As I briefly referenced, but didn’t really explain in my previous posts, I’ve found myself suddenly unemployed.
As a freelancer, it’s hard to be “unemployed”. You understand there are times when you’ll have more work than you can handle, and other times when the jobs aren’t there. However, my time working as a freelance writer has been filled with a series of fortunate happenstances that have allowed me to avoid the struggle and worry that many experience.
With my typical lack of humility, I thought this was due to some sort of talent on my part, as well as the tendency I have to approach any new project with extreme enthusiasm. Within a few weeks of deciding to become a freelance writer, I landed a gig with a company that taught me all about writing for SEO gigs, as well as putting out well-written content for websites. I applied for every “content mill” (places with plentiful projects that want you to write for virtually nothing, often for a penny a word or less, but pay promptly and are known to be reputable) that other writers were using. I was accepted at all of them. Bolstered by this success, I started to apply for jobs for which I wasn’t particularly well-qualified, having a month’s experience in the industry under my belt.
Two of them panned out, and became reliable sources of income that have enabled me to work for myself for the past two years. For awhile, they were even allowing me to thrive. I had sub-contractors working for me, because I had more work than I could ever handle. I eventually dropped almost everything, choosing to work full-time for a company that seemed to believe in me. There were people above me on the food chain that were full of praise and positive feedback regarding my writing. I was told clients were specifically asking for me. I was promoted through the ranks, and people in other divisions of the company sent me their overflow work. In short, I was very proud that I was succeeding at work.
Then, everything changed. Unfortunately, it changed right after I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, one that left me unable to work as quickly as I might have liked to for some time. Right after that, my roommate moved out with no notice, effectively doubling my expenses. I went from being on a path to improving my life and correcting mistakes I’d made with my finances and lack of focus to being beaten down lower than ever.
All of the sudden, all the people who encouraged and supported me either left the company or were told to leave the company. Everyone took a 60-70% pay cut. Then, the work dried up, turning my full-time job into something that paid less than working at McDonald’s. Unfortunately, being ill, I didn’t have the stamina to go seek full-time employment outside of my home—I still don’t—and it seemed like opportunity was just nowhere to be found.
I stuck with the company, even as new people were brought in, and more and more “guidelines” and “24 hour deadlines” were implemented for less pay. A “rating” system was implemented, as well as new editors brought in, and I went from being one of the most praised and valuable writers to crying because an article that earned me $3 was torn apart by an editor. To add insult to injury, my communication with the editor made it clear I was a far superior writer, and being judged by someone who couldn’t do what I do as well (or better) was a slap in the face. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t worthwhile anymore, why nobody praised me or rewarded me, why I couldn’t pay my bills, but didn’t have time to look for other projects.
Last week, I was late with an assignment. My last trio of assignments for the day was turned in 90 minutes late. My immediate superior told me that he’d made it clear that if I missed deadlines, he wouldn’t send me work anymore, so effectively, I was fired. I appealed this decision to one of the owners of the company, someone I thought was fond of me, but she wrote back a bland e-mail telling me she was sorry my immediate supervisor and I were unable to come to terms over these issues and she appreciated my loyalty and hard work over the past two years.
It sucks to be fired in a passive-aggressive way, one where nobody uses the word “fired”. You just happen to not receive work from your place of employment anymore. To be honest, I felt a little betrayed by this company. Once upon a time, I felt valuable and essential and as if working for them meant something. By the end, I felt thoroughly expendable, and I was.
I have a problem in life that’s consistent: I never know when to leave. I don’t know if it’s a fear of change (even letting go of something that causes me distress, like my former roommate, who was blatantly toxic to my way of life.), a belief that I can always make things better or that things will get better if I wait it out, or just a sense of loyalty. (I don’t have very many views that fall into categories like “morality” and “ethics”; I’m mostly a walking grey area. However, loyalty is something I demand from anyone wishing to be in my life long-term, and so I deliver it in return.) I stay in relationships long after it’s clear to me that things are over, that there’s no future. I stay in an apartment I dislike because moving is an expensive hassle. I stick with choices that don’t further me in my life goals or make me a happier person because I’m afraid the next choice will suck even more than the previous one.
At the same time, in other points in my life, I’ve been downright impulsive. I was reminded this year that I still have some of that quality lurking around in me. I seem to be an impulsive person who wants security, so refuses to let go of anything that resembles it.
I would love to decide I’m not going to work for the next year, that I’m going to travel and write my novel and step outside of my comfort zone and regain my health and focus on achieving dreams. However, none of those things pay the bills, and I don’t really have the energy to devote to all of those things, plus paying the bills. The end result is me stressing out over paying the bills, and wishing I could live a different kind of life, one where I was healthy and didn’t have to concern myself with frivolities like money and could view life as an experience, not an obligation. I used to live that way, but it came at a pretty heavy price. I am older and wiser and no longer have the luxury of viewing the world that way; responsibility has to be more important than dreams. Yet, living that way robs my day of joy, makes me feel so much older than I am.
I haven’t felt like me in a long time, save for little periods of time here and there where I realised “I’m happy because I don’t have to worry about the day-to-day obligations of life. I’m just living.”
Apparently, I’m a girl who needs to work for a living who was born to be either an aristocrat or a starving bohemian. *laughs*
I am anxious again, about finding work that pays the bills, about the future. I am anxious that time is slipping away from me, that my health and youth and vitality are disappearing. I am anxious that I am struggling so through what are supposed to be the best years of my life, and if I don’t do something, accomplish something soon to ensure my security in this world, I’m going to be a 70-year-old woman who has been cast aside, has no money, poor health, and nobody who truly cares. That thought terrifies me, because I didn’t spend my 20′s thinking about my future or building my career. All the things that truly make me happy are transient, insecure, valuable for the moment, but later just memories.
I have a supportive group of friends, people who tell me that I feel doors closing all around me because it’s time to make dramatic changes, to let go of what does not help me grow as a person. These people look at me and see potential I do not see, see a person I do not see. What I look at as a loss of security or a rock to lean on, they view as letting go of an albatross keeping me from doing something great and valuable.
I don’t have time to do something great and valuable. I am no literary genius, no celebrity, no great talent or beauty or intellect or charmer. I am just like everyone else, simply more lost. I don’t know how to live a life I love without starving on the street, because what I love is beauty and luxury and elegance and fun. In many ways, I am a frivolous person who likes being amused as much as possible. In other ways, I’m a creative and intelligent and highly sensitive person who loves thoughts and ideas and using my energy to create, instead of working for survival.
I don’t know what to do with my life. I wish I could do something I loved, that also gave me a sense of security, as well as some of the little luxuries that make life an experience. But I’m a grown-up; an ill person with seriously ill parents from which I am somewhat estranged. I know that I’ve been alone in my life for a long time; when all my friends had family to help them finance their dreams, set up a new apartment, or move to a new city, I was on my own. However, I can’t help but feel that someday soon, I’ll be even more alone, because the family that isn’t really part of my life won’t even be there.
The future frightens me. The uncertainty frightens me. It never used to, because I always thought I was young and had the luxury of doing whatever I wanted, and mistakes didn’t have consequences. I’ve learned otherwise, and as a result, learned to fear uncertainty. I am no longer young and out there “experiencing”; I’m an adult who is supposed to have goals and plans and stability.
I wonder why it is not in my nature to be that person, especially if I have gifts and talents and potential that others see in me. I don’t think I am lazy, because when I love something, I throw myself into it wholeheartedly. When I have an ambition, little can stand in my way. But I am largely uninspired; acquiring the tools for day-to-day survival doesn’t seem to motivate me as it does everyone else in the world.
I don’t look at life the same way everyone else does, I think. While some find this charming or think I am somehow interesting or unconventional or wise, I don’t know it serves me well in a practical sense.
I might want to permanently trade in my joie de vivre for practicality, or actively look to marry well. Yet, doing the first left me with an anxiety disorder, and I’ve failed at the second, multiple times. I seem to pass up opportunities that may provide me with the security I claim to want, in favour of independence and freedom, something I haven’t been aware until recently was that valuable to me. Yet, to be independent, you need the tools and temperament to survive independently. I don’t possess either.
So, again, what is it that I want to do with my life? *sighs*