Tag Archives: freelance life

Information–I used to love you, but I want to kill you

27 Mar

11:05 am

I am not sure if anyone understands just how much Too Much Information triggers me. Maybe it’s a legitimate pressure–if I can’t keep up, then I should bow out of this profession. Maybe I’m simply addicted to information? I should go online and search for a support group: Information-aholics Anonymous?

Today, I’m supposed to be Taking The Day Off: that means, for ONCE, no working. And, by no working, I mean, not just no story pitching, writing, or “job searching” (which, I admit, is part of the freelance game; I’ve had several job applications turn into freelance work); but also no sorting through scientific press releases; no stressing out about finding an outlet for a story that I wrote but that was subsequently rejected by the magazine that I thought I had it matched with; no checking journals, blogs, and the other quintillion sources of science news. And, it means, no other news, which I tend to do AFTER I “breeze” through the science and health news–radio stations that I like, talk shows, mainstream news, magazines here, there, and everywhere.

You get the picture. Information is endless these days, and if you’re not careful, it could blow your mind.

And then there’s social media. Dun dun dun. I was just commenting on someone’s blog about how back when I first started blacking out and getting angry, I would always take it out on my phones and my laptops–I am embarrassed to say that I have thrown oh, about 10 to 15 phones to the ground in drunken rages, and banged the shit out of at least three or four laptops (yes, my drinking was a lot more expensive than just the cost of the wine). And, I knew back then that I was missing real connection, and I was sick to death of the fake stuff: connecting to people through phones and through computers (via chat, email, and Facebook).

I’m learning balance these days, but it’s hard. If your profession is literally, dealing with information, then you can’t quite say, Fuck it, I’m quitting Facebook and never reading the news. If you want to be in this profession, I’m finding, you have got to find balance, which means, learning how and when to get just enough information to “keep up,” but not enough to drive yourself to drink.

Sigh. It’s my day off, and I’m already feeling that feeling I get–tight chest, upset stomach, a feeling of defeat washing over my brain. And I haven’t even gotten my social media fix yet! You know, I hate Facebook these days, not so much because of the rather “ill” interactions it encourages–I don’t really post anymore–but because I Just Can’t Keep Up. With all the information. And, it stresses me out. It doesn’t necessarily make me want to drink, but…it does something. Let’s not even talk about Twitter (which I use sparingly, mainly because I basically think it’s nonessential to my career at this point, and for lack of a better word, masturbatory–like, the same people re-tweet and post about each other, and then, they all convince themselves that that news piece or idea or meme is “important” or “hot”).

Yet, before I even got out of bed this morning, I was on my phone, checking the science news press releases. And then, after popping out of bed, and making it (ahh, diversion!)…I was on my laptop, checking work email, reminding myself to go to one of the big science journal’s web sites to see what came out today, and, then, to my blog to check on all y’all–which, I have to say, is NOT part of the cycle and is something I really enjoy and don’t consider stressful!

Oh, well. It’s all part of my story, right? We all have different triggers, things that bug us to our cores and make us want to numb out; mine happens to be this information thing, getting older and not being able to parse it all as enthusiastically as before, and not really giving a shit as much as I care about other stuff (inner knowledge, silence, listening to the birds and wind draw patterns on the inside of my brain, for example).

Most of the time, I don’t allow myself to consider this a real stressor–I mean, it’s not like I’m chasing kids, or commuting three hours one way (I did that once, for 18 months, remember?), or taking pictures in a war zone, or triaging AIDS patients in some poor African country? But sometimes, I think all of that would be preferable to playing with information all day.

At least I have the day “off,” right?

The view outside my sober healing bubble

24 Oct

3:56 pm

Tired, but hanging in there…

…not unlike the one car that YOU happen to be on that gets stuck, dangling in mid-air on the roller coaster ride called sobriety. Or life. Or living sober. Or just living.

I had a job interview today, and I only got about three hours sleep last night due to waking up at about 3 am and then tossing and turning for the next four hours. I had the worst recurring “nightmare,” too: I was literally buried under mounds and mounds of possible interview clothes, and I had like, 45 minutes to pick an outfit. I was running out of time, and I had no idea what pieces I wanted to put together, and I needed help, so I frantically called in…an old boss of mine? What? Anyway, it was SO stressful. When I finally shook the sleep out of me, I realized with sweet relief that real life is actually better than my dreams–kind of like when you dream you’re drinking, or drunk, and then you wake up to the fact of your sobriety. Sweet, sweet relief.

Someone emailed me the other day, and she reminded me of what I’ve heard before, that the first year is about getting sober and learning how to stay sober; while the second year is about learning how to live sober. I think I’m finally simply understanding this shift, from “healing” to “living;” and that I can’t stay inside my sober healing bubble forever. Unless I want to either stagnate and/or drink again.

As you’ve seen, I’ve been sort of getting my mojo back when it comes to socializing and work. Today, I took a BIG peek–maybe even a step!–outside my sober healing bubble and went on a job interview. Now, I have gone on a couple in-person interviews in the past two years (when I left my last full-time job to begin freelancing), but my last one was last June, and last June seems like FOREVER ago. In fact, I believe I was stupid hung over on that day–big surprise.

Anyway, today I interviewed sober and not hung over, and I felt good. Good to start to put myself back out there, in all ways, not just pitching and talking on the phone in the comfort of my own sober living room. Good to have to stress myself out a bit, whether that was finding an outfit (I’m picky, so I reluctantly spent more than I could afford), or driving myself downtown, or finding parking (I’m pretty sure I fucked that one up and parked where I shouldn’t have), or introducing myself to a new person and having to talk about myself for half an hour.

I don’t know if I want this job, but it would be SO nice to have some reliable income–a 9-to-5 job is manna from heaven to this girl right about now. In any case, over the past few weeks I’ve managed to land a few other freelance gigs that could turn into more substantial income, so that’s definitely good news. The name of this game is persistence and/or how bad you want it. Fortunately, I have at least one (persistence), which I might be confusing with banging my head against a brick wall, but so it goes.

So, that was what happened this morning. And now, back to my regularly scheduled program of looking to see SO many other science writers being published, especially in two new-ish magazines. Le sigh. One day…one day.

Baby steps, or faith in…? Something, at least

10 Oct

10:43 pm

And, sound the trumpets! I pitched my first “real” science story today. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I’m hoping anyway.

For some reason, I’ve stopped worrying about money this week–the making of it, I mean–and have had a surge of story ideas. The kind of surge I used to have, back when my brain was working, fluid, and open to anything and everything being a possible “story.” I had forgotten about the “fun” part of this job because I’d been so busy killing any and every idea I had before I even gave it a chance. Ideas, any and all, plus the ability to pitch them and then, not care if you’re rejected–that’s the heart of this profession. It’s been a while, as you know.

Drinking. Man. Drinking. What good is it? It fucks with your motivation, your reward system. It messes with your ability to learn. It ruins your powers of concentration, of focus. It zaps your energy, so you feel lacking in determination, in initiative. That “oomph” that I thought was gone for good? That I was SO SURE was never coming back, months and months into my sobriety? It is slowly but surely coming back.

And so is the reality of work. Of sitting down and reading and researching–for hours, days if need be–to at least tease out an idea enough to be able to say, this is (or is not) a story idea that I could research and pitch. Did I not know this was part of a journalist’s job? Sure, I did, but I guess I “forgot.” Conveniently, when it was much easier to drink wine than it was to follow through on any of my ideas with sustained effort. Did I just spend too much time at the recovery fair, so to speak (Joan Didion reference!), that I lost sight of the fact that I am not exempt from hard work? From actual effort? Did I expect it to be handed to me, or was that the byproduct of all the thought-wrangling involved in quitting drinking? Because I’ve spent SO much time figuring out this sobriety thing, don’t I deserve everything else to be easy from here on out? NOT.

I don’t know. But it’s coming back and it feels damn good. Good to actually WANT something again. Friends, it’s been SO long, and I’ve been feeling my way through the dark, existing on hope and dare I say, faith. Faith, yes. Faith that somehow, this shit would improve. Somehow, I would mine an ounce of authentic (as in, not forced) motivation and interest. I’ve been reading lots of science magazines and combing through scientific articles this week, not only being interested, but remaining interested after hours of work. Who is this new person? (I have to say, the sciatica has subsided a lot lately, and that is a huge relief; I really don’t acknowledge just how much my back pain has interfered with my life, do I? Of course, I don’t; this alcoholic loves to think she is supposed to be in pain all day, pretending that it’s not affecting her mood and focus. Sigh.)

I also seem to have some distance now, in the form of a MUCH more solid foundation of self-appraisal as well as perspective on what it means to “succeed” and “fail” in this business–and to take little of it that seriously. To have some fun with this. And, to learn to see when I’m becoming too tunnel-visioned and say, OK, deep breath, it’s not that big of a deal, take a break, think about something else. There’s just…balance here now, in my life. I never had any sort of “balance.” I’d heard a LOT of people talk and read and write about that elusive “balance,” but I could never pin it down and define it for myself.

So, maybe this post is about balance. And baby steps. Being OK with the baby steps, taking them even when I’m afraid or am CONVINCED that they’re too small/going to lead to nowhere fast.

This morning, I was thinking about how things have changed since this time last year. I sat down at my computer and noticed the line of folders stacked up along the left side of my screen–all of them are personal projects. I’ve had so many ideas for so long, but none of my personal writing projects ever got started, let alone worked on enough to even be labeled a project worthy of its own folder on my computer. I drank away my time, out of fear–fear which is with me even as we speak–how on Earth could I ever make any of these things happen?

Now? Lo and behold, I have projects. Some just begun, others being quietly plugged away at. And, I’ve realized that this “getting projects started” thing is very similar to quitting drinking. It’s baby steps, little by little, and it hurts and it feels awkward and painful and “I just can’t do this shit…” And then, you’re doing this shit, and it stops being shit and starts being something that you’re doing, that you CAN do and you WANT to do. For example, freelance writing: initially, for me, lots of blunders, lots of fear. But, every day, that fear goes away, I pitch more, my projects are slowly but surely increasing; the fear of being “found out” for the alcoholic fraud that I am (think I am) is going away. I am no longer a fraud; I am no longer hiding behind a bottle of wine (or inside one, more like it). I am doing the shit now, and the car keeps rolling down the hill. I’ve realized in all this healing and navel-gazing that “failing” is part of the process of moving forward. Failure is not the end. Failure is a node, and things happen at nodes.

I want to be where things are happening.

Money, physical activity, and gold diggers

3 Oct

8:39 pm

These days, I’ve become so used to such a parade of thoughts and feelings cycling in and out of my head (and heart) that I typically don’t know where to begin on these posts.

Write about what you know, someone smart once said.

I know about money. Well, I know about looking for it…maybe a little bit TOO MUCH. All my life, I’ve been avoiding my creativity with the excuse, But I need to make money. And well, I actually did, and I still do (need to make money). Lately, earning money–looking for work, to be exact–has become my number one stressor! I don’t have enough of it, money. I won’t have enough of it, literally. Yes, that would be me, staring back at you with my “Wachu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” expression frozen onto my face whenever I hear about someone ELSE starting their own business, writing or otherwise. REALLY? WHY? What I wouldn’t fucking GIVE for a 9-to-5 job these days, somewhere to go where ya tell me what to do, and I do what ya tell me, and then ya pay me. Every two weeks.

Earning money has become my single biggest focus, and stressor. These days, it’s hard for me to even stay motivated for what seems like a neverending job search let alone remain jazzed enough about all the subject matter to ingest and write about it! Not only do I need money, but I need structure. I mean, how do others do it? I wake up anxious, frustrated, and sort of pissed off every morning; I’m so tired of looking for projects, fretting about finding them, pitching stories into black hole-email accounts! Others do it, and do it happily. Or, is that AFTER all the initial startup angst? To wit: it is October 3 and I have approximately 30 days to not only find, but EARN (that means, checks in the mail and/or deposited) $2800. While that doesn’t seem like much, it is. The publication cycle can take months, sometimes YEARS. I know I might be fooling myself and should have found a full-time job a long time ago, but it’s like, if others can do it, why shouldn’t I be able to?

There are so many things going through my head that wouldn’t otherwise be doing so if I wasn’t living here, too. It’s eye-opening to see just how many people are unemployed, or underemployed (ahem). It’s also disheartening to realize that NO ONE gives fuck about us! I mean, it’s easy to ignore the unemployment problem (nationwide, it’s still at about 7.5%) when YOU’RE EMPLOYED. This gets at the heart of a much larger problem which is that people aren’t raised to cooperate, they’re raised to compete. Even on this island–I should say, especially–there are so few jobs relative the the number of people who need and want jobs. I’m not local, and I’m white, so…yeah, it’s more difficult for me for various historical (lingering socioeconomic effects of the slave trade and colonization, to be blunt), social (my qualifications and work ethic might intimidate current employees), and cultural (I don’t have family here, so I don’t have an inside hookup) reasons.

All this should make me want to drink, and it did. It does. Today, it did a little bit.

However, here’s where physical activity comes in! Instead of thinking about drinking, I said, I’m out of here, and went to the beach. I hiked, and swam, and floated, and almost fell asleep in my beach chair. And by the end of it all, four hours later, I felt changed. Cleansed. A shift had occurred and a lot of the negativity had been washed away.

I also met a gold digger on the beach. Kind of literally. A guy who works in gold mining (I’m sure he’s got beaucoup bucks, but he didn’t want to talk much about his “work”). We chatted for a while and after, I realized I was glad. Glad for the connection. Glad for the human contact. Glad he reached out (of course, he did; my bad, but I still shy away from making “the first move” in initiating conversation these days). He’s not “from here,” and he’s new, so he’s able to see all the bad stuff and remind me that no, I’m not imagining things.

And then, I got to come home to an island house, walk two happy dogs, and make my go-to comfort foods du jour: mac and cheese and chana masala (still getting it right, but I figured out that food processing the tomatoes instead of dicing them makes for a much richer sauce).

And then, I wrote this. I feel like I can exhale now. Continue on. If I keep working, everything will turn out OK, worry or not. At least I’m sober, right? YES. All of this would be so much more dramatic and difficult if I was drinking. Do I want to drink? A part of my mind says yes, and that part is irrational and not worth acknowledging, at least tonight.

Happy almost-Friday!

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