You may have noticed I largely took June off from publishing here. There were some other things I wanted to focus on and needed to just kind of put this site to the side for a little while, though I’ve obviously stayed active on Cinematic Slant as well as at Adweek and The Hollywood Reporter.
Today marks two years since I was last employed full-time. June 30, 2016 was my last day at Voce Communications, where I’d worked for seven years prior to that. In that time I’ve had two contract positions (one of which I’m currently in the middle of), cycled through over a dozen freelance clients, launched a blog and much more.
I’ve written a number of posts about my Employment Journey and the ups and downs that have happened over the last two years, all of which are still applicable. I hesitate, as I usually do, to call them “advice” since I don’t consider myself in a position to be giving anyone else tips on how to do their thing or get through their day. What worked for me, which is what’s shared in those posts, may not work for others. If you’re inspired by them, great.
A few weeks ago I was talking with my wife about the eye-rolling that often accompanied inspirational memes and images on social media, usually posted by people who are living pretty comfortable lives. In particular, those that use Matthew 6:26 seem to raise my hackles.
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
The passage is cited to assure you that you don’t need to worry, that God will provide. Whatever you’re feeling anxious about isn’t worth the headache, you just need to give it over to God.
While I believe that to be true, another reality also occured to me: Birds work effing hard.
All that graceful flying they do? It’s to find their next source of food, which isn’t guaranteed. Or it’s to find shelter from the elements or whatever predators they have to fear. That beautiful singing they do? It’s to find a mate to insure the survival of their species or to claim their territory from another bird that would take it as their own. They don’t sit in a tree free from survival-based concerns and just wait for the great rain of seeds and worms from Heaven to begin.
For the last two years I’ve done what I can to hustle and do the work to keep all these plates I’ve propped up over the last couple decades spinning. That’s included lots of late nights, working weekends, frantic searching for gigs and lots more. Sometimes all that has been energizing and invigorating, sometimes it’s emotionally and physically draining.
That’s come with the unmeasurable support of my wife as well as other family and friends. They’ve hooked me up with freelance gigs, reached out with a kind word and done much more to help me along. I owe all of them a debt I can never fully repay.
What’s been interesting about this period is that it’s coincided with a time where “the future of work” has been a growingly dominant topic in much of the business and mainstream press. Media have tracked every new development from coworking spaces like WeWork, the evolving debate over how Uber and other companies classify employees, how more and more businesses are intentionally opting to use more freelancers/contractors for various reasons and more. The final nails are being hammered in the old model of employment as the narrative is being spun that work will look very different in the next five years while at the same time we’re told the economy is doing better than ever.
That’s a transformation I’ve been able to watch up close since I have a vested interest in that. Those who are continuing to enjoy full-time, uninterrupted employment probably aren’t sweating things, but when you’re straddling part-time work with contract/freelance gigs, you tend to take stories of automation, changing employer attitudes and the like a bit more seriously.
If there’s one bit of advice to offer someone going through a similar phase it’s this: Don’t let anyone else tell you how you should be feeling. It’s OK to be depressed from time to time when the struggle just kind of emotionally backs up on you and you can’t smile for another damn minute. It’s OK to feel liberated, like this is your chance to reinvent yourself. It’s OK to veer from “I’m going to dominate everything I do” to “All I want to do is drink and watch Blazing Saddles,” sometimes within the space of six hours.
I don’t know what the next year will entail. I’m not even sure what the next six months are going to completely look like. All I can do – all I have been doing – is putting one foot in front of the other and hoping the next step works out alright for everyone.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.