Every year I am reminded that you never know what changes are just around the corner. Two weeks ago I was focused on my father’s illness as I waited for the upcoming round of edits on my book. Then, last week, everything changed; I was on the receiving end of difficult professional news. My longest-running business client, a media agency, informed me that they plan to hire someone in house, full time, to take over the writing tasks I have been handling as a freelancer. This job has been the backbone of my professional life for several years. The agency will also eliminate two other freelancers, one of whom is a close friend and colleague who had been thrilled to pick up new work from the client just eight weeks ago.
This is the life of a freelancer: ever challenging, ever uncertain, ever changing. And this time the news came at an especially difficult time, as my father’s health has been a constant worry and I have been traveling back and forth between Boston and upstate New York to help my parents as best as I can. Just the day before I received this news I told my husband that I had reached my maximum level of stress; I could not have known then that more was on the way.
Our lives tend to be defined by how we handle challenges. It’s easy to feel good about ourselves, and about life, when things are going well. But our true character tends to surface when we’re faced with the harder things. Do we shy away from the challenge or face it? Do we buckle? Do we break? Do we raise a sword above our heads and plow forward through the underbrush yelling, “Bring it on”?
This is what I did: I ate half of a chocolate pie.
I should point out, in my own defense, that it was a very small chocolate pie…although it was covered with whipped cream. I don’t recommend stress eating as a coping mechanism. Once I’d finished the plateful of pie, I felt sick.
But it sure tasted good for those twenty seconds.
Next, I got to work. The agency had agreed to allow me to complete any tasks that had been assigned to me through the end of the year. For the next four days straight I did almost nothing but visit my father and work. I completed one task after another, from early morning until late at night, so that I could finish every project on the list. This was a little crazy. But I realized, once I finished, that it was an important step for me. I needed to be professional, do my work, and then be done and move on.
But let’s face it: I’m no Wonder Woman when it comes to bad news. I finished that chocolate pie. I lost sleep. I spilled a drink or two. I locked myself out of my car.
But I also realized that bad news is relative. Worse things can happen than losing a needed freelance job. My father is a testament to that. When I think about it, I realize that I am a testament to that, too.
So I collected myself. I contacted the college and offered to teach two more courses as an adjunct professor this spring. If enough students sign up and the courses run, that will help. Last night I had dinner with a former client who is now a good friend, and she asked me to do some work at the beginning of the New Year. Then, out of the blue, an author whom I’ve worked with before sent me a novella to proofread.
It’s a start. And it’s a start with really good people.
Today is a new day. I headed to campus. I watched my students work on essays in one class and on broadcast features in another. I felt happy to have met them, and happier with the thought (or hope) that they might carry something they learned this semester forward into the rest of their lives.
I also thought about my book. I’ll have time now to focus on the revisions when they cross my desk. I’ll have time to think about launching the book in May, time to enjoy this special event in my life. And I’ll have time for something I’ve completely lost track of amidst all of the stress of the last several weeks: I’ll have time to write.
I’m telling myself now that it will all work out somehow, even if “working out” doesn’t end up being what I hope for or expect. Does it ever?
In the meantime, there is always chocolate pie.