Honestly, what is happening
When it comes to my career, I grip the reins pretty tight. I like to feel in control, on a path, and very sure of what’s next. I am afraid of uncertainly, and any lack of firm footing. But in 2018, for the first time, my career felt like a mad pirate ship captain was at the helm, wheel in one hand, bottle of rum in the other, and a saucy parrot on his shoulder giving me the stinkeye. I just had to cling to the starboard side.
In the past, losing a job or leaving a job without a new job or even considering a risky plan were all one big mental nope. I am a grown woman with an apartment, law school loan payments, and a reproductive system — things in my life need to be in order. But this year, no matter how sturdily I thought I was building my professional fortress, something huffed and puffed and blew it to rubble.
I’ve had four jobs this year. One it was time to leave, one that was simply wrong, one where my skillset wasn’t as needed as expected, and one that used to terrify me. And the entire time that was happening, I was, and am, job hunting. A lot of shit’s gone down, and I have no reason to believe “the shit” is over. I’ve made changes because I wanted to, and changes because I had to. It’s been unpredictable and unexpected, like a year-long case of the hiccups.
Every time I tried to make a “good” or “smart” decision, 2018 Ursula-laughed in my face and said “aw, how cute—she’s trying.” Sometimes I half expected my career to wake from defeat with neon ice-blue eyes and a hunger for human flesh. I couldn’t seem to get it right, so I started making decisions that had always seemed wrong. Quitting without a new job? Freelancing full time? Really expensive out-of-pocket health insurance? Sure, let’s give all that a try.
This year never a had a “settled” feeling. Nothing felt settled, or resolved, or worked-out in 2018. I never knew what massive life change awaited me behind the next email. Operating in this gear for an extended period of time allowed me to notice that living in stress and fear will only get you insomnia and an impressive collection of wine corks. Who knew?
Typically I’d spend a period of uncertainty and constant change as a ball of carbonated anxiety, grasping at any solution within reach to stop what I always thought of as a plummet. But every twist and tumble in 2018 felt different than in days of careers past: I wasn’t afraid of them anymore.
It’s as if embracing chaos almost gave me an appetite for it. Leaving a job, for any reason, doesn’t feel like failing. Downtime doesn’t feel lazy. And not having rock solid professional foothold doesn’t feel like death tapping my shoulder with an ice cold scythe. On the contrary, now I’m kind of curious about what’s going to happen next.
I don’t know if it was so much constant change that did it, or the fact that none of my efforts to course correct worked, or if it was a product of being older and having an actual savings account. But something glitched the matrix and suddenly change and uncertainty became freedom and possibility, and my anxiety (about this anyway) became curiosity, and a feeling of being open.
Right now, I am a freelance copywriter and digital content producer with clients from all walks of the internet and a recurring series on Refinery29. I start writing before 7am and I don’t have to worry that it’s freaking anybody out. I am two steps from a pitcher of iced coffee. I run errands before rush hour. I seldom wear shoes. It all feels very freeing. Which is amazing, considering even the thought of freelancing used to feel like I was on the precipice of destitution. I am very much in search of a full time in-house role, but I no longer feel like I have to find one, or else.
Freelance work is inconsistent. It’s unreliable. It doesn’t come with health insurance. One year ago today those truths would have reduced me to tears in a puddle of my own expired Metro cards. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, and I think the gift that 2018 gave me, apart from Avengers: Infinity War, is the ability to stop seeing uncertainty as failure, and start seeing my professional future as infinitely possible.