There is so much going on right now I can hardly keep it straight anymore. I have so many bids out for potential work right now I can hardly think straight, and doing my usual billing and collecting efforts on outstanding stuff, my regular weekly writing for existing clients, taking meetings, business calls, phone interviews, following up with editors on my essays they are sitting on, OY.
Sometimes I wish for the more simple days of having one fucking job and going to work there every day and knowing what I’m doing every day, getting paid the same rate per hour no matter how little or much I had to work, and then going home at the end of the day and being done. And in return, besides a fat paycheck, getting things like health coverage and maybe even a 401K account.
This FT freelancing thing has a lot of upside. It really, really does. I remind myself of that all the time, and will talk about that for a second. But it’s also very difficult to pay bills with such sporadic bursts of unpredictable income. Things go overdue and unpaid for a long time until money comes in, and when I get a check, I rush to pay everything at once.
Since I left the world of full-time restaurant and retail more than 15 years ago, I have had a steady paycheck, a FT job with benefits, until last July when it all ended. I would occasionally pick up a second job when I needed to fund something extra, like the year I worked at Dillard’s to pay for my wedding, or the 18 months I worked at Macy’s to pay for my IVF procedure. I worked there through my 7th month and though I wasn’t able to completely offset the cost, at least it helped a little.
Stuff like medical coverage, even shitty coverage with high co-pays and deductibles, was a given. Vision coverage, dental. I got a tooth filled about two weeks ago at a dental clinic for low-income individuals. The dentist I had was very nice and though I was technically only there for an evaluation, he said he didn’t have any other appointments that afternoon, and instead of making me come back, said we could take care of the filling right there and then if I wanted, since it was small. I said ok. I was in and out of there in like 20 minutes, which was great. But I’ve had problems and pain since the filling. I tried to make an appointment to go back, but they said the dentist wasn’t taking new appointments until end of NOVEMBER, more than two months later. They said I could be a walk-in at the clinic, but I had to show up at 6am and then wait until 7:30 when they open to see if I can get in. And that they only take 12 patients per day, and everyone shows up at 6 so I might not get an appointment even if I came every single day that week at 6 and waited. I can’t come at 6 anyway, I have to take my kid to school, and she said if I couldn’t come until 7:30 when they open I should probably not bother coming because I will never get an appointment. I argued and argued about this, and finally after being a bitch, an appointment magically opened up with the original dentist for the end of last week. He suggested a bit of grinding down for a bite adjustment, and it seemed ok when I left but it is still bothering me, days later, and is sensitive. I don’t know if he did a bad job, if something is really wrong now, if there’s another adjustment needed, if it’s not filled deeply enough, but I’m just so tired of having to call and make a scene just to get what would be a normal follow-up appointment after seeing a dentist. It was never like this when I had insurance. When I was considered a real patient with a real and normal problem, to be seen back right away if something was wrong, and where they would work to fix it until it was corrected.
Right now I have three bills that are sitting and waiting for me to pay them because I am waiting for checks to come in that clients have said they are sending. I used to take for granted the ability to pay all my bills at once, on or the day after payday. I used to complain about payday being “transfer day,” and how I had so little leftover after paying all my bills, I felt like I was really struggling. And, I was. There wasn’t much leftover. I am pretty leveraged with debt from having run up credit card debt for things like IVF and medicines for my ulcerative colitis when I was sick and didn’t have insurance. But now, I can’t even pay those bills. Bills like the electric bill or my Target bill that used to be painful to pay in full, but it was possible, now get only a few dollars sent to them at a time. I owe the county an enormous amount of money due to an accounting error (on my part) back when I was receiving unemployment, and I’ve told them I simply can’t pay the bill. I wonder if I will go to jail about it.
When I’m not scrambling about work, I’m waiting in line for free food and trying to rehabilitate it and use it in some type of edible dishes to keep me in relatively decent health. It’s not working all that well. I’ve gained a significant amount of weight since I lost my FT job last July. My cholesterol has gone up to the highest level yet, and my triglycerides, which are influenced a lot by how many carbs you eat (all the “free” items at my food pantries like bread, pasta, rice) are extremely high. I have so many injuries now, compounded by things like chronic muscle and ligament weakness from being on Cipro on and off over the years, I can’t really work out much. I can’t walk very often because of a mysterious horrible pain in my foot that nobody seems to be able to diagnose or fix, and my chronic back pain only allows me to get so far before I have to stop. I’ve been doing some aqua exercise at the rec center here and there, but my suit is disintegrating and are is too small because it is old, and I can’t afford to buy a new one. It’s just not as easy as everyone says.
Compound that with the current political environment in this country and all the dredging up of the numerous times I’ve been assaulted and it’s kind of a rough time. Each day feels like running through quicksand. I lie flat across it overnight, catching my breath, only to get up again in the morning and be dragged back down.
I’m trying to find my way through to the 100% freelance life that allows for a life of comfort and financial ease, as I have friends and colleagues who do it, but the journey is so tough. I never wanted to own my own business, or do accounting, any of this.
I try to look on the bright side, every single day. I don’t have a work commute. With 133K miles on my car, this is a good thing. I don’t have to wear makeup or get dressed in any fashion any day, unless I have to go take a meeting or interview. I rarely wear a bra, or anything but tennis shoes and very casual, comfortable clothes. I don’t have to go to meetings or set annual goals or have a review where I’m told how many ways I am failing. I don’t have to waste time talking about how my weekend was or attend someone’s birthday or retirement party where I decline the cake because I’m not much of a fan of sweets and then get chastised for being a “food snob.” I am not subject to the regular comments about how “mad” I look walking down the hall because my natural expression, over which I have no control, is not one that appears happy to many people.
At lunch, I cook my own food and clean up when I want. If I want to take a break and clean the whole kitchen and sweep and mop the floor, I can. My laundry is always kept up now. I have time to pick stuff up off the floor each day and keep it relatively decent looking in here. I rarely have to wear my hearing aids or glasses. I can start an elaborate dinner at 4 that won’t be ready until 6 and still find time for a nap during the week when I need one. If I want to have a glass of wine with lunch, I can. If I want to have coffee at 7 p.m. and stay up until 2:00 a.m. with a good book or because I’m enmeshed in Pinterest, I can. So that’s the trade-off.
I keep feeling like I am super close to making enough money to make this struggle worthwhile, but the existence is so piecemeal and sporadic, I am not there. I wake up each day determined to make more money than ever, to get new and better paying clients, to finally sell my book, and by mid-afternoon or end of the day am so tired mentally from chasing so many different avenues and answering so many different emails it’s hard to stay grounded and feel in control. I feel out of control a lot of the time, and then the next day, super on top of my shit. Looming above it all is how incredibly much I’m going to have to pay at tax time because of all this contract work. It’s terrifying.
And Christmas is coming. The kid still believes in Santa, recent conversations have confirmed. He’s 9 and this is likely the last year. I want it to be special, I want it to be normal. I just don’t want to keep failing and pretending to be ok.