Around seven years ago, the spouse and I moved into a mixed use, two-bedroom loft apartment in a mostly-industrial area of San Diego. To be honest, I never cared for the place. Every Thursday night, rambunctious, binge-drinking college students would remove the buttons for the elevator, smash the light fixtures in the hallway, or do pull-ups on the Exit signs until they dangled, pitifully, from their twisted, exposed wires.
The “luxury” apartment building did, however, have one ginormous selling point over the two-dozen flats we looked at: A Starbucks. Downstairs. Less than 20 feet away.
As expected, I became a daily patron. I would roll out of bed at around six, shower, slip on some jeans, and head downstairs. Putting on makeup? Sub-optional. After a few months, the real problem was not just that every barrista knew my name or exactly how to make my fave drink, but that Starbucks became my ONLY trip outside each day.
For a lot of telecommuters, the more you work from home, the more things outside seem further away. For many, it's like moving to suburbia from the city. The longer you stay out on the fringe, with the good schools and manicured lawns, the more the city seems darker, grittier and more unsafe.
If you're getting trapped in a bubble of your own making, but you're not quite sure if you've crossed the threshold into hermit territory, here are signs that will confirm your suspicions:
- When someone knocks on the door, it feels like a fire drill
At my last apartment, even in a building with a safety set-up that would rival Fort Knox, people frequently knocked on my door. Sometimes they were soliciting tanning discounts, sometimes they came to check fire detectors, but each time the doorbell rang, it sent me into a flurry of mirror-checks and shoe hunts.
The grand solution was getting up every morning, cleaning myself up, and dressing like I was going into an office. Do I put on hose, a skirt and heels? No – but I prepped enough that I was able to answer the door within one minute instead of three.
- When you go out, you stay close to home
After making Starbucks my one-and-only hangout beyond my desk, I began to expand my outer circle of travel. Did it help that everything I needed – from a hair salon to a FedEx to a market - was within 300 feet? Absolutely not, but I forced myself, every other day, to go someplace that required me to walk or ride a bike.
It wasn't just about the distance, but about fresh air and sunlight and interacting with people beyond Skype, phone, social media or email. I did something that didn't involve emoticons. If you have the same problem, start with baby steps. Go out one day a week, and then two. I found that the local Farmer's Market was a gateway to going out more often. If you have one around you, I strongly suggest you make a visit.
- Someone threatens to tow your car
When I first moved in to my building, I knew two parking-related things would make living so much easier. One, I could park downstairs, practically under my balcony. Two? No street sweepers. I assumed I could leave my car outside for perpetuity, but that was until I found that my car looked like I had been off-roading, the battery was practically dead, and someone had left a snarky, passive-aggressive note on my windshield saying that if I didn't move my beloved Hyundai, they would have it towed.
At first, I was indignant, trapped in a “how dare you?” spiral. Then I realized that my car looked completely abandoned and if I saw the same car, I would have left a note, only with stronger language and much better handwriting.
If you can't remember the last time you drove, and you've practically forgotten what your car looks like, it's time to drive, even if it's just up the street. It's true: Gas prices are insanely high. If you can spare the cash, just get on the road.
Just like so many things that require ongoing maintenance, a marriage, a home or a computer, your work-from-home life needs upkeep as well. Even if you have to write yourself reminder notes, go out, get some sunlight, and join the land of the living. Your complexion - and your car - will thank you for it.