Most people get a say in who they hire as a Personal Assistant. They conduct interviews, review resumes, and ask for references in order to find the most qualified candidate possible. And – the majority of the time – they get someone who will make their life easier and keep their work on track. Personal Assistants are invaluable. This is why people take so much care and time finding the right people to fill that slot in their lives.
And then there’s me.
My Personal Assistant? She appointed herself. Within a day of starting my freelance career, Tonks decided she was in charge of keeping me on track, managing the state of my desk, and “proofreading” all of my work. It sounds like the job description of any other Personal Assistant – if you don’t peer too closely into the details.
Keeping me on track? That means coming to get me if I spend too long on the couch in the mornings. (I’ve had ZERO success teaching her that fibromyalgia equates to slow movement and the need for a couple hours of NOTHING in order to function each day) It also translates to her following me if I get up from the desk to make lunch or chat with my husband. She’ll sit at my feet and scratch at my leg to order me back to work. (Demanding little demon)
“Managing my desk” is a generous phrase for things. If you’ve ever worked in an office setting – or in a clinic – you understand the value of quality pens. (You also know that one Pen Thief) Tonks took things further by stealing EVEYTHING. She’d roll pens off the desk, pat at and chew on them while I attempted to write, and steal the caps (Note: never get ink pens that require tops). She also swatted the shark teeth off the desk before moving onto her assault of Mini Tonks. And then she took to scaling the shelves over my desk. Her personal jungle gym, she decided everything up there belonged on the floor. (No need to worry about height when the bugger scales the book shelves in the den and even tightrope-walked over the curtain rods) Oh, and, of course, she extended these management duties to my desk chair. Any time I got up for a moment, she quickly co-opted the chair for her own. Even after we bought her a chair and set it up beside the desk (which she DOES use), she didn’t stop deciding to steal my chair whenever possible. You know – typical behaviors for a Personal Assistant. (I think she felt it made it easier to read my screen and “proofread” my work for me)
But as my client base started to grow, Tonks came up with a new (self-appointed) task for herself. One I’m not sure ANY Personal Assistant performs. Courtesy of family members living around the country (and one stationed overseas), she already understood the concept of Skype. And she knows the precise location of the camera on my laptop and Nook so she can push her face onto the screen and dominate the video. Well, COVID-19 introduced everyone to Zoom to replace in-person meetings.
And Tonks is nothing if not a ham.
The first time Tonks invited herself into an interview call, it was an accident. She always hangs out on the desk at some point in the day to get attention. And setting her aside? It only encouraged her to come back. Luckily, the client thought she was adorable and didn’t mind. But she’s a smart cat. She recognized words of admiration, AND she figured out where my line of sight kept going. When I noticed her sniffing the camera on my monitor, I knew I was in trouble.
And, true to form, she sat herself directly in front of the camera the next time the green light came on. (In case you weren’t aware? While they don’t see the same shades you or I do, cat’s AREN’T colorblind)
Since then, Tonks invites herself to participate in every Zoom call or interview I make. And even though I can’t figure out HOW, she also knows when I take a phone call that’s work-related. She’ll rub and bump the phone while I talk, determined to make her presence known. (I swear, I can hear her little voice shouting, “This is my Mommy’s Personal Assistant, and you WILL speak to me first!”) I can’t even attempt to “stealth mode” my way into these calls! Like a can opener, she can hear the light click on from anywhere in the house. And I’m left apologizing for the intrusion – and then sighing in relief as everyone gushes over how cute she is. (Secretly, I think she’s trying to make her big break. I don’t think she realizes I’m not speaking with Hollywood)
And if anyone ever doubted how smart Tonks is? She can tell the difference between a recorded video presentation and a live Zoom call. The adage “fool me once?” Well, that’s how it works with her. A friend of mine appeared in a virtual play set up as a series of Zoom calls. Tonks heard the sounds and came running, and when no one reacted to her standing in front of the camera (besides my husband and I laughing hysterically), she got annoyed and stomped off. So when I started working with Freelance Writers Den, taking courses with their bootcamps, I expected her to sit front-and-center when the recorded sessions popped up. But she’d learned her lesson. If I’m not speaking? She’s not interested. She only wants to hang around if there’s a possibility of the Tonks show.
Realistically? She’s the worst Personal Assistant a person could ask for. Of course, since I never officially HIRED her, I’m not sure how firing would work. And while there’s always an initial moment of embarrassment when she charges in on those interviews and calls? I also feel like she’s an important part of everything I do. Attempting to work without her around? I can’t imagine it. (And the day she was gone while she got her teeth cleaned? It felt surreal, and I ended up distracted the entire day)
As aggravating as it gets, retrieving shark teeth, ordering her to get out of the electrical cords, and tossing foam stickers on the floor to distract her away from pens (or interviews), it’s part of my daily routine. She keeps me from getting bored or stressed or even overwhelmed with my freelance career. And while she’s a hell of a taskmistress, she also knows when to get me to take a break for cuddles and nose-boops.
So while she might be a terrible Personal Assistant on one hand, she’s also a pretty fantastic genius on the other hand. As long as we don’t take into account the number of time she steals my socks in the morning.