six months in

it’s a little over six months – almost seven, really, since my last day at work.

which is a funny thing to say because i assuredly still work. even if my boyfriend sees me still tucked into bed when he is venturing out into the cold in the morning (i’m sorry. i know that’s hard. forgive me.)

it’s hard from inside of self-employment, you guys. it is very hard. and that’s impossible to know before you head into it. you can read about it and you can be prepared for it but you cannot know it. and really, that’s alright. there is a part of dreaming where you should be dedicated to the good parts, the things that will sparkle and shine.

what it feels like from inside is this: am i doing enough for my clients? am i doing a good job, period? do i have too many clients? do i have enough clients? how do i decide what the right amount of clients is? i have other projects besides client work – when am i ever supposed to work on them? am i making enough money? what does enough money even mean? is there ever enough money? i’m not marketing myself. shit, i really should be marketing myself. i would love to do that training thing or go to that conference but its many thousands of dollars so lol. i finished a thing! i answered six emails! i get to pee and have lunch now! ugh, today is hard. am i allowed to go read a book now? i mean, that’s why i did this, right, so i’d be able to do whatever i wanted whenever i wanted? you mean that’s not how it works? i was lied to! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN, QUARTERLY TAXES?!? *gets email* oh, my client is thrilled with my work, i’m gonna go glow forever now.

so, that’s a lot. it is constant cacophony. i have no idea if it will be right for me forever – and i also imagine the shape of what i do is going to change over time – but i am enjoying the ride while i’m on it, right now.

here’s the good stuff. i was able to go see dear friends for two weeks, because i could take my work with me. i was able to go see a friend who has a six month old baby for a full day on a thursday. i do not really get up before 8 – yes i have seen all of the articles about the most productive people in the world getting up at ungodly times and i am just not interested. i have incredible freedom over my time and energy and i value that in a way that i don’t know how to describe in words.

the other good stuff is that business is really good and i am doing fine. i have not had to dig into my savings to support myself and keep up my share of my household monthly expenses. although the bouncer has been two hundred percent supportive and when we talked about all of this and potential financial instability, he offered to shore me up, i haven’t had to take advantage of that kindness and i am extraordinarily proud of that. (he did buy me a new computer, which was insanely generous). my inbox is totally full of work right now, which is sometimes intimidating but mostly amazing. i’ve been approached about big, exciting projects that scare the hell out of me, which makes me know that i should take them on.

the secret, the whole time, was that i didn’t quite believe that i could do this. i saved money as a backup plan, enough to support myself for a skint 9 months, and a solid part of me felt i would just run through it and then have to go get another job. and that might happen, someday, i know, but it hasn’t happened yet and i am mystified and thrilled and truly, for real proud of myself.

i’m also learning about a whole new world of self-care habits, and one of them is getting out of the house every day. i have what amounts to a two room apartment, with a huge bedroom and a living room/kitchen combo. the desk is in the bedroom (there is no room for it anywhere else), and your office being the same as your bedroom is not ideal, to say the least. fortunately, i live in Brooklyn where there’s no shortage of trendy coffeeshops to go and spend a few dollars on a chai and a pastry or sandwich and buckle down with some wifi.

i worked at home this morning and then, when i got hungry for lunch, i packed up and came out. I had a BLT with avocado on a croissant and when i looked around at my little table, at my three notebooks all filled with the work i have to do (and one just for my words, in case i couldn’t plug my computer in – the cover of it is the photo for this post), i was struck, as i am sometimes, with the idea that i am doing it. it is the middle of the afternoon and i’ve chosen where i want to be and what i want to be doing and i am doing this thing. i am really, actually, living this life and doing this thing and i’m grateful for every person and thing and experience that helped me get here and i am proud as hell.

let go and let god.

despite the title, this post has zero to do with religion. swearsies.

i have a client for whom my main task is article curation and tweet writing. that’s what i do – i find articles and write tweets based on them, and then they go through two levels of approval.

the first 3 weeks i did this, less than half of my tweets were approved. my client left me notes, we had a feedback phone call. i checked in with other people doing the same work for advice on how to improve. i worked for many more hours than it was supposed to take, trying so, so hard to succeed. and it was right there, just out of my grasp. i could feel it, but i couldn’t just do it.

one batch had something like a 30% success rate, and when i checked in, i just lost it. i burst into tears right at my desk (at my full time job), and i could not help but feel like a complete, abject failure. i was trying my hardest and i could not do it right, i could not succeed. (it’s worth noting that i only get paid for accepted content. that just made everything a little harder).

i came home and talked to the bouncer about how long to keep trying before i gave up, but also how i was enjoying the work and even, despite my disappointment at not being perfect or even, um, good, enjoying the challenge of trying. i said i would at least give it a full month before i re-evaluated. i could barely even open the documents i worked in without welling up because i felt so incapable, but i kept going.

it’s also worth noting that the client was completely kind and encouraging during this whole process, and that she believed i’d catch on and understood that it was a learning process. that someone didn’t matter as much as my feeling of “i am the worst of all time and will never improve at anything ever. womp.”

somehow, out of nowhere, i seemed to hit the magic formula. a batch came back with almost 100% acceptance, and the next one too. fairly consistently since that point, i’ve been doing great. you want to know why i think it finally happened? i chilled out about it. i couldn’t take the emotional aspect of failure anymore so i detached, promising to do my best but to not freak out if i didn’t succeed (hey look, everyone, mental health!) i stopped trying to hit on every “rule” i was supposed to follow and instead went with my gut. i trusted myself, and i elevated myself to a place where whether or not the work got accepted, i was ok.

in the recovery community, which i’m not a part of but have been tangentially involved with in the past, they have a saying – “let go and let god.” i’m not a god person,  but the saying has stuck with me for years. it’s going to go how it goes. you’ll be fine either way. you’ll figure it out. there is actually nothing more you can do aside from your best, and you’ll get nowhere by freaking out after that point. so…stop. it’s a simple question of utility in the end.

life lessons all up in here, i swear it.

on the precipice.

(note – this was written a few weeks ago. more updates to come. swearsies)

if i were not finished with my full time job in three short days, my head would be spinning right off and i’d probably be curled in the fetal position begging someone to make it all stop.

and this has nothing to do with my job being awful – on the whole, it’s pretty great. and a huge part of me is sad to be leaving, even though i do not have the brain space or power to even process those feelings in the moment. no, i’ve got a lot of work right now – and i suppose that’s a really incredible thing, entering my first month of self employment. i should be grateful, and i AM grateful. i’m sort of just waiting for the moment when i can do it, without worrying that i’m going to drop one of my very many spinning plates. i feel like i’m walking a highwire slicked with oil.

you know, if you were a person in my life and i told you about this, i would intimate that i haven’t worked very hard and am not working very hard. i’d tell you i had a very reasonable wind-down schedule for my job, and that my client work requires no more than 10-15 hours a week and i should be able to handle that. i would tell you about how i think i must be weak because i’m always so tired – about how i had my thyroid tested because i am always so. damn. tired. i would tell you it wasn’t really that hard, i just think it’s hard because i am me. you surely wouldn’t find it hard, but i do.

it’s total bullshit, if you haven’t figured that out by now. i’ve made an entire fucking career of telling myself, telling you, that i somehow haven’t done enough – but i have done enough, and it’s finally starting to show. i have worked and AM working my entire ass off. i’m juggling three clients, two of whom require near daily attention, on top of full time work. i am sitting down at the computer post-work or on the weekends the majority of the days of the week. i am hustling, i have BEEN hustling, and it is about time that i owned that.

saying out loud, understanding for the first time, that i’m working hard and that i’m allowed to say it…it’s a big thing, for me. in high school, i took every AP class i could – one in 10th grade, four in 11th, five in 12th. i have met no one else who has done that. i went to activities after school and i went to work after activities and i came home and ate dinner at my giant L desk, head buried in a textbook. i went to sleep and set my alarm for four am so i could get up and study. i could never do enough, unless i was doing more than anyone else, unless my eyes were burning from exhaustion. it was almost more important than my actual grades – the idea that i was trying harder, working harder than anyone. the only way to do enough was to give everything.

it’s the last time in my life i felt like i was actually working hard, until this past sunday. i have work due every monday for a client, so nearly every sunday for the past several months, i’ve sat down for a chunk of hours and just done it. and it kind of sucked because sunday nights are a little sacred for me, they’re about recuperating the last bits of my energy for the week ahead, but i sucked it up and i did it and i’ve gotten better and more efficient every week. and i finally just kind of realized, in the middle of this chunk of work, that i’m doing it. i’m doing this thing, and i deserve credit for it.

there’s a lot i’ve been doing. for a long time. i’ve worked really hard, and it feels so good to actually feel that, to let my pride swell.

the thing i can finally talk about

or, how i’ve learned to cope with saying “i’m leaving my full time job and focusing all of my time and energy on my business.”

MY. BUSINESS. those are actual words i say and they MEAN SOMETHING. whuuuuuuuuuut.

so, here’s a thing. i’m leaving my full time job, one that i’ve enjoyed a solid 90% of the time, and striking out on my own. i’m growing my own small business, starglass media, specializing in website builds, social media strategy and management, and email marketing for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and nonprofits. yes. that is the thing i’m doing.

you wouldn’t think a sentence carries so much weight but whoa, you’re wrong. it’s so many things. let’s start with some history.

a year and a half ago, maybe longer, i got an itch. i thought that maybe it was time for a change. i looked around at other positions and some of them seemed awesome, but i couldn’t get excited about them. the thought of trudging into an office on someone else’s time for the rest of forever felt stifling, even for a job i might love doing.

and i remembered of all of the inspiring people i know who have made a self-employed life work for them, and i thought of how i had always felt leagues behind them, different from them, and i thought about why. was i really so different? (no) did my skills translate to freelance and consulting work? (yes) what was stopping me? (fear)

i was fortunate enough to begin these conversations with two amazing entrepreneurial friends, a married couple for whom I’d sign on to be a sister wife if we were all into that. they were my own incubator, my encouragers, my first clients, and my teachers and mentors. last year, i took on 5 clients and made an extra $5k, working on top of my full time job – one month, it was two separate projects and 25 hours, including a week’s vacation with no work. it was exhausting, and though i originally envisioned doing it for at least a year, i burnt out quickly. some will tell you you have to run yourself until midnight every day and all weekend and i’ll be totally real; i could not do that without completely mentally cracking. so i took a break, in the fall of 2013, with an intention to re-evaluate in the new year.

sure enough, early on in 2014, the itch came back and i decided it had to be time. i’d just gotten myself out of debt, i was in a great position to save, and i finally felt like I had to try. like the risk of going splat was worth jumping off the cliff. i put my feelers out for clients again, i started swimming in new opportunities (not all of which were a good fit. learning to have uncomfortable conversations, check!), i fired myself back up and got back in the game. i slowly told the people who mattered most and have always been trusted advisors to me. i drank up their encouragement, and it sustained me. i set a date. i took care of medical concerns while i still have health insurance. i socked away money like it was penicillin before the apocalypse.

and here i am, three-ish months after that decision (it feels longer). i’ve told my co-workers and turned in a resignation letter and set an end date (july 31st). i sat down with the HR department and tied up my loose ends.

this is happening, this is real. i waver every day between thinking i’m going to be living in a cardboard box by the end of the year and imagining my jetsetter, world traveler life, working in quaint coffee shops and by hotel pools. i know i’ll probably land somewhere in the middle of that. i’m happy that i can finally share this – it’s been the most inspiring thing, creatively, that i’ve encountered in a very long time. i hope with all of me that it stays that way, and that you stick around for the rest of the ride.