By Guest blogger: Reed Wade <reed@typist.geek.nz>

I have no idea why I kept coming to the meetings. It seemed like a cool idea that I wanted to support even though I knew I’d have no real use for it–a co-working space in the suburbs with some sort of social good angle. But it was a good way to force myself out of the house to meet others in my community. So, I kept going to the meetings. I tried to help out in tiny ways and at least to not get in the way.

It was very clear I would never have a use for it. I was working 50+ hours a week at Weta Digital where, for data security and other reasons, you pretty well need to be in the office in order to work. There was a bit of work travel as well–not a lot of spare time. If I did leave Weta, I would pretty quickly switch to some other office style situation (that’s what I’ve always done) — so, definitely no plausible use for a co-working space.

Meanwhile, the persistence of Kathleen and Charmaine and rest of the team bore fruit. While I was distracted with other things suddenly SubUrban CoWorking came true and had an indoor space and desks and electricity and people and all the things.

Very cool. Still not useful to me but very cool to see that come together.

And then, quietly, something happened in me. I began considering a job switch. I seem to do this about every five years. When assessing my options and opportunities and desires, I was able to factor SubUrban into the mix. Having a place I could drop in, have a coffee and a gossip and get some typing or study done was enormously empowering. It allowed me to put a whole swath of concerns in the “not a worry” basket and focus on deciding what my next steps would be.

After a few months of turning things over I decided it was time to step away from Weta and take at least 6 months off to do unplanned things and learn new software dev skills. Then I’d probably drop into another standard software dev job.

It was only later that I noticed how enabling Sub Urban was in making that an easy decision. It’s worth noting I was quite happy at my job, it wasn’t a case of needing to get away from it. It was the pull to explore other options and refresh my self that motivated me. Having an in between place to land made that more doable.

Curiously, I find a strong parallel in the New Zealand public healthcare system and it’s led me to thinking of SubUrban as my own little social mental health insurance.

To explain:

I’ve lived most of my life in the US where access to health insurance has been only effectively available to those with long term roles in medium to large companies. This makes it risky for someone with a family to go out on their own and start a small business or change jobs without a plan for the next one. You can’t buy insurance because the rates charged to the self employed are absurd. The normal solution is you send your spouse to work at some large company so you’re covered under a family plan. Otherwise, you have to worry that maybe you get in a car wreck and now you’ve got a $100k hospital bill. It had been the case that you’d lose coverage when switch jobs but that’s improve–just so long as you don’t want to take a year off.

I understand things have improved since I left but that was the system in play for most of my professional life in the US.

When I came to NZ I was struck by how empowering and relaxing it is to simply not have to worry about this.

And, so, that’s why I think of Sub Urban as social mental health insurance. It’s my coffee, gossip and typing safety net and it enabled me to improve my life.

I didn’t take 6 months off. After about 3 I started working remotely for Artella.com (a collaboration platform for making animated films). I’m the only NZ based person on the team. I’m having a blast and splitting time between home and Sub Urban. I didn’t think I would like working in a distributed team but I do.

You can find me at Sub Urban most Mondays and some Fridays and some other days. Feel free to visit and chat with me about software development or visual effects movie making or NZ/US compare and contrast.

– reed