“Following my bliss” or something like that

Nine years ago, on Friday, March 5, 1999, I walked out of my relatively secure corporate marketing job so that on Monday, March 8, I could walk into my living-room-turned-home-office as a self-employed writer. My Day-Timer shows that I actually logged 4 billable hours that first day; 27 that first week.

In those days, I used to track billable time religiously — a by-product of working for the most anal firm on the planet for four years. As if totalling and recording it every day and week would somehow make it increase. Today, I’m much more lax in my tallying — but I still have the same Day-Timer and still manage my time and my projects the same way I did on Day 1 (although my penmanship has deteriorated drastically).

I always tell people this is the longest I’ve worked anywhere. Four years was my “as long as I can stand it” threshold in four previous jobs (one lasted only 2 years, another 3). And while I would be making more money had I stayed in a “real job,” and I still miss the security of a steady paycheck, and the isolation can be hard to take (coworkers were always the best part of working anywhere), I wouldn’t have traded the past 9 years of freedom for anything.

There is so much more to life than money. Living at a more leisurely pace for one. My days no longer revolve around my job, the alarm clock, the commuting weather, what the heck I’m going to say in this year’s performance review, or how Joe So-and-So is going to re-write what I’ve spent hours writing. Sure, I’m still a slave to my clients (who sometimes rewrite what I do, but a lot less frequently than my bosses did), still have to do projects I don’t like, and still have to get out there and prove myself every day. I always fret about money and when the next check’s going to arrive.

But, just as Ginger could do everything Fred could do, backwards and in high heels, I can do everything an “on-the-job” writer does, in slippers and while also doing the laundry, paying bills, cleaning the house, cuddling the cat, and enjoying a midday walk on a sunny day. That makes up for a lot of financial insecurity.

Still, I worry about the future. Will clients accept a 60-year-old freelancer? A 70-year-old? Is there a “Welcome to Wal-Mart” or “Would you like to Biggee Size that?” in my elderly future? More and more, it seems that way, and the prospects are frightening. (After all, I’ve never worked retail or food service. Talk about old dog, new tricks.) Maybe I should start now — take a part-time job just so I can learn the ropes?

Such are the uncertainties a middle-age free agent contemplates. Maybe not so different from what a middle-age corporate slave contemplates — but with a little less money in the bank, a little more job (and self) satisfaction, and a lot more likelihood I can look back and say it was all worth it.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
                                          ~ Annie Dillard,
The Writing Life


  1. Anonymous said,

    Saturday, March 8, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Don’t worry, all our problems will be over today.(I bought a powerball ticket)

  2. WritingbyEar said,

    Saturday, March 8, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Thank God someone is being proactive.

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