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The Shove into Self-Employment

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

When I was a freshman in college, one of my first classes started the semester with a goal-setting exercise. We were asked one simple question: where do we want our careers to be in 10 years? We were encouraged to think idealistically and dream big, imagining what our careers would be like in a perfect world where everything went right. I already knew what my ideal life would look like: starting my own creative practice, working for myself, and nurturing a successful career that aligns with my values and allows me to pursue my passions. When we did that exercise (and for the first four years after graduation), I treated this as a much longer-term goal. I figured I’d have to work a 9-5 office job for a decade or so while I gain my professional footing, get some quality networking in, and save up so I’d have some kind of financial cushion when I made the transition to self-employment. That was my plan, but life rarely goes exactly according to plan.

I started freelancing back in 2012, figuring I’d start growing my creative practice on the side until I was ready to take the plunge. In the meantime I held various day jobs, doing creative and digital marketing work for employers that ranged from grocers to insurance agents to mortgage officers to architects. I had a few brief stints in sales, and I even had my life & health insurance license for a hot minute. Somewhere along the way, I realized that my creative, independent, visibly and obviously queer self just didn’t belong in the corporate world.

I felt stuck, though. I’d had yet to land a full-time job that paid me enough to be able to save anything, and I was attached to the feeling of stability I got from a set schedule and a guaranteed paycheck every two weeks. It’s no secret that humans are creatures of habit. Our routines make us feel safe, which means that change can be really damn scary - even if that change is for the best.

Fast forward to July 2020. I was working full-time and actively seeking new opportunities. I’d just had a final interview for a position at a nonprofit that I was beyond excited about, and I was supposed to find out that evening whether or not I got the job. The following happened all within a span of 20 minutes:

  • I completed the interview over Zoom, feeling like it went incredibly well and I had a decent chance at getting an offer.

  • Within 5 minutes of completing the interview, I got a call from my company’s CEO. They were making staffing cuts due to the pandemic, and Friday would be my last day employed there.

  • I opened my laptop to send a thank you email to the nonprofit I interviewed with and let them know that I now had immediate availability to start a new position.

  • I saw that already had a rejection email in my inbox.

Those 20 minutes were by far the most intense emotional roller coaster I’d ever been on. In a matter of minutes, I went from having full-time employment and another potential opportunity to having absolutely no idea how I’d pay my bills, put food on the table, and take care of my pets. Like so many other professionals in the USA, I had become unemployed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I applied for other jobs and spent over a month struggling to apply for unemployment, I dialed up my freelance work. My side gig quickly became my main source of income, and my unemployment began to transform into self-employment. In an utterly chaotic turn of events, I ended up achieving my goal of self-employment 6 years before I thought it’d be possible. Sure, it would have been nice to do it on my own terms. But if I hadn’t lost my full-time job and gotten rejected for the nonprofit position, how long would it have taken me to finally take the leap? Would I have ever taken the leap, or would I have always been too afraid? I don’t claim to know everything, but I do know this:

Sometimes the Universe aggressively redirects us towards our intended path, and the Universe does not give a single shit if you “feel ready” or if you think it’s “not the right time” for such a major change. All you can do is take some deep breaths, trust that you are exactly where you’re meant to be right now, and keep moving forward.

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