It’s been nearly two months since I embarked on this freelance writing thingy that I’m doing. It’s honestly gone a lot better than I’d expected, though I wouldn’t be so optimistic if I didn’t have the financial cushion that I do. But that cushion gets thinner and thinner each day, and especially each month, when rent is due. The question that has lingered over me these last two months, and the question that still lingers over me now is, how will I avoid running out of cash?
The simplest answer, and the one most people like to offer as advice, is to get another HR job. In fact, as I type this, I’m a finalist for a gig that would essentially be a more buttoned-up version of the very place I just left. I’d be a stand-alone manager working for a UK-based company with about forty people in the New York office. They want to pay me less than I was making before, but it would definitely still pay my rent. But I don’t want this job.
The other answer, the one that makes most people look at me silently while their eyes say, “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”–that answer is to stay the course, keep up the hustle, dig in my heels, choose your own cliché. In a way, this answer isn’t really an answer at all because it doesn’t take the cash into consideration. It’s an answer that says, “Don’t think about the money.” The whole if-you-build-it-they-will-come thing.
The recruiter I work with every time I get laid off (because it literally happens that often) thinks this second answer doesn’t make any sense. “What are you going to do for money?” she asks, and I’m a little moved because she sounds maternal, but then I’m a little cynical and I assume that her priority is getting paid, though after so many years of working together, I know it’s not quite that impersonal. Either way, I don’t have a good answer for her.
I’ve been in New York for eleven years. When I got here, I thought it was a stop-off to someplace else. I never thought of myself as a New Yorker and I never aspired to be a “true” New Yorker. I thought I was going to be a writer. Instead, I became a human resources professional–and not a very stable one, at that. I suppose it’s tough to be a good HR person when you’re the one getting half the office high at the holiday party. But that’s for another post. What I’m getting at here is that I came to New York with plans to be a creative and instead I got sucked into the safety mentality of making sure I have a steady and predictable paycheck.
It hasn’t worked. Not as well as I’d like, anyway. My HR career, compared to those of others in my industry, has been start-stop, which has resulted in extremely slow movement up the ladder. I’ve made progress with my writing, but certainly not eleven years’ worth of progress. Probably not even five. For all those years, I believed that I could have the security of a desk job while breaking into the writing world in my free time. But this is New York. I barely have free time as it is, and that’s not going to improve with age.
My recruiter says, “Take the HR job. It’s part of a big holding company. You can always move into copywriting once you have your foot in the door.”
Oh, the proverbial foot in the door. Or maybe it’s not a proverb. Whatever, they don’t pay me to know this kind of crap.
What I do know is that there is no such thing as a foot in the door when you’re looking to change fields, especially if you’re looking to be creative. That’s how I got here in the first place. Take a desk job, turn it into something creative, and go forth and be merry. Instead, I’ve received unemployment three times, five severance packages, and so many changes in health insurance that I mostly just pay deductibles on top of premiums. If my foot was in the door, someone cut it off and shut the rest of me out. A bunch of times.
I just got a call from the recruiter. The job is almost certainly mine should I want to take it. I now have a decision to make. I think I’ve made it already. I’m pretty sure I have. Why not definite? Because it’s terrifying. Not exhilarating, not exciting, but goddamn terrifying. But then so is the prospect of a life stuck in a rut I could’ve gotten out of, but didn’t because I was afraid.
For eleven years, I’ve been a relative coward when it comes to my career. It’s time to be courageous. It’s time to take the leap and trust that when I hit the water, I’ll still be alive and able to swim to the other side.
UPDATE: The good news is that people read my blog. The interesting news is that one of those people is my recruiter. She called, we talked. She was so very helpful and supportive and I’m so thankful to have worked with her for all these years. But now, with that difficult conversation out of the way, it’s time to take the plunge. As I said a few weeks ago, let the wild rumpus start.