Yo! Happy Halloween, y'all!
It's that time of year again, my personal favorite: Fall! In one week's time from the posting of this blog, it will be Halloween, one of my favorite holidays (behind Valentines Day) and it just so happens that this coming Hallow's Eve is an important one for me as it will mark one calendar year since I became a freelancer. And so, allow me to recap the year a bit! The struggle, as they say, is real.
When I decided to leave my previous position as an executive producer, I planned to accomplish two things right off the bat.
First, I connected with a successful photographer friend, Brit Perkins, to start laying the groundwork for a wedding photo/video venture. This was something I had been interested in pursuing and would definitely provide stability. Indeed, Brit lined up a wedding for me right away and it came out fantastically. Building a wedding business, as I knew from helping to build one for almost 5 years at my previous job, takes a lot of time and hard work. Despite the limited samples, we were able to book several weddings this year and next year looks like it will be great.
My second order of business was to just stop.
At the time, I didn't feel fulfilled. I didn't feel like I was moving in a positive direction personally. I guess the right term here would be stagnation. I wanted to break the glass ceiling of life and really blossom: Discover my 'authentic' self as the hipsters would say. For most people, this means getting lost in some foreign country and visiting some temple to find the answers they seek. For me it was the opposite. I needed to simply stop everything that I was doing and think. I needed a slight reorganization in the way I thought of the world and how I approached each day. To that effect, I honestly did very, very little those first two months except write (I use personal writing to work through just about everything) and create this website. I spent my entire savings (Just on rent, payments, bills, etc). I stripped myself down to nothing. I looked inward and asked myself who am I and who do I want to be?
It was January 1st when I executed one of my first decisions and oddly, it has become one of the biggest instruments of change: I decided to grow a beard. I have changed my physical appearance at many critical points in my life and, as stupid as it may sound, it helps you to change internal characteristics if you look physically different. Luckily, I can grow a mean beard!
In February or so, I was out of money. When I say out of money, I mean my checking account had the minimum it needed and my savings was in the hundreds. I even resorted to counting my box of loose change and it looked like I was not going to pay my next month's rent or anything else for that matter. I divulge this not provide the proverbial 'rock bottom' moment. I consider 'rock bottom' to be the time before I set out on my own and really, I had brought myself into the awful monetary position I was in. Nevertheless, I had to get to work and execute my plan.
I took part time work, but was very choosey about it. I wanted jobs that, while many would consider them well beneath me (I won't deny that), actually helped advance my goals of self-improvement. I settled on a few hours a week doing janitorial duties and working in a local sub shop.
The janitorial work afforded me time to simply work hard. Manual labor had been missing in my life since I was in warehousing throughout high school and college. The best part was, I could clean any time I wanted over the weekend as long as it was done before employees at these small businesses came to work Monday morning. Nothing helps you rebuild yourself from the ground up like scrubbing toilets. Ironically, the pay was great, but it was only a few hours a week.
Next, I found work at an independently-owned sub shop in their Woburn location. One thing I discovered really quickly was that sitting and thinking at home without human contact is a very bad idea for morale and counter-productive to self-improvement (to say the least!). The janitor job was fantastic, but I needed to work with people. So, on a part-time basis, I joined the lunch rush, making sandwiches and salads. For only 3 or 4 hours a day, I got my fill of people, learned some new culinary skills, and even helped to reestablish their social media presence. If scrubbing toilets helps ground yourself, putting on a bright yellow shirt and playing servant to hungry mobs does it better. All that, and I got to bring home a free lunch everyday.
Once I had some money coming in to pay bills, I needed to take the next step, but unfortunately, like all best laid plans, things derailed quickly. First, I had an unexpected car bill early in the year (the impetus for my shrunken bank account) and very quickly after I had secured my part time jobs, my roommate and I were told we had to move. As many of you know, moving sucks, but especially, due to fortunate circumstances, when you are paying a fraction of the market value of your apartment. We lived in a great neighborhood in Woburn with parking. A few minutes south was Boston and a few minutes any other way were a variety of fun things. It was a fantastic and central place to live and we knew that we could never afford to live there in a different apartment.
Here's where I got lucky: I booked a wedding which gave me an instant windfall and my roommate and I decided that we would look for a place together, eliminating the stress of finding a place just for myself or moving in with new, strange people.
Here's where I/we got unlucky: We found a suitable apartment in North Andover, but right before we were going to put down money on it, my roommate had a car accident (Slid on ice into a parked car) which meant he had to pay for a rental and repairs while he argued with the insurance company about fault. We weren't going to be able to move unless we came up with that money, and fast.
It's in these moments in life when you second guess yourself and start to flounder around. I was and still am more than qualified to take a job as much as $75,000+ a year and I knew this from both comparing myself to my college friends, experience as a manager, and the level of work (skill, execution, writing skills) I was doing in my past job. The only thing is, I'm not motivated by money. I wanted to create my own destiny and see how I could do on my own merit. Prove to myself my worth as a professional and a human. I wanted to just be unlimited and without structure for a least the foreseeable future. I wanted to be an artist and do things that are worth while. However, in making those decisions, I destroyed my security blanket. Every little problem gets magnified when you are facing the potential of missing car payments and other bills. For both my roommate and myself, we had parents (and friends) that would happily take us (indefinitely, if need be), but we both decided that circumstance was a last resort.
Fast forward to today, and I'm still not done reinventing myself (despite having an absolutely sexy beard), but the game plan is in place and I have been executing. Through a small loan, timely bonus checks, and other kindness, my roommate and I were able to move and never miss a bill. It took him a while, but my roommate was absolved of fault for his accident. I started editing videos for various people, helped shoot some great events for various companies, I continually write, and even did some stints as a data wrangler on a local German-language production (Thanks Craig!) among a great deal of other projects.
As October draws to a close and a full calendar year has elapsed since I've held a 'real' job, I have paid off my car, I am working consistently, I am dating (word to the fine single ladies out there), and I am well on my way to the happiness I set forth for myself. I need to spend more time with family and friends, and that is something I look to do moving forward. It's worth noting that I had tremendous support from all sorts of people in my life, even some I didn't expect, and that has been a terrific motivator. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't. I was lucky enough to try and, so far, succeed beyond my expectations. Let's see what spookiness next Halloween brings!