Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Freelancing is terrifying.

I worked for the same company for the majority of my post-college life -- that is, the better part of ten years. It was a secure job, it was a job I understood, it was a job that used my specific skill set, and it paid decently enough that I could support myself. I made friends there and got used to it as a community. I was pretty much happy.

But that all changed when the Buzzfeed Nation attacked.

Sites like it and Upworthy and other clickbaiting venues started changing the nature of online information gathering and (as far as I'm concerned) the attention span of the average surfer. Instead of actual news stories, we started moving toward 'Which Organ Meat Are You?' and 'Twenty-Two Things You Never Knew About Shoelaces' and 'This Child Ate A Starfish -- You Won't Believe What Happened Next!' And with that change came changes to everything else, including generally what my company got up to.

I knew when my job description started changing bit by bit every day, when I was told that I would be handing off my various responsibilities to write personality quizzes and 'make things go viral,' that it might be time for me to venture out on my own. While I still liked the people at my job and the security and all there was just a weightiness to the whole thing. I didn't want to go to work and write another personality quiz. I didn't want to 'figure out how to make things viral.' I wasn't getting to use my skills, and I was sad. I'd been saving up money on the side and getting my foot in some doors. Theoretically I could do it.

I stayed a little while to get some more money to make my student loans look less scary, started collecting up contracts with different companies, then tensed up and gave my notice.

And ... my manager was incredibly amenable. I went in expecting to be asked why, or wheedled into staying, or maybe even blown up at. Because I've never just given notice before. It went very respectfully, and people actually seemed happy for me. I got a farewell lunch and ice cream and a card that made me cry, and then on my last day I stayed for ... maybe an hour to get my things sorted.

It was a very surreal day, like a cross between graduation and the last performance of a play. I cleared out my desk, which had been toy- and tea-heavy for years now.

I was allowed to keep my hard drive because I can't even remember what-all is still on it and I might well need some of said stuff. My boss came in and talked with me and, in spite of being ready and willing and able to move on, I felt myself tearing up. I really didn't want that -- I was happy to be taking this next step forward. I didn't want it to look or feel like I had regrets.

I'm not sure if it's because someone finally fixed the lights in my office or because of the overall mood, but everything felt overlit and overexposed as I was getting ready to go out the door. Making the rounds was difficult because I was waving good-bye to people I'd gone to Christmas dinners with, played laser tag with as part of 'company meetings,' and just generally spent years with. And making those rounds reminded me that I wasn't happy to be leaving so much as happy to be moving on.

A few of the office were waiting by the front door as I went, and my manager walked me out. I told him I'd be around, I'd probably poke my head in at holidays or something, and I'd still be keeping my Monday/Thursday lunch dates with one of my friends there since ... well ... I kind of live around here. And I stuck my stuff in the car, was told again that I'd be missed, put 'Ride on Shooting Star' on my iPhone, and watched the place I'd spent most of my adult life get smaller in my rear view mirror.

Then I came home, sat down on my living room floor, and cried all over my favourite Eighth Doctor shirt. And I couldn't understand it. Because I was ready. I was good. I'd been wanting this and preparing for this and for some reason I was feeling miserable right in that moment. I'm tearing up now, even. I know I made the right decision ... I suppose I just wasn't expecting to grieve over a life decision that would end up making me happy.

I whipped right around and dashed off an e-mail to a friend of mine who also happens to be a decently-known TV writer because, I don't know, I needed to talk to a self-employed writer I guess. He turned a response around almost immediately:

'You are taking a step into a larger universe. If it's daunting then it's worth something.'

I mean yeah I still feel weird as all heck. I'm having to create routines for myself and not let them fall by the wayside. I'm having to make sure my workspace is my workspace and nothing else. And I'm learning a lot about time management. But I really am daunted. Which, you know, means this is worth something. Which I'm glad of.

Also my friends took me out to the pub for dinner the next day and that was great.