I sat down one afternoon in October of 2020 armed with a notebook and pen. I was unemployed, and running out of time to remedy that. I had quit my job months before on a deep-gut conviction that it was my time to leave the job I’d held for 3.5 years, but had never filled me. My frustrations were growing, an exit ramp was presented, and I knew I had to take the risk. I never regretted it for a moment.
Yet, I didn’t know my next steps, and my expectations were spectacular. This was when I would get the opportunity I had dreamed of, this would be my breakthrough. But after 100+ job applications, my confidence wavered and my questions grew. In the meantime, requests for freelance work flowed in from random corners of my life. Which led me to that moment on an October afternoon, crunching numbers and Googling about taxes.
I think I can make this work.
And I did.
Work appeared almost in spite of me, via LinkedIn request or rogue connection or blind email. I eked out a living for nearly a year, learning and scrapping and keeping a diet of cappuccinos along the way. It worked. And to the day I closed that chapter of my working life, I was doing absolutely fine.
Yet, mentally, I was struggling.
It was in a different capacity than I had at my job prior; I wasn’t stuck or confused or angry. I had nowhere to target my emotions. I was just struggling. Getting work done felt impossible. The weight of configuring a salary, health insurance, a budget, taxes, and a schedule felt wildly overwhelming. My energy and mental state declined, I stayed in bed later and later into the day, and my work schedule fell apart. I did the bare minimum to meet my deadlines, even missing them occasionally (you’re not alone if you’ve missed a deadline).
To be certain, the expectations I had for myself were overly lofty. But it became evident to me that it was a career choice that wasn’t serving me or my mental health well.
I job hunted a bit, but ultimately got the job I have now nearly by accident––LinkedIn Easy Apply. If you’re familiar, you’ll realize what a fluke it is that that led to an actual job. If not, be glad you aren’t that deep in LinkedIn or the job search world.
Regardless, in short, I now work at one of the largest marketing agencies in the world, equipped with corporate perks like a MacBook Pro and generous vacation time and a salary that shouldn’t have seemed nearly as lofty to me as it once did (know your worth!).
Corporate perks or not, what I truly needed was stability and structure I didn’t have to build for myself. At least in this season, I didn’t have the mental capacity or stamina to do that healthfully. It’s been some months since I started this corporate job, and it should be said it has by no means cured me. I still struggle with habits. I’m still working to be healthy. But I’m doing so much better than I was.
The strangest victory, however, has been this––feeling my identity severing from my work life. When people ask, “how are you?” it truly never even crosses my mind anymore to include work. Not that that’s bad, but that’s a major shift for someone who previously equated their career standings with their success or failure in life. Instead of fixating on if I’m living up to my own expectations with what I’m producing, I can dedicate my energy to who I’m becoming––
I want to be hospitable, kind, a deep well of wisdom. I want to celebrate others well. I want to be creative, for myself and not for success. I want to build a world and a community and (eventually) a family that both empowers me to be the fullest, healthiest version of myself and lets me pour that back into them.
In addition to this, I have actually gotten to sharpen my career dreams. I feel more free to create for myself, without an agenda (shoutout to this blog). I feel more determined to pursue the freelance work I actually want to do, that I couldn’t do when I was just trying to pay bills. And I feel more inspired to craft creative projects and collaborate with friends on work I can be proud of and excited by. Stay tuned for that.
But in the meantime, every weekday I will wake up later than I typically intend to, make a small Chemex of coffee, read (or, sit on my phone on less good days), and migrate to my desk and check my email and sign onto Microsoft Teams at 9 a.m. I do nothing perfectly, nothing quite to the expectation I hold for myself, but today I got myself fully ready and made my bed and I’m writing this, so I call that a win.
As frustrated as I’ve been with my own depressive habits, still making themselves known and still holding my body to my bed more often than I’d like to admit, I try to be grateful for how much better I feel from just a few months ago. I’m more grounded, less anxious, and in my best moments, moving toward the things I actually want to pursue, both professionally and as a person. Trying for that full-time wasn’t sustainable for me, but I’m moving toward a rhythm that is, and that’s exciting.
Work from home is a gift, but it’s hard. Freelance is more of the same. It means freedom, but also isolation. It means flexibility, but also unregimented time. For those that struggle with depression, it can be enabling of unhealthy habits as well as comforting for the days when you can’t escape them. For those who are extroverted, it can force you to slow down or into a headspace that makes you feel crazy.
So truly, however you spend your working days and however you may wrestle with them, you’re not alone.
On a day I was recently struggling, right after the new year, I posted on Instagram and asked what everyone’s favorite work from home habits were. It was refreshing, loosening on my tired grips, a reminder there are always small, different ways to take healthier steps. For me, a bigger step was walking away from a job, and away from full-time freelance work, for something simple and stable. I hope you’ll keep walking with me.
The pride and joy of my time freelancing has been the book I wrote detailing the story of Refuge for Women. Read it for free, and support them here.