No man is an island (but all women kind of are)

In a lot of ways, I’ve always existed just slightly on the fringe of what I’d call the rest of the world.

That’s not to say I’m a loner; I’ve had friends, sure, but I’m often the person who’s more of the friend you bump into, not the friend you call to deliberately meet up with. I’m extremely introverted, meaning I’m often in my own head rather than in the present. I also have a strange obsession with being right (ha), so I have a habit of falling down the rabbit hole of tedium and minutiae – particularly when it comes to grammar and language – which not everyone finds as fascinating as I do. I like to call it job security, but in a lot of ways being interested in the things no one else cares about is, gasp!, isolating.

In fact, I have a tendency to take on challenges that others aren’t interested in, or don’t want to try. In my relatively short career post-college, the majority of my jobs have been the only one of their kind at that company. Even my position now, which I job share and therefore actually DO have a counterpart, is somewhat isolating in its ubiquity. We work across all clients, making us simultaneously members of every team and of no team.

But at work, I like being one-of-a-kind. It leaves me as the go-to person for answers (see aforementioned obsession with being right) and gives me the autonomy and authority to act as I deem necessary, mostly because there’s really no one else to consult. There’s a freedom to being on your own in this way; I can pop in and out of projects, leave my mark and then move on to the next.

At home, though, those same qualities that look like drive and ambition at work can lead to my taking on way more than I can chew. And because of that inability to let go, to delegate, to work as a team, I wind up feeling like I’m doing it all alone.

Because I am. Because I’m a crazy person.

Because god forbid, something gets done in a way different than how I would do it.

The funny thing is – I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.

As women, as mothers, as wives, we’re told we can have it all, but the underlying sentiment is that we have to have it all. We have to be the best wife, mother, daughter, employee, sister, friend and so on. That we have to figure it out. That if we just put our minds to it, we can totally handle it all.

But that’s just it. We’re putting our minds to everything  keeping track of the things that keep the house running – and doing it all alone.

It’s not that the men of the world aren’t stepping up – they absolutely are, and my husband is a prime example – but if I can be so bold as to generalize, the women of the world are still handling so much of the unseen work that it’s absolutely beating us down. (Check out this article on Time that explains it so much better than I could.)

And instead of finding solidarity, support or camaraderie in our always-connected social era, we find comparison and self-loathing for any and all of our shortcomings. We see Insta-edited versions of the lives our friends and family live and wonder, why can’t I do that? Why can’t I handle it like she can?

Why am I the only one who just, simply, can’t?

Personally, I very much do not have it all together. On any given day, there’s a pile of dishes in my sink, laundry getting wrinkled in baskets on the floor and a kid going off to daycare with blueberry stains under his fingernails. My mind races between the work I need to do, the money I need to spend (or save, and for what and how much) and the questions I need to remember for the doctor’s appointment coming up at the end of the month.

It never ends. And the more I tack onto my mental to-do list, the more I feel like I’m falling behind in the endless and solitary pursuit of perfection. The ever-elusive “all.”

So with that, I say, can we all agree to just cut the bullshit here and now?

Maybe if we all quit pretending we have it all, we could all feel a little better about not having it all.

Who really wants it all anyway? That just sounds like more to clean.

Passion, Shmassion.

You remember that writing course I told you guys I was taking?

A quick glance at today’s assignment tells me it’s going to be a doozy. Why, you ask?

Because it’s all about finding your passions.

You see, I’m a person of very few passions, if any. Certainly not many I could fill a whole blog writing about. I care about plenty of things, sure — the environment, social welfare, common freakin’ decency — but I don’t think I know enough about or am passionate enough about any of them.

What does passion even really mean, any way?

People say that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That if you follow your passions, you’ll always be happy. But that assumes that you’re passionate about something you can make money doing!

True enough, I’ve followed what I guess you could call my passion for proper grammar (yes, I’m that weird) and I’m making a living as a writer, proofreader and copy editor. I often think I should spend more time writing about how to become a freelancer; to help other people with creative minds take the leap from corporate cog to sole proprietor. But if I’m being honest…

I have no idea how to do that.

I mean, I’m doing OK, don’t get me wrong. But I have a lot of cushions that many others don’t, and I haven’t felt the fear of missing rent because I was unable to secure enough work. I have a husband with a good job who values my happiness higher than any income, and a good network of former coworkers and friends who send work my way. How can I sit on my throne of lies telling people how to make it as a freelancer? I’m not making it on my own; I have a tremendous amount of help and support.

And the real truth is — I wouldn’t know how to pitch a publication or other service to save my life. I’m a terrible sales person, particularly when it comes to selling myself. It’s part of why I’m taking this class in the first place, to figure out what exactly I have to offer and how to offer it.

Maybe that’s how everyone figures out this freelance gig, who knows. Maybe I’m not the only person who has no idea what she’s doing 80 percent of the time.

But even if that’s the case, do we really need another case of the blind leading the blind?

So I turn away from freelance advice, and back to the drawing board. What else do I care about?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

I love dogs, but no one needs another person rambling about how dogs are awesome.

I love food, but I would never even attempt to enter the food blog arena. Talk about shouting into a void.

I love beer, but you can only write about that so many times before your family tries to stage an intervention.

I suppose you could say a growing interest of mine is female health education. Call it a symptom of what I’ve been going through for the last year, but it’s truly appalling the amount of misinformation out there about the female anatomy. Girls who are lucky get a quick gloss over it all during sex ed; girls who aren’t so lucky, who don’t even have sexual education in their schools, are often left clueless as to how their bodies actually work.

It’s embarrassing that we leave such important information out of our education. That because it has to do with a woman’s insides (EEK! GASP! CLUTCH PEARLS!) it’s best if we don’t talk about it at all and just hope for the best down the line.

So yeah, maybe I’m passionate about that. But I’m not a physician; writing blog after blog about female reproductive education isn’t going to boost my business in any way. Hell, depending on the person, it might even chase some clients off. That’s certainly not what I’m going for.

Back to the drawing board, again.

Most likely, this blog will always be a place for these random musings to come out, a place where you’ll just hear me blab (and therefore will never get many hits). But I’m working toward finding the right voice for my business blog, and it’s not been easy.

That’s freelancing for you. Too much time to think and not enough direction.

Heh. Maybe it should be a freelancer tips blog after all.

Oh what thanks there are to give…

This Thanksgiving, I find myself in a much different situation than I’ve ever been before. I’ve always struggled with over planning, future-glancing and wondering what things should be, all of which came crashing down in one fell swoop this year. But remarkably, that crash of all-things-planned was exactly what I needed in order to be happy, proving once again that all things happen for a reason.

A year ago today, I was still relatively new at a small company, all sunshine and unicorns at the possibilities that awaited me there. Darrell was less than satisfied in his role, and was looking to make a change. Since then, we’ve been lucky enough to have Darrell move into a position he loves, giving him a change of pace, scenery and salary, all three things he’d been needing for a very long time. And while the honeymoon phase of my employment waned, my desire to start freelancing grew. The wonderful happenstance of Darrell’s new employment meant the possibility that I’d be able to strike out on my own was becoming possible, and as you already know, fell into my lap unexpectedly just a few months ago. Since then, we’ve both become incredibly aware of just how lucky we are. And with that, I think it’s time I list out just a few of the things I’m very thankful for this year:

  • I’m thankful that both of us are healthy and happy.
  • I’m thankful that we find satisfaction in what we do for a living.
  • I’m thankful that we’re able to spend more time together.
  • I’m thankful for two wonderful families that love and support us in everything we do.
  • I’m thankful for all of the opportunities that lie ahead of us.

This blog, of course, has suffered a bit in the throes of change. It’s difficult for me to talk about things before they become a reality; I’m sort of superstitious and don’t want to jinx things before they happen. So when I’m awaiting news, contracts or anything else that seems blog-worthy, I tend to go radio silent for fear of losing out on a major opportunity. And that’s how things have been for the past month or so, working here and there on projects while a few potentially big opportunities await on the horizon. Suffice it to say that I’m still waiting, but there are so many things to be thankful for right now that I had to break the moratorium on posts.

I’d love to hear from you: what are you thankful for this year? What silver linings have you stumbled upon this year?

Day 85: And here I was doing so well…

Turns out when there’s actual work to be done, the blogging just has to wait.

Feast or famine, folks, that’s the name of the game.

But I’m certainly not complaining. The fact that business has picked up and I now am struggling to find the time to focus on writing here is a good thing. Pair that up with a couple wonderful weekends spent with family and I’m one happy little camper.

This past weekend, my family got together at my parents’ house to sort of close out the good-weather seasons with a big camp out.

Or at least, that was the plan. Turns out only my husband and I actually camped out in a tent. Not sure whether I’m happy he talked me out of sleeping in a cozy bed in the house, but I digress…

Saturday was absolutely gorgeous, and the perfect weather for camping. It was bright and sunny all day long, warm enough to relax in shorts and a tee shirt, but cool enough at night to warrant the campfire, jeans and a hoodie that I believe define the true camping experience. My brother in law and a family friend busted out the guitars – totally normal – around the campfire and we all sang along.

No. None of us can sing. Pretty sure we scared off any and all wildlife within a 3-mile radius.

And it was fantastic.

On Sunday, we decided to stick around long enough to watch some football, flipping constantly between the Bengals vs. Buffalo and Green Bay vs. Baltimore games. With nail-biter wins from both the Bengals and a Packers, we headed home to enjoy the last few hours of the weekend.

Weird. Haven’t said that in a while.

Now, it’s back to work!

Day 39: Old habits die hard

Man. After 38 days of (in)consistent posts, you’d think I’d realize writing at the end of the evening is a bad idea.

Yet here I am, day 39 at nearly 11 p.m., sitting at my desk.

Today of all days, however, was actually pretty busy, meeting with clients and working through a few projects. Nothing like a productive day to reinvigorate your efforts!

When Darrell got home for work, we headed out to meet my family for dinner to celebrate my mom’s birthday, which was on Tuesday. If there’s math you want, you’ll have to do it yourself, because I’m a lady (or something like that) and I’m not about to divulge her age. But she’s awesome, and it was her birthday, and that’s all you need to know. 🙂

Short but sweet, and that’s all I have for today, I’m afraid. Tomorrow, Darrell and I will get wrapped up in full wedding mode, as he’s a groomsman in our friends Brandon & Kiersten’s wedding. I’m looking forward to a good couple of nights out with our friends as we get to watch our friends get hitched!

 

Day 37: Totally legit

Whoa, looks like you guys actually missed me!

Or maybe it was a slow news(feed) day yesterday. Either way, thanks for showing some love!

Right, back to business.

Speaking of business, I actually managed to get myself down to the county clerks office and register as a sole proprietorship! For the past few weeks, I’ve been back and forth in my mind over the right way to set everything up. Today I finally took the dive, registered the business and even registered my trade name!

Don’t get too excited. I’ll be sharing that secret for another day.

But for anyone here who is actually reading this for the freelance insights, there’s one thing I learned in the process: Get out of your own head and just get things done.

I’m an over-thinker. I want to make sure things are done right the first time and I don’t like to admit I don’t know things. So when it came to setting up this business, and when I realized I had no idea what I was doing, I turned chicken. Finally, after a stressful helpful conversation with Darrell, I finally made everything official as a sole proprietor.

What does that mean, exactly? While I’m still figuring that out (and will certainly need some tax help come next April), it basically allows me to run the business without some of headaches of creating and separating my business from my personal life. Sure, when I suddenly become wildly successful and need multiple minions to write for me, I may have to consider a different structure, but for now, it’s one for all and all for sole proprietorship.

Stay tuned, too: I’m hoping to revamp this site with a slightly more official look very soon.

Day 15: Connections

Everyone says that you have to use your network, and let me tell you, it’s true.

If you’re starting out in a new business, sure having a strong network can help you grow your client base. But I think a great network – one filled with people who not only view you as a competent professional, but as a good person – can be so much more than a roster of names to help you get ahead.

Maybe I’m lucky, but I’ve been blessed over the last week with people reaching out to send freelance work my way. (Before you get jealous, it’s not exactly overflowing, but it’s one heck of a start!). I’ve been blown away by the responses of people in my professional network, and I’m thankful for the business that’s been sent m way.

In my experience, a strong network is not something that can be cultivated overnight or over drinks at a happy hour, although those certainly help. In order to create a network of individuals who will be willing to stake their own reputations on your performance, you have to do a lot more than just be nice, popular or outgoing. You have to be the person you are, and you have to spend time with people who can appreciate that.

I’m partial to true friends, true connections and true acts of generosity and selflessness. Technology has brought us a long way in casting a wide net of connections, but how do we really connect with them?

Perhaps I’m in the minority, but unless I’ve met you in person, I’m not adding you as a friend or connection on social networks. I think people take for granted these limitless systems; in reality, none of us are capable of managing 700+ friendships and 500+ professional connections on any real level.

It takes time to build those bridges. Attempting to foster superficial connections can only bring those bridges crumbling down.