What Am I Doing With My Life?

I have now been at my contract position for five months.

In that time I have made a buttload of money. (Jen Sincero says that it’s OK to talk about money this way and I’m trying to live my truth.) I really have. I’ve been paid a rate that I never would have dreamed of asking for. This entire gig has been a gift in that way – I walked right into it, sat down, and started doing all the things. I thank the universe (and the friend who got me the job) all the time. I do not take any of this for granted.

But this financial boon comes with such a cost. Of course it does. Nothing is all good or all bad. I know this and so do you.

I am. I am not.

I am a writer. I presented myself as a writer at my one and only interview. I made no secret of the fact that all of my work experience and both of my degrees relate to writing – and editing and proofreading. Words. I like wordsing, as we joke at work. I like words. I like trying out different words in different combinations. I like taking someone else’s words and fixing them up.

(This blog is not me writing at my best. But you know that too, right? There’s yet another reason for anonymity – I would hate to be judged as a professional for the words I words here. Yes, I wrote it that way on purpose.)

But over the five months, which have included a co-worker’s pregnancy announcement and a new boss squeezed in between me and my original boss, well, there’s been the dreaded scope creep. Suddenly I’m handling marketing strategy. I’m doing work for departments that are far outside of my knowledge or expertise. I’m barely hanging on some days.

And yet on other days I’m in my element. I have taken the company’s blog and turned it into something great. Or, well, much better than what it was. I write 90% of it now, and I edit the few pieces not written by me. I handle all of it but the topic generation (which I still am not good at because I also came into this job knowing absolutely zero about the industry – I didn’t even know this industry existed! but when I’m given the topic, I crank out fully formed blog posts within 1-2 hours). I write. I edit. I post on WordPress. Now I’m learning how to create our roundup email in a very complicated program. (I’m struggling with that too. It’s a nice shiny word on my resume – the name of the program, I mean – but it’s not something I really had expected to have to do. See: Co-worker’s upcoming maternity leave. See: Necessity.) Even that I love though. It’s concrete. It’s things I do.

What I love, what I don’t

I do not love that my new boss cannot write and yet insists on editing my pieces in terrible ways. I do not love that this new boss also makes simple errors like adding apostrophes all over the place. (True story: Big Boss caught a minor error in something I did – passive-aggressively so but I let most things roll off my back. Current Boss replied that they would “make sure she fix’s it.” I died.)

Current Boss also made me cry. Yes, I cried once or twice at my previous job, ten years ago. Before I had a child with a disability, before I changed my entire life course, before I toughened up about so much. This person yelled at me about something minor then forced me to apologize (that is when I cried) to someone who gave fewer than zero fucks about the situation (as I knew) and who didn’t even understand my apology. I cried because I was humiliated.

Dear Reader, I am well aware that I wanted this. That I could have turned my life into a successful freelancing situation….somehow. I am rethinking that. Maybe that is what I want. I also am well aware that pretty much everyone has these work stories. But that kind of sucks, doesn’t it? That we aren’t happy at our jobs? That we’re doing things we don’t understand, faking it until we make it, crying in the toilets?

But also. I currently work fewer than 30 hours and I love it. My hours were increased shortly after I started, then cut for financial reasons soon after that. I have one day off a week. I did make a lot of mouth sounds about wanting to be hired full time at that point. And I meant those mouth sounds. And eventually I was told that “next year” I can be brought on board full time. Except in the interim I have found that perhaps I do not want that as my end goal. I work part time yet I make a high enough hourly rate to be very happy. New Boss thinks it’s funny to remind me that eventually I will be working more hours for less money – not just less money, but in fact I will be taking home less money each week for more hours. That is really not acceptable and I do have plans to ensure that there is much more of an even exchange – not “40 hours at my current rate” (that won’t happen) but “I take home the same amount – not less.”

(Do I miss being home with Little Green? Maybe a little but mostly I do love getting out of the house, being around people, having a space to get my work done. It’s exhausting but rewarding. I am scared of working 40+ hours but know that it would be OK. I’ve just gotten very comfortable working part time now.)

Benefits? I have insurance through the contracting firm that covers me, Mr. Green, and Little Green. Of course with our country’s terrible awful no good situation who knows what will be over the next few months, but for now I have this. I pay 100% of the premium, and that is a LOT. But I pay it pre-tax and, again, I make enough money so I can just fold it all in to the same pot. I work part time, I have health insurance, I take home a nice check.

I wanted to go full time because the benefits for full-time employees are obviously less expensive (they’re also not necessarily as good as what I now have, honestly). I wanted that because I want paid vacation, but I’m paid enough that if I took a week off without being paid, we’d be fine. I wanted that because I wanted a retirement account with matching and, er, I still really want that. Plus a full-time employee has a lot more room to grow – to be promoted, to make a lateral move, to be recognized. Oh and also the other contractor and I were moved across the room from the rest of the team in a symbolic separation and I hope that if I were full time I’d be brought back over – though even that is not necessarily so.


Getting out of debt, building savings

Meanwhile, we are almost completely out of debt. It’s amazing. Plus, I moved our debt to an interest rate low enough that I can focus on building our savings at the same time. I am almost to my goal of 3 months’ expenses being socked away. If this all went away tomorrow, we’d be fine.

Mr. Green’s business has continued to thrive as well – I am the steady breadwinner, but he contributes nearly as much as I do most months. Because we now have a bit of breathing space, we have made a few purchases that were, while not extravagant, definitely needed – a new mattress, for example. (I still feel guilty every time we buy things. I feel guilty when I buy myself some new eye cream – cheap eye cream! – or when I buy myself some additional containers for my lunchbox. We’re talking under $50 purchases. I panic.)

We go out to eat far more often than we ever did, which is both nice and terrible. (I have put on weight and am definitely not happy about that part.)

I would say that we have been really thoughtful about our changed financial circumstances and focused far more on the future and less on the now than I thought we would. We are setting ourselves up for success no matter what comes next. It’s amazing to be able to pay cash for things like the cats’ vet bill or to be able to put something on a credit card, earn bonus points, and pay that purchase off immediately so the bonus points ACTUALLY ARE BONUSES.

I wish I felt comfortable opening comments and asking for advice, but to be honest I don’t. I don’t really want to know what you think I should do, mostly. (If you see this and know who I am and want to talk, we can talk. Sure.)

Right now I plan on riding this contract into the ground. Either they’ll fire me (an upcoming project has me concerned, but I think Big Boss wouldn’t do that) or at some point they’ll offer me a full-time job. And at that time I will consider the offer from all angles and have to make a decision. On days when I want to flounce – to grab all my shit and walk out the door – I remind myself of the good and I don’t do that. It’s up to them how long I stay, really, at least for now.

I’ve tried to make my online resume as attractive to searching recruiters as possible, and I’ve started searching the job sites again. I feel more confident in my skillset and I have a flood of new clips to share and new skills to show off. I feel like I could find something better (shame about my driving anxiety, eh? this job is easily accessible by subway – that’s rare). Or maybe I want to go back to freelancing but try harder, pitch more often, write more. Maybe. Maybe this time I could make that work.

Until then, my focus is on getting through each day and on filling the savings accounts to the brim. I wake up every Friday and say “I got paid today, and today I submit a timesheet so I’m paid next Friday.” And that is how I live my life.