Exactly six years ago today, I put my head down on my desk and bawled.
I wasn’t crying a long, snotty cry because I didn’t have any super-fun holiday plans (though it didn’t help). I cried because I had reached a breaking point. I felt stuck in a dead-end job that was making me miserable, and I couldn’t see any way out.
I took that job during the Great Recession, after the majority of my freelance work disappeared. It started as a part-time gig that I thought would tide me over until business picked up. Business didn’t pick up. (I admit: my marketing skills were pretty pitiful back then.)
The part-time job became a full-time job. I got complacent. I enjoyed not having to worry about next month’s income. I liked having paid vacation days and a 401(k) – with company match! In 2014, I took my first real vacation in 9 years.
As time wore on, what started as an okay job became painfully dull. I had no responsibility, more a cog in a wheel than someone that helps it turn. As I type these words, I feel the nausea I used to feel every Sunday because I dreaded Monday. The extreme fatigue at the end of the day. Walking to the gym to shake it off.
I’m inherently an optimistic person. Yet, words like “hopeless” ran through my head much too often during that time.
Until I hit a breaking point on July 3, 2014. While my nose ran, I could hear the kids outside, running in the grass, playing on the playground near my apartment. I got up, walked down the hill, sat on the same grass strip where those kids played hide and seek and called my friend Sonia.
It had been ages since I spoke with Sonia, but we had shared so much personal stuff I felt okay calling her when I had reached a breaking point. Thank God she answered the phone!
Sonia gave me the nudge I needed. I started journaling again – a practice I’ve kept since age 10, maybe younger. I returned to prayer and meditation. I set a clear goal: half-time by October 1, no time by January 1.
I reached out to every colleague, friend, acquaintance, neighbor I could to let them know I was available for work. I applied for job-jobs and reached out to contacts on LinkedIn about freelance work. Some writing assignments came, and then a few more. And then a big one came that would last for several months.
On Halloween 2014, I returned my company-issued laptop to my boss at the dead-end job, two month ahead of my goal. Free at last!
OutWord Bound V2.0
Each year has gotten better and better. I quickly learned how to treat my business as a business. I also discovered the wonderful worlds of content marketing and copywriting (yes, I view them as two separate disciplines).
I soaked up as much knowledge I could about inbound marketing, content marketing and copywriting principles. I continue to educate myself on marketing strategy today. I don’t get complacent in this regard. I know there will always be things to learn.
My business has steadily grown over the past six years, with steadily increasing income, expanded services and wonderful clients. For all of these past six years, I have been ridiculously in love with what I do. It’s not always easy: It takes time to get my head around complex, new-to-me medical and technical topics. It’s frustrating when projects stall and when invoices get paid late. But the satisfaction that comes from doing work I enjoy, and in helping the wheel turn, wins out every time.
This year is by far the most challenging since I laid my head down in total despondency. I’m doing my best, though, to not let the news of the day drag me down. I’m doing my best to keep my mind stayed on my goals and know that whatever groundwork I’m laying down today will pay off in the future.
May the Fourth Be With You!