Friday, May 23, 2014

Loves :: Self-Employment / 2 Months In

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In lieu of a Friday Feelings post this week, I wanted to tell you my feelings about one thing: self-employment. In a word, it's awesome. But every entrepreneur has a story, and this is mine (so far).

I have wanted to be a writer since I was 7 years old. Well, I suppose I always was, but I wanted it as my career. I just didn't know what type of writing I wanted to do. Every few years I would go through a different phase where I was into a different kind of writing. In the second grade I hand-wrote and illustrated a 90-page novel. After that, my parents allowed me to have a computer in my room and I would spend hours typing. I was actually very shy as a kid and I didn't have many friends until high school. I struggled with depression and didn't like myself. I was bullied a lot in my classes. But through my words, I could be whoever I wanted.

Throughout middle school, I wrote stories and a couple series of chapter books, and started working on my longest novel yet. I really enjoyed historical fiction at the time and so it was set in the 1800s. It was a romance tale, but I made the protagonist very strong, independent and realistic. It was over 300 pages long when my dad was fixing something on the computer and accidentally deleted the file. I wasn't mad at him because I knew he didn't do it on purpose, but I cried for days. (At the time, I obviously knew nothing about backing up stuff.)

After that, I went through a huge period of writer's block. I had been so into that story that I didn't know how to start something new. In high school, I joined the theatre company and made friends with other creative people who were "weird" like me. I started acting and singing and coming out of my shell. I still keep in touch with some of the wonderful people that I met. Being part of that group really changed my life; I finally felt as if I belonged.

Even though I had trouble getting back into writing fiction, I still wrote in a personal journal daily. Detailing the hardships of growing up became one of my favorite hobbies. I secretly imagined someone finding my diaries someday and feeling comforted knowing that they weren't alone in their struggles. I realized that I really wanted to help people through writing about my life, but I didn't know how. I did have a LiveJournal at the time, but no one really called it "blogging" and I kept it restricted for family and friends who had an account. MySpace was all the rage but it was mostly a popularity contest for girls with tattoos, and Facebook was nonexistent.

Not only did I not have a public forum for my writing, but I also didn't know if my writing was good enough. I didn't know if anyone would like it or even care and my type of art wasn't exactly cool. Back then, it was all about emo boys painting and playing guitars, and us writers kept our passion a secret. There was a website I joined at one point called The Young Writers Club where people could post their work and others could comment, but everything I shared got ripped apart and I stopped using it.

In college I continued with theatre and dabbled in all areas of it -- directing, producing, and even becoming president of the organization. I also wrote a couple short sketches for a comedy show that I co-hosted. After that, I began to find my confidence again, and I entered two short stories for a creative writing scholarship that I ended up winning. Being an obvious lover of words, I received my bachelor's degree in Communications.

Shortly after graduation, I moved to Los Angeles with my then-boyfriend, a comedy writer. Right away, my mission was to find a full-time job, but keep in mind that this was 2009 and the market was at an all-time low. I ended up landing a gig at the front desk of an FBO at a private airport and also worked at Ann Taylor on the side. Both jobs were fun, but neither had room for growth and I was exhausted; I was working nearly 60 hours per week and rarely got a day off. Plus, I wasn't really passionate about what I was doing.

I kept up this schedule for a little over a year and at one point I discovered fashion blogs. It seemed like the perfect outlet for me and so I decided to make my own. I had a lot of downtime at the FBO so I was able to blog when we weren't busy. Not only was it fun, but like I felt when I first joined theatre, I started meeting people who were like me.

I ended up leaving both of those jobs when I became a manager for a rental car company. There was a lot more room for advancement and I made more money. However, I always felt like I was broke. I realized that I was spending money to escape (using it for alcohol, clothes, etc). The job was stressful and once again I found myself working almost 60 hours every week. It was fun because I liked the people I worked with, but I barely had time to blog. I stayed with the company for two and a half years but I usually got only 4-6 hours of sleep per night between 11-hour days, workout sessions at the gym, cooking meals, keeping up a social life and trying to blog. I realized that I had lost sight of my original dream and it was time to make a change.

Fortunately, Brandon has been supportive of everything I choose to do since day one, but of course I was worried about what everyone else would think when I wanted to leave my secure corporate "career" and become a starving artist. If you've never been to LA, you may not know that it's all about the car you drive, the clothes you wear, the clubs you go out to, the amount of money you make... etc. Even though there are plenty of people here chasing their dreams, there are also a lot of people who look down on that.

I decided to make a plan, and I told hardly anyone about it. I didn't want rumors to fly and I wanted to leave the company on a good note (I still keep in touch with my favorite bosses and co-workers). I started saving money like crazy and I didn't even touch my huge tax return. I skipped Starbucks, cancelled my gym membership and quit shopping unless it was something I absolutely needed. I started this process before I even found out I was pregnant, but once that happened it was the final push that I needed. Being on my feet for nearly 12 hours a day while wanting to throw up all over customers was not ideal.

By the time I put in my two weeks I had pushed enough into my savings for three months of essentials so that I could survive just in case everything backfired. When I started telling people that I was leaving, I actually received a lot of wonderful, encouraging responses. I was surprised by the amount of positive feedback I got. And even if anyone secretly believed I was crazy, they didn't tell me that, which I appreciated. I needed as much support as I could get (and still do). Fortunately, my life coach, Kerry, has been rooting for me all along. (Just a friendly reminder... never tell an artist that their dreams might not come true. They are already worried about that. Every creative person is more insecure than you think.)

It's been over two months now, and it's flown by. You already read about my daily schedule so I won't repeat it, but I am truly living the life I've always wanted. I may make 90% less money, but I get to write about my world and the things I've learned in order to help women succeed and grow, and that has been my goal for the last 20 years. If it weren't for my discovery of blogging (through getting hooked on Keiko Lynn) I never would've created this space. Thanks to the power of the internet, my words can reach absolutely anyone and it's a magical thing. If you had told me five years ago that I would self-publish my own ebook someday I may not have believed you (or even known what an ebook was, ha).

I know that my journey into entrepreneurship is just beginning, but I've never been so sure about anything else ever. Thank you for reading this super long-winded tale and for following me along as I continue to make my dreams come true!
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