About eight months ago, I concocted a plan to launch a fabulous career/life as a freelance writer and content strategist. I focused on my goals, took every freelance opportunity that came my way, started writing more, began laying the foundation of self-employment, and set a date to quit my job.
And then, after 13 years of sitting in an office doing “marketing,” I actually quit.
Here’s something about me: I’ve never not had a professional job — unless you count three weeks after I graduated from college and about four weeks after graduate school. I realize that makes me very lucky, but it also means that I’ve been very risk adverse, and quitting my job was not something I did lightly.
I’m not sorry I quit — My career in marketing hasn’t felt right for a long time, and I’ve spent years attempting to determine the next step. At my most recent job, I was teetering on the edge of a precipice — I was unhappy enough for long enough that I knew I was dangerously close to jeopardizing my opportunity to leave on good terms after six years of service that (I’m told) “exceeded expectations.” It was truly time to go. And so I went… on good terms and on my own terms.
It’s been two months.
I have no idea what I’m doing.
I wade through each day unsure of where the hours go.
When I worked in an office, the days dragged. In some ways, this is better — I’m not bored — but I’m not actually getting a paycheck for being busy, and I have a feeling that I’ve fallen into the trap of working harder but not smarter.
So what am I doing? I do have a few client projects each month. Still, I spend a lot of time applying to freelance or part-time or contract opportunities — emails and applications that apparently disappear into the ether the moment I hit send… Sometimes I start to go down the Elance path, but I don’t even know where to start… I consider, then reconsider, how to market myself and to whom.
I knew it would be like this — I knew it would take time to figure it out; I knew the transition would be rough, but I was so secretly hoping that everything would work out and the freelance life would be instantaneously amazing. Here are some of the myths that I let myself believe (while at the same time reminding myself that I shouldn’t believe them). It turns out I should have listened to myself — at least the part of myself that wasn’t coming up with a freelance fantasy:
MYTH: IF I BUILT IT (A WEBSITE), THEY (CLIENTS) WOULD COME.
Last fall, I had three freelance clients and a full-time job, which meant I felt like I was literally working around the clock. With three clients, I reasoned that I had a sufficient foundation and could expect a certain amount of income when I quit my job — then one of my clients closed her business, and a few projects didn’t pan out the way I expected. I knew this by the time I walked into my supervisor’s office to give my notice, but I figured, hey, everything will fall into place. I’m still waiting for those things to start falling.
MYTH: I WOULD IMMEDIATELY LOSE 10 POUNDS.
Welcome to the land of magical thinking. Why did I think this? I’ll tell you. I thought that once my pesky job was out of the way, I would spend every morning working on my fitness while sipping an ultra-clean, vitamin-infused, superfood smoothie in my suddenly-fitting-again Lululemon yoga pants. I would cook myself every meal, sit down at the dining room table, and eat mindfully — never again succumbing to the likes of Chipotle or Panera. All stress would melt away, along with a few pounds, because, you know, I would be living the dream.
MYTH: MY HOUSE WOULD BE CLEAN, MY CLOSETS ORGANIZED, AND THE LAUNDRY WOULD BE DONE FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN.
This was part of the point, after all — to function better as a family. And to me, functioning better means having a relatively clean and organized home, which is, I have learned, 100 percent impossible unless you LITERALLY spend all day, every day cleaning. The minute I think the laundry is done, my husband’s basket is full again (seriously, why does he need to change four times a day?). As soon as I finish cleaning the house, Emme comes home, pulls out 80 gazillion toys, spills her milk, and manages to smash crackers into the freshly vacuumed rug.
MYTH: I WOULD CREATE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE SCENARIO THAT WORKED FOR OUR FAMILY.
Ah… the myth of “work-life balance.” I thought I would have my day totally figured out with plenty of time for work, household management, and self-care; I would spend quality time with Emme from the time she came home from daycare to the time she went to bed, and then I would relax in the evenings. But mostly, we’re still just trying to survive and get to the next thing. And, I’m still sitting on my couch “working” late into the night. What am I even doing? Just like during the day, I’m not really sure, but nothing about it feels balanced.
None of this is to say I regret my choice, but it will take some time before I get this new life and career figured out. And maybe I won’t. Maybe it’s not the right choice for me — but at this point, I’d rather know than be sitting in an office still attempting to decide the next step in my life. At least that part is over.
Also, I would like to point out that I have made dinner more in the last two months than I had in the last two years. Small victories — I’ll take what I can get at this point.