Monday, February 15, 2016

What I Never Wanted

Last year, when I wrote about stumbling into the next phase of my career—self-employment, full-time freelancing—I did mention a couple times that this wasn't something I ever wanted. In fact, it's not even so much that I never thought about it... I had thought about it, and decided that I didn't want it. But yet, by the fall, there I was: self-employed, a full-time freelance writer.

For a while, it was pretty easy to convince myself that I ended up there out of ambition and excitement. But with a few months under my belt, and a lot of time spent reflecting, I now know more accurately what drove me to take that massive leap: misery. I had been absolutely miserable at work last year, and getting rid of the boss/office format was the only way I knew to break out of that misery.

My misery came, surprisingly, mostly from one place: excessive, unrelenting, soul-sucking fatigue. I have had insomniac tendencies my entire life, and particularly when facing extreme stress. And insomnia feeds extreme stress, and round and round we go.

Last summer, I received my first job offer in more than three years. It appeared the only possible way out of the publishing company I'd worked at for that whole length of time. By July 2015, I despised my job. And, for reasons still unbeknownst to me, my boss despised me as well. He could put on a decent act, but during a happy hour this week with previous coworkers, it became perfectly clear that I am the single most hated employee in that company history. Even moreso than a person who actually defrauded the company out of thousands of dollars. And I have no idea why. I showed up every single day, did my job, did other people's jobs, filled in gaps, was nice and kind to my colleagues...and yet I was disrespected and demeaned daily. When the receptionist was getting a bonus for, I dunno, lasting 6 months on the job, I repeatedly worked late, took on double or triple the work I should have, dropped everything for a new project and met obscene deadlines, and it all went by without even a high-five in acknowledgement. You can't blame me for being miserable there.

The offer came, I gave my notice, I left. I then explored the offer a bit more, and said no. Not fully impulsively, mind you: I had interviews lined up and a meeting with a recruiter that went well. I had some cushion and plenty of faith.

I ended up on assignment on a cool job, but the environment, again, made me miserable. And not in your regular old, "Ugh, commuting is annoying! Ugh, the coffee here is gross!" kind of way. In the "I'm averaging two hours of sleep per night, and the minute I leave this office daily I want to cry at the very thought of coming back tomorrow" kind of way. I don't believe that life is meant to be lived that way. It can't be. And at 25, 26, I'd battled too much horrible shit in my life already to be okay with self-inflicting misery like this on myself.

Have you ever operated at full capacity on 2% battery? That's what insomnia does, and it can ruin a life. It was coming close to ruining mine. Nothing was enjoyable outside of work, because every move I made and breath I took was overshadowed by the knowledge that I'd have to go back and spend the majority of my day in a place that made me feel so bad. And I was beyond exhausted all the while. Fighting for your happiness when you haven't slept in weeks is not an easy thing to do.

I leaped because I felt like if I didn't, I would decay from the inside out. I didn't decide to go freelance because I was seeking a specific kind of job freedom, or early retirement like so many others who choose that path. I just wanted to sleep, and have my creative process respected, and work efficiently when I was able to rather than stare at blank computer screens for hours before my mind was awake and whirring, or while my very career was being slandered and regarded as unimportant. I wanted to be able to work and to do my job well, and no full-time employer was letting me do that.

And now after 4 months of freelancing, of being screwed by clients, of having payment delayed by U.S. mail and payroll departments who for some reason need 30 or 90 days to write a check, of hustling up to 60 hours a week pitching and emailing and getting paid for a quarter of it, if that, I'm done. I didn't want to do it in the first place, but I figured it would be fine. But while it's been doable, and was almost even worth it for a few weeks, it's still not giving me the life I want. Or the security I need. I'm still not fulfilled or satisfied and I'm still being treated like a floor mat. I'm envious of friends who leave work at 5 p.m. and actually leave work behind, mentally clock out. I'm envious of people who actually know when to expect their next paycheck.

It's been a complicated 8 months. I don't think I regret taking the leaps I did or the choices I made that led me here. If I hadn't, I would still be unhappy at work, but I would be unhappy in life too. At least today, everything else feels good and the only thing I would change is my job. Last year, I couldn't see the forest through the trees and everything just sucked and felt bad because work made me feel so bad. At least I'm not there anymore. But I'm in a different place I don't want to be—and a place that deep down, I always knew would not be permanent.

Now, on this side of the forest, I'm ready to be done with this phase of life. I know I'll never be the type of person who just works one 9-5 job, because I'll never stop being the person who's passionate about side projects and loves being on the ground floor of amazing things. I'll teach yoga classes for as long as they let me. I'll edit and manage the Bad Yogi Blog for as long as they'll have me. I'll edit Feather Magazine as long as it exists. And I'll stay with two side writing projects as long as it continues to make sense.

You were hoping this would be exciting and climatic, right? That I would announce a new job I'm excited about, a new position that's going to help me have my life back? Nah, no such luck. But I do have irons in the fire and I'm hustling just like I did last year—maybe harder—and trying to find the next best place for me. Who knows how long this search will take or where it will lead? Definitely not me. But I'm desperately ready to find out what's next. And hopefully, what's best.

15 comments:

  1. Making that kind of decision is always brave and I hope it generally pays off in the long term.

    It does pay off in the long term It's just scary.

    Working somewhere you don't want to be will waste your life.

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  2. I'm so sorry this season of life isn't giving you what you need. I still think it was not only amazingly brave, but necessary for you to leave your old job, but I totally get the "Okay, but...what now?" feeling. I'm sort of panicking too, like going back to school was how I escaped my soul-sucking job/life, but now I feel all this pressure to find the right job that I'm not going to hate and just like...how exactly do I do that? I'm afraid I'm going to end up feeling the same way I did before and then the last 3 years will have been a waste.
    But anyway. I can't imagine how hard it is to freelance and not really know or even be able to trust when or how money is coming in. I don't know what the answer is, but I hope you find it soon!

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  3. Irons in the fire are better than nothing! I think we all stumble through a phase in life where there's this hatred for what we're doing, hopes for something better, and struggling to figure out something better and how to get there. I'm still going through it! But at least you're not complacent with the same old same old, and you're moving in the right direction!

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  4. It hurts my heart that you remain to be disrespected and stepped on. I hold you and your writing in the highest regard, and if I had the headcount and the salary for you I'd make sure I kept you the happiest and most fulfilled employee that ever stepped into my life. Keep believing in what you deserve, you are entitled to it. <3

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  5. this is what life is all about - trying, sometimes failing; sometimes succeeding. you learn what didn't go right and try something different. it'll all come together soon!

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  6. well this is just as exciting, even if anti-climatic (which it wasn't lol). i think it's exciting to take that leap, do something, realise it isn't right, and change your mind. so many people do things because they are afraid to admit they hate it or made the wrong decision.
    i'm sorry about the insomnia, the crappy clients and payments, not getting enough sleep or being able to put work aside. i really wish and hope you find the job that is perfect for you and fits perfectly in your lifestyle with all the things you want to do.
    your old boss... what an ass.

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  7. I came to the conclusion yesterday that I'm tired of hustling. I'm tired of freelancing. I'm tired of all of it and I just want to go back to a 9-5. I had a possible lead and I reached out that that person and I'm hoping that it comes through because it would make my life so much easier.

    I don't mind having side jobs. I don't mind working hard. But freelancing is not how I want to spend my energy anymore so I completely, 100% understand where you're coming from.

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  8. I admire your honesty and candor. I respect the way that you seem to be self-aware and attempting to make changes in pursuit of fulfilment and happiness. I am a person that tries to figure out what lesson I am learning even if I'm in a place that I know I don't want to stay. You seem to be that kind of person too. So, I hope you are learning valuable lessons, and when you find your next place in life, it is a place that values and fulfils you. You deserve it.

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  9. I'm so proud of you. No matter what happens, you have to be looking out for your own health and happiness. I love following along your writing career, and I know as well as anyone that we did NOT pick the easiest path. I also know that eventually we'll make our millions in the planner industry, so there's always that to look forward to. ;)

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  10. There is no reason to be in a job that makes you so miserable--and insomnia on top of that! I can't even imagine! You're taking your life into your own hands and should be proud of yourself every day for it :)

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  11. I feel you so much on this... on work in general. There is absolutely no point in being miserable while you're working, regardless of where it's at or who it's for (even yourself). We work too much (or most of do anyway!) to be miserable while we're doing it.

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  12. It sucks that you haven't quite found the answer yet, but thank goodness you're not still in that terrible environment and (hopefully) getting some sleep? And if freelancing could be an avenue to getting life stuff together and give you the freedom to find the non-freelance job you want, then it's served a purpose even if it's not want you want to do long-term. You're going to find the right career option! I'm sure of it.

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  13. I often think I would do better at like three or four part time jobs. You might be the same, given how you operate and how your process seems to flow.

    Unfortunately you had to be miserable one way and then another way to say well let me try a third - but that's sort of what life is to me...a series of changes made for different reasons, one very valid one being misery / self care.

    Good luck and may you be open to what the universe is sending your way, because the universe HAS to have heard you are protecting your health and happiness and will surely deliver something that will be mindful of that.

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  14. You know what you don't want and you know your self-worth, and you're striving to get it. Many people stay in bad situations (work, relationships, etc.) because they either just accept it as their fate or are too scared to move on. I admire your resiliency and creative as you strive for something more, something better, even though things haven't been working out. You'll find something that works for you soon! And hopefully sleep better too!

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  15. Sometimes taking the leap IS the next step. Rather than just accepting things "as is", you've chosen to do something different - and that takes guts.

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