I had a dream last night that made me wake in a minor panic. I dreamt I’d gotten fired and was debating whether to stay in Chiang Mai, wondering if I’d need to get a job teaching in a local school, calculating levels of bank accounts into baht equivalent, thinking about what I was going to do to survive. I woke, and remembered that everything is okay because I can’t get fired, I don’t have a boss, and as long as I work hard, the money is there.
People think of freelancing as an inherently insecure venture. What’s true is that freelancing is requires absolute personal responsibility, and some actions have long-range unforeseen consequences. You can’t float as a freelancer, showing up for eight hours and cruising Facebook for six, and still get paid. You don’t know exactly what your paycheck will be at the end of the month, so you can’t write a good zero balance budget. But at the end of the day, my income is on my own shoulders. Whether this month is lean or not will be determined by my own efforts, my willingness to learn, my ability to perceive my own weaknesses and work on them, my courage to gamble on my strengths. And that’s a brilliantly secure feeling.
I’d been in my first professional job only six months when a round of layoffs hit. My area of the office became a wasteland. The woman across from me who’d been there eleven years was gone. The woman behind me who’d been there two years was gone. The guy in front of me- one year- gone. Beside me- six years- gone. Diagonally across- two years- gone. There was weaping on the day of the pink slip handout, and we who weren’t laid off wandered around seeing which of our friend’s lives had been suddenly shaken. One former coworker hung himself two weeks later.
In Bangkok I found myself on the wrong end of the pink slip artillery, a polite, “I’d like to ask you to step down” causing my contemporary world to drastically shift, and my perception of security to change permanently. It didn’t matter that I was putting in long hard hours, sacrificing health and personal life. It didn’t matter that the lack of results was partially due to outside factors. It didn’t even matter that I’d improved drastically in the six months at the job and was beginning to get better results, results that have yet to be matched by the three managers and assistants who’ve worked there since. What mattered is ultimately others had decided I wasn’t doing my job well enough and that it would end.
Now I’m not saying risks are bad, or that you shouldn’t trust others with parts of your life. But at the end of the day, I want to be my own quarterback and take responsibility for my own life.