Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fear of Writing

I quit my job just over two weeks ago, and while the bustle of Christmas and New Years kept me distracted for a good chunk of it, I'm back at my San Francisco apartment, where the days are inching toward mid-January and reality is quickly setting in. A very different reality, one where I can sleep in, make an elaborate breakfast and have the apartment sparkling before CJ comes in from work.

As for the middle chunk of the day—after the elaborate breakfast and before the tidying up process is imminent—your guess is as good as mine. I've intentionally been slow-playing the job hunt, although my strategy could use some work. The idea of being unemployed and draining my savings puts a lump in my throat, but its because of that fear that I picked a job so frivolously the last time. I choose jobs today the same as I did when I was 18. You'll hire me? That's good enough for me.

This last job was a deserved and needed slap in the face. I can remember being told in college that job interviews should really go two ways but I never quite understood it. If someone is willing to hand me a paycheck every week and provide health insurance, I'll be damned if I'm asking them what more they can do for me.

By my count, I've worked 12 jobs since the age of 14, and for the most part they continue to get better, simply because experience and education have opened up greater opportunities. There are probably few places as incredible as San Francisco when it comes to opportunity and benefits, so to see the kinds of careers my friends and boyfriend fall into has really opened my eyes to how much better it can be, if you push for it. That's the biggest difference between them and me. Asking for it, expecting it, pushing for it. You spend so much of your life at your job, after all. Being selfish and particular about it suddenly doesn't seem so crazy.

The last time I was hunting for a job was only a year ago, and I don't want a track record of bouncing around or becoming bored easily. The job I had prior to that I stuck with for three years and enjoyed. I learned a lot about myself and the career I'd chosen. My reasons for leaving were pretty simple and I'd imagine common: the audience I was writing for was a niche group and I was ready to expand, and I knew I could find better pay elsewhere. Our CEO was reasonable but frugal. So I began looking, and very quickly had two job offers on my plate. One was a startup and a much bigger risk; the salary was a slight jump from what I was making, with potential for growth depending on hitting certain goals. But without much intel into the company's resources and current stats, it was difficult to know just how far-fetched those goals were. Bigger risk.

The second job offered lots of opportunity for travel, a much higher pay rate—and one thing I knew I wanted to check off my bucket list before it was gone entirely. It was a print magazine, and whether it's a dying skill or not, I wanted to know what went into producing a print publication. I wanted to be able to look back and tell people I worked for print once. I understood it. Sure, it's working backwards, but it's a shrinking opportunity that I may never have the chance to do again. So I was all in. The travel was amazing (and instantly turned me into a hotel snob), the pay was comfy, and I quickly moved up to oversee the editorial team. I won't get into all the hairy details, but I'll say for every pro, there were five cons. Some of which I would have noticed had I asked any questions during the interview process. Real questions, not the fluffy stuff you find when googling "interview questions."

I don't regret the experience, I came away with a lot of lessons—more than I would expect to learn in a year. And here I am again, hopefully a bit smarter. At the very least, pickier.

That was a very big tangent—circling back to how I'm spending the majority of my days off. Do you ever sit at work and daydream about being home? About having three-day weekends, or snow days? I feel like every time it rains I stare out my office window thinking, I'd give anything to be at home right now, in comfy clothes, sipping coffee on the couch devouring a book. Or I picture the giant to-do list that never gets done and telling myself, I just need one more day on the weekends and I'd get it all done.

I'm sure there are people out there who, if in my current position, would do all of those things. They'd tackle the honey-do list, catch up on all their reading, and whatever else they never have time for. But for reasons I'm having a hard time identifying, I'm struggling to do anything. I feel as if I burnt up all of my motivation in those first few days. I cleaned, I got rid of two trash bags worth of old food and other things in the cabinets, I went to the craft store and completed all of the crafty things on my to-do list. Actually, making this list is making me feel better, but it's deceptive. Collectively, I've gotten a lot done. But day to day, I'm doing all of the things I promised I wouldn't do while not working. I'm sleeping in. Watching TV—daytime TV. Is there anything more gross than daytime TV? Every time I decide I'm going to go do something, it takes me hours to do it. I don't know exactly what I'm debating or what keeps me from just going, but even when I acknowledge that I'm stalling, I can't push myself to just go.  Eventually I get done what I set out to, but because I left the house at 2 instead of 9, by the time I get back, CJ is on his way home and it's time to make dinner, and ta-daaa, in a day I accomplished one thing, plus dinner.

It's rare moments like this that make me question if I'll ever have the ability to successfully freelance. I've always dreamed that when I have children I'll be successful enough as a writer to make a steady income working from home freelancing on a variety of topics. I've done a good deal of research on freelancing (the majority of which was immediately after graduating) and while it was a bit intimidating, I've met plenty of people who do it. The problem is, to make a real living at it, you need the willpower to push those assignments. You need to be writing and researching as much as you would at a full-time office job.  I tell myself sometimes that the reason I can't focus is because there isn't a dedicated space to do so; that when I have a home and a home office, everything will be different. But I'm thinking that's bullshit and frankly a poor way of thinking about it. There are so many success stories about people with such limited resources, because they want it more. If and when the day comes that I start working out of a home office, my mindset should be, look at what I did from a 400-square-foot dark apartment. Just imagine what I can do now? 

I tell myself constantly that I need to be more motivated, more driven, more disciplined. No one is ever hard on me, including myself, and while that seems like an odd thing to complain about, it's how I got here. I think about the idea of motivation and motivated people constantly and it's like I just sit and wait for it to kick in. The idea of starting a new job and going to back to the usual waiting for the weekend so I can get everything accomplished is just hanging over my head.

January has the potential to be successful even if I head into February still on the job hunt. By the time I've started a new job, these are the things I'd like to say I've accomplished.


  • Run 6 miles (I can never seem to get past 4-5 consecutively)
  • Complete online courses in Photoshop, photography and social media marketing
  • Finish A Gentleman in Moscow 
  • Get everything needed to complete gallery wall (and then hang it all)
  • Find the right destination and book a vacation for later this year 
  • Find and sign up for a writing contest 
  • Blog twice per week 
  • Search for and pursue freelance opportunities 

Yet again, here's to blogging to hold myself accountable.