this is going to be a long one. you may want to get comfortable.
we had a conversation over dinner at magnolia cafe with kim (frantic meerkat) and matt (mincing mockingbird) that has been bouncing around in my head ever since. we were discussing our freelance lives. we all agreed that however hard it may be sometimes, we wouldn't have it any other way. we work long hours, we have to go with the irregular cash flow. but we are incredibly lucky. we get to spend our days working on the things we love. our days are structured how WE want them to be and we can make free time for the other things we want to do. i started to write this blog post then.
when i was younger i wanted to be a lawyer, a fashion designer, a writer, a teacher, a forensic anthropologist... forensic anthropologist was what i was working toward when i started college. that was quickly derailed. i hadn't actually thought through the whole pesky dead body part of the job. so, after that i floundered. i took classes with no real goal in mind. i got good grades but had no real direction.
so i took a job. and another job. and then a job that turned into what could've been a career. for a long time i thought that the synagogue would be my life. i really did. i loved what i did and the people i worked with. they were like family. the first five years were great. the last five years were rough. things started to change for me. when my grandparents health started to decline, being on call 24 hour a day, everyday, started to take a toll. when the phone rang in the middle of the night i was afraid it was THE CALL. it made the day to day work harder. i was emotionally overwrought, doing a job that already took an emotional toll. the economy tanked, things changed more. staff members, friends, were fired. everyone's salaries were cut. and i was being expected to shoulder more and more of the work. i was already feeling fatigued. the new workload only made matters worse. i wasn't giving it my all. i couldn't - there wasn't much left to give. i felt terrible about it, about myself. i was constantly stressed out. my relationships suffered, my health suffered.
in the midst of all this, i started doing multimedia collage art. i did it to relieve stress and i was moderately successful. i had a few gallery owners who believed in my work. i had a few shows and had a few loyal followers in chicago. but it was a balancing act. and once i started making the things that would become cookoorikoo, a new thing that i was loving, something had to give.
this is not my beautiful house
we made many choices while working at the synagogue. we gave up a cheap and huge apartment for an expensive mortgage payment. when we made that choice we didn't really think through all the repercussions. the travelling that we'd become accustomed to? we would no longer afford to do it. the jobs that were making us miserable? we couldn't quit - we had a mortgage to pay. and the dreams we had of picking up and moving to somewhere with a less horrible winter? impossible given the real estate market. wanting to make art and music and craft or bake full time? you get the idea.
at some point, we both woke up and realized this was not the life we wanted.
when shawn lost his job in 2008, he decided to NOT to just get another full-time job. when i wasn’t worrying like a crazy person, i could admit that this was the best decision he’d ever made. he was not a nine-to-five guy. he had more than enough work coming his way and more time to work on pixel party and play music. he was in two bands and was practicing regularly. he was happy. as happy as he could be with a crazy stressed out wife who kept working at a job that was making her miserable.
and then we decided to move to portland and i HAD TO QUIT. no more excuses. it was time. we were going to move to portland, shawn was going to continue working on websites and pixelparty, start a band or two and i was going to try to make a go of cookoorikoo. and baking. and writing a graphic novel. and maybe going back to making art. and so i quit.
we also had a long discussion about the house and decided we needed to sell the house, even if we lost a little money. we had an offer on the house within 72 hours of putting it on the market. not having the house, and all the responsibility that went along with it, gave us freedom.
this week, i saw a tweet from amanda palmer with the hashtag, "#FuckPlanB." i clicked around to see what it was all about and found links to this. and this. it got me thinking more about the choices we’ve made. in these terms, i had been living plan b - the house, the miserable job and i took a leap to go for plan a.
i understand that i’m lucky. we don't have kids to consider and i have a safety net. shawn is incredibly supportive. he believes in me like no one else. AND he still does websites. people pay him well for those websites. but he’s cut back on his workload and plans on scaling back further. websites are a piece of our collective plan a puzzle for the time being. we'd like them to be a smaller piece.
and if i'm going to be perfectly honest, its not all roses. etsy’s been slow. i’m getting wedding orders and inquiries but the regular sales have been snail-like. i’m always working. if i’m not making things, i’m working on photographs, working on marketing, emailing wholesale customers or discussing the details of custom wedding orders. OR i’m helping shawn with his shop - assembling items, editing photos, answering emails. if i’m not working on the shops, i’m baking. or sleeping. as tiring and as frustrating as it can be, i LOVE it. a bad day is still a thousand time better than an ok day at the synagogue.
and so here i am, piles of silk waiting to be sewn, convos waiting to be answered. i need to place some ads. i need to order some supplies. i need to develop a few recipe ideas further. i need to do a bunch of research into kitchen options and food cart alternatives. the to do list is wildly varied and never-ending. and that’s ok. because its my plan a.
the last three weeks
if you read my blog, you know we’ve been on a road trip. we headed to austin for renegade and back again. a trip that would’ve never been possible with full-time jobs and a mortgage payment. we saw so many beautiful things. we had so much fun. the level of gratitude i feel for the chance to change my life is indescribable.
the support i’ve felt from other crafters has been amazing. at renegade, so many people wanted to know how it was going, and let us know how excited they were for us. online, i’ve gotten emails and twitter responses from people wanting to do the same.
to say my heart is full is an understatement. i often say it and i always mean it - i’m a lucky, lucky girl.