On being a self-employed acupunk on Labour Day.


In Canada and the US, today is Labour Day, an annual holiday to celebrate the achievements of workers, e.g. the 8-hour work day. I’ve been thinking this week about various crappy jobs I’ve worked; jobs which required a lot more than 8 hours a day of work, working for people who felt entitled to get the most out of my labour for the least amount of remuneration or respect. It has been an enormous blessing and sweet relief to escape from crappy customer service jobs and seasonal employment to work as a full-time community acupuncturist in the last two years. Being self-employed in my situation sure hasn’t involved less work, but it’s allowed much more meaningful work, and a lot more choice about who I work with/for, and who I don’t.

What I’ve realized in the last week though, is that while I was technically self-employed as a full-time ‘punk, it actually felt at the time like I was working for some really great bosses – the clinic owner at Poke, the executive director at the mental health services center where I ran a NADA group, program coordinators at other addiction treatment facilities. They were warm respectful people, very appreciative of my efforts, and yes, this does have something to do with me being treated as a middle-class professional as opposed to as a minimum-wage shop assistant or a temporary forestry employee.

Having left those acupuncture jobs to move across the country and open a CA clinic in Ontario, this feels more like an experience of being self-employed – and at this stage, I answer only to myself.

I note two things:

1) This is damned lonely. I can’t wait for the CA 101 workshop in Toronto next month. I can’t wait to open the community acupuncture clinic and start working with other people every day again.

2) My current boss is a jerk.

She talks like she’s got this keen critique of capitalism, but she expects her employee to move across the country and hit the ground running with barely a day to unpack, let alone find their way around a totally new city or navigate the complexities of suddenly living with a partner after months of a long-distance relationship. She greets me first thing in the morning with “WHY HAVEN'T YOU FINISHED THE BUSINESS PLAN??” and makes passive-aggressive references to aaaalllll the time I had on the train between British Columbia and southern Ontario when I could’ve been working on sales forecasts and cash flow projections. She expects her employee to be self-taught and fluent in Fundingapplicationspeak after a morning of reading on the interwebs and impugns their intelligence when this proves difficult. She seems to think it's possible – and advisable! – to put energy towards checking out downtown storefront properties for lease, getting on to website development, developing marketing strategies, and building community in a new & unfamliar place, all in a single day. She’s got oceans of empathy and patience for patients and co-workers but, bizarrely, very little for her hardworking, totally dedicated employee.

Morale has been low at times.*

So here’s to taking a break from Market Research and SWOT analysis this afternoon, raising a glass of iced tea to the workers, and thumbing my nose at crappy exploitative bosses everywhere. Including and especially the one in my head.

Happy Labour Day, everybody.

*Rereading the first draft of Tungsten helps with this.

Lisa B.
Author: Lisa B.

Lisa prefers fireflies to fireworks, reverts to bluntness in stressful moments, would happily wear legwarmers year-round, and probably wants to be your friend.

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  1. Lisa: I’m so sorry you’re working for a jerk. That’s why I’ve been self-employed for most of the last 25 years. Working for jerks sucks big-time. Any time you want to hang out out at my clinic or do some shifts call — I realize Kingston is far from your first choice destination — but I’d be glad to have you.
    What are your plans for opening your clinic in Guelph?

  2. Nothing like having your head on the block to give her/you new perspectives. As a boss myself, I’m always hoping to be able to see things from both sides- but then to remember which shoes I’m standing in. It’s been hard sometimes, but it’s gotten easier with practice.

  3. You had me for a moment there, Lisa! Very well put… I love your blogs! I definitely have that boss too – so good at being kind to others! Look forward to meeting you next month in TO and having your clinic grow nearby. Ontario needs you!