suddenly they don’t simply represent the institution but that they are the institution. They obsess about keeping their car from getting scratched or dented and drive their metal murder machines without concern for others. They truly believe that they are more important than other people just because the institution that they’re a part of can go “vroom-vroom” really loudly.

painted self-portrait
Gwenn Seemel
Artist as Contributing Member of Society
2005
acrylic on canvas
24 x 18 inches

I sometimes wonder if I chose to be a freelancer in order to avoid being the sort of institutional-type who gets road rage—too easily seduced by the possibilities of acceleration. Then again, maybe I work for myself because I prefer to make my journey at my own pace, instead of being forced to follow traffic. Either way, I’m very aware that, as the pedestrians of the social landscape, we freelancers are the lucky ones. We get to have our two feet on the ground.

UPDATE

October 6, 2014

There is now a video version of this post, inspired by some truly crappy behavior on the part of people who work for an institution.

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