Monday, April 24, 2006

Freelancing

More and more people I know today are freelancing. Chucking dead-end jobs which shrivel their souls for a life of choice, a chance to map out their own futures. It's a ridiculously frightening (and heady) feeling, stepping off into the unknown, without the security of a monthly salary to see what else is out there; to chart one's one course rather than living on automatic, brain on idle, heart shut off.

I remember taking this course after 11 years in the same job. It had become increasingly unpalatable, toxic even, and I remember once when I was ill continuously for about six months; one of those low-level colds that never seemed to get better. Not life threatening, but enough to make me miserable a great deal of the time.

Something had to give.

Stepping out in the unknown, in my case, involved going off to do a degree long postponed. A degree most other people could not see the use for, and which I, to tell you the truth, sometimes had doubts about.

Why was I doing it? It felt right.

That's not a responsible way to think? Responsible to whom? I was my own mistress, I could take off at a moment's notice if I wanted to, and frankly, what was I sticking around for? Did I think things were going to get any better?

A life bounded by grey horizons is no life at all.

Before I could go, I got tested all round. I had enough money to fund about three semesters (but what about the other three? where was that going to come from?). I usually like all these things hammered out in the beginning because I hate the insecurity of not knowing where the funds for tomorrow are coming from.

Here, my family came through for me in a wonderful way. I guess the Universe tests you and if you're serious about what you want to do, it steps in to help. I was incredibly blessed, but I do feel that having faith that it would all work out had something to do with it. If I had accepted my lot at face value, I would never have had the courage to go ahead. I would have remained in my job, miserable, sickly, feeling sorry for myself.

Another challenge was that I had no idea how I would fare in an academic situation. I had been out of school for so long, and my last encounter with it was not fortifying, to say the least. I had flunked my Form 6, the first time in my life, I flunked any major exam. I was just not a science student, and I remember the exact moment I gave up. I was busy writing one of the physics papers and I remember glancing at my watch and willing the time to hurtle ahead. I didn't want to be sitting in this chair, doing this. If I never saw another physics paper in my life, it would be too soon.

When the results came in, I was not very surprised, although my Mom, who could always count on me for coming in with a eleventh hour "save" was devastated. She decided that if I didn't want to study I could go out there and get a job.

So when I was all ready to go back to school, I wondered if maybe, I was not good enough. My first class which had to do with literary theory, confirmed my suspicions. I didn't understand what the hell it was all about. That week, I read five books to try and catch up and understand what that first chapter was. Unfortunately the chapter was on New Criticism, which of course, was too old and dated a theory to merit even a question for one of the essays, to say nothing of the exams. But it was a good exercise. Having read up on it, I realised that even if I was not yet up to par, I could always catch up. No sweat. I was good enough.

Anyway, the long and short of it was that I worked very very hard and aced nearly everything.

Then it was time to come home and I was filled with apprehension. Would I fall into old patterns? In Australia it was easy to wake up early and have a day filled with meaningful activities. Hours were not wasted in a million little nothings like battling traffic. What would it be like when I came back?

It was bad. And not. I remembered the traffic and had forgotten the people I loved. They were still here. Rooting for me. As for the rest, I would just have to learn to shut them out.

Naturally, the first thing everyone wanted to know when I got back was what I was going to do. Which newspaper? Magazine?

The thought of delivering myself up to one of those prisons of the spirit stopped me in my tracks.

So I told them I would be freelancing.

Freelancing? What a cop-out! Freelancing? How do you mean freelancing? Who are your clients? Freelancing? You mean freeloading. How long do you think your poor parents can afford to support you...

But the moment I started looking for work, I found it. I simply picked up my Rolodex and made a few calls. I had built up a reputation before I left and all I needed to do was work that reputation; reintroduce myself into the market.

So there I was, moving gamely ahead, getting immersed in my new projects, my spirit retreating to some grim corner. And someone called out to me.

He didn't ask why I had chosen the freelance route, insecure as it was, but affirmed that it was the best for someone like me.

"Yes, I understand that for people like you, it's about the time to do the things that matter - reading, writing, thinking. Don't think you could get that on a nine-to-five."

Indeed. And this from a venture capitalist!

I felt ashamed. I had decided to freelance because I wanted to free up my time for what mattered. And my days were simply filled with a lot of rubbish that didn't.

Crimson is the tide in my veins and it surges and ebbs. I want something I cannot have. I want something, something, something and I grow so big I disappear into a great steaming mass of longing.

Nobody sees the shadow in the mirror.

Or the people who draw skeletons in the sand.

4 comments:

goldennib said...

Wow, you are very courageous!

part-time buddha said...

I finished my degree late too, but not because I hated the tedium of the 9 to 5. I hadn't learned yet how bad that is, though I'm living it now.

When I applied to the University, I listed my major as undecided, but shortly afterwards I figured, "you know, the only thing I really care about is reading and writing. I may as well spend my money to learn to do those things better." And I did, though I'll admit that most literary criticism baffles me. I stick pretty much to Neew Criticism because I get that.

But after graduation I got a job at a library. I figured being around books would be good, and it is. But here's the thing: no one in this library really likes to talk about books. I mean really talk, talk until you get it, all the way through, every word, line, and passage firmly caught in the fist of your mind.

When you and I were discussing The Waste Land the other day I had to look up a few of the verses, and I became totally lost in that poem. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy that.
Chatting/blogging with you has brought this realization to the forefront of my consciousness, and I want to thank you for it.

(I tried not to make this so cheesy, but it obviously didn't work.)

Jenn said...

Nessa: Thank you, sweetie. Coming from you, that means a lot.

PTB: Wow. I felt the same way. I love to talk about poems or plays or novels, to dive into them, line by line, savouring in pure delight.

I could do that in Australia, arguing over what a single line means and whether Lear was more of a bastard than his two elder daughters, because we had essays to write and so everyone was interesting in brainstorming.

Over here, well, it's a little more difficult because there is no necessity propelling my peers to read what I read. They wouldn't be interested anyway.

So I have to say, I really enjoyed that interaction too. (Why is it when anyone says anything nice or heartfelt they immediately think it's cheesy?)

Btw, I looked up The Waste Lands (I stood in a bookshop and read it end to end, wishing I had you there to translate the various language ole Eliot thought of throwing in) and it starts with April is the cruellest month...the other Latin bit about Sybil being a dedication on the title page...

What do you say to that? :)

Web2earn said...

Hello and congrats for having such a well organized blog. I’ve been working as a freelancer for a few years now, and I gradually eliminated the flaws and mistakes any newbie freelancer makes. Here are some of my thoughts: there are plenty of freelancing websites that offer free subscription, so you can try your luck with one of those. Of course, if you want to have less competition and access to better paid projects, try a subscription paid web site. You can then select the categories where you believe you are skilled in. Ranging from coding, beta-testing, graphic and web design and going to translations, content writing and data base management, you will definitely find a freelance category that will go well with your skills.

I also wanted to put together a free guide for beginners in the online freelancing world – you can check it out by reading my guide on the pros and cons of online freelancing I’d be happy to receive suggestions as to how to improve my guide and informative articles.

Thanks,

Michael Rad
Webmaster of www.Web2earn.com