seventh month recap.

Happy Monday, friends! Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter, I hope you got to enjoy some quality time with loved ones over the last week. Matt and I were traveling to see family for the weekend, but just like that, it’s back to the grind today! Saturday marked seven months since I left my job in corporate America, and since I was busy watching my sister’s college team kick butt on the lacrosse field, I’m sharing my monthly recap today instead (you can check out the last recap here).

Check out some of this month’s developments below. The spring weather (and blooms!) has really given me a new outlook on work, life, and everything in between. I’m loving it!

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  • I’ve been switching up my routine. Initially, I was more or less sticking to my old 9-to-5 schedule: get up and out of the apartment early, get to the gym, then switch into office mode for the rest of the day. In the last few weeks, I’ve sort of naturally changed things around, and I’m really liking the way it’s flowed. I’m still up and moving by 6:30 or 7 at the latest (I’ve always been an early riser, plus Matt is out the door by 6:30, so I’m usually awake, anyway!), but instead of getting right into my workout, I’ve been doing an intense hour-ish of work — and usually in bed. I know, I know… I was pretty high and mighty early on about “never working from bed,” but I find that if I can get the bulk of my administrative work and emails out of the way first thing, it gets my day started on a really productive foot, and if bringing my laptop under the blankets with me from 6:30 to 8 makes that easier, then why not? Lately, I’ve been getting to the gym for a workout (usually a run, since the Brooklyn Half is just a few weeks away!) sometime between 11 and 1, which is a nice way to break up the day.
  • I’m feeling healthy again. After the holiday season, I found myself in a bit of a rut with my exercise and nutrition. I was struggling to control my sweet tooth, having trouble finding ways to eat healthy during the day, and generally feeling icky about myself — and the lack of Vitamin D certainly didn’t help things. Over the last week or two, I’m finally starting to feel back on my game, and I think that changing up my schedule has had a lot to do with it. As much as I love to stick to one consistent ritual, I’m realizing that making small adjustments can totally change my outlook and state of mind.
  • I’ve started taking advantage of outdoor workspaces. I can definitely admit that this is a luxury of working from home, but I’m happy to say that in the first week of spring weather, I indulged in it — enthusiastically. Who knew that so many of the city’s outdoor spaces have WiFi? Over the years, I’ve struggled a lot to figure out if NYC is the right place for me, and I’ve been finding that when I have more opportunities to explore it in the fresh air, I feel a lot more at peace with being a New Yorker. Pretty soon it will probably be too hot to bring my laptop outside, so in the meantime, I’ll enjoy this fun little season of afternoons working on rooftops and in Bryant Park!
  • I’m having to say “no” to things. It’s hard to believe that seven months ago, I was practically begging for any gig I could get my hands on. I still have a long way to go in building out my writing career, but there have definitely been periods lately when I’ve had to force myself to politely turn down new projects, or press pause on hustling for new opportunities. It’s a delicate balance between stalling the growth of my business and letting things get too out of control, and figuring out that balance seems to be an ongoing process!
  • Money is finally feeling less stressful. My natural state is to be frugal, so I don’t think I’ll ever be totally comfortable financially, but seven months in, it feels like my income is now reliable (knock on wood, right?). In the beginning, I often thought to myself, “There’s no way I’ll be able to earn money like this again next month,” and I’m finally starting to believe that my work is paying off in the form of consistent paychecks. It’s important not to get complacent, but it does feel good to be able to take a deep breath and relax about money… and to treat myself to a new pair of shoes every once in a while : )

On to month eight! Thanks, as always, for being the best cheerleaders out there!

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four month recap.

I hope you all had a fantastic long weekend! A few months ago, Matt and I had talked about taking a little vacation over MLK weekend, but we decided instead to stick around in Brooklyn and treat ourselves to a few extra fun dates. My favorite parts of the staycation? A delicious brunch at Rucola — it’s two blocks from our apartment and I’m practically kicking myself that we haven’t checked it out sooner! — and a night out at the Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn. Maybe I’m just super behind the times on this whole concept, but it was by far the coolest movie-going experience of my life. Since I’m not very good at sitting in the same place for a long time, I don’t usually love going to the movie theater, but Alamo has a full menu (including meals, booze, and even milkshakes!) and full restaurant-style service, plus really comfy seats, so the whole thing feels more special. We saw Jackie, which had been on my list for a while (totally recommend!), but now that we have the Alamo on our radar, I have a feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot more movies.

It’s now been over four months since I quit my job and became a freelancer. Honestly, where did the time go? I guess life seems to move a little faster around the holidays, but it still feels like it’s all happening so quickly.

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Usually, when I share my monthly recaps (check out my other recent installments here, here, and here), I have a long list of observations, but at the four-month mark, I really only have one major reflection:

I made it four months, and into 2017. 

When I first made the decision to totally redirect my plan back in September, Matt and I identified the start of the new year as a sort of “soft deadline” for figuring out whether or not it would make sense to keep going with freelancing. If 2017 came and I had yet to earn a single dollar as a writer or was feeling restless or defeated, we would need to reconsider our options. As supportive as my husband has been of what I’m doing, we both know how important it is to look out for our financial well-being, plus I am not the type to feel comfortable being 100% financially supported at this point in my life. Having just made a decision to leave a job that was causing me to feel depressed and anxious, I also didn’t want to set myself up to go down another long road of negative emotions if being a full-time writer wasn’t ultimately going to be the right fit for me.

The new year has come and gone, and we never had to have a conversation about whether or not I should start looking for another “real” job. Thanks to lots of hard work and a little luck, I picked up enough momentum in the fall that I can continue to pursue my writing — and, better yet, make a career of it. As I reflect on the four-month milestone, I’m incredibly humbled by the whole thing. There have been (and will continue to be, of course) moments where I’ve questioned my decisions, but as of now, we’re still going strong. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that four months feels pretty good. : )

My plan for these recap posts was to continue to share them monthly until either the six-month or one-year mark. What do you think? I’d love your input!

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real talk #1

I think we can all agree that social media and the Internet in general is pretty awesome. Right? In the last few months, especially, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the opportunities that all of this connectivity affords us, and I certainly can’t imagine a world where I don’t feel totally up-to-date on the lives of everyone I care about simply because I’m following them on Instagram.

Unfortunately, there is a darker side to social media. There’s been a lot written about how curated feeds and blogs have created a new standard of perfection that feels almost impossible to meet (this Bustle article sums it up pretty well).

As much as I love sharing the high points of my journey here, it’s also important to me that I am authentic. Like any other blogger, I can’t help but curate what I post, but I want to take ownership of the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the transitions happening in my life. While I’ve been lucky to find some success pretty early on with my writing, it hasn’t been easy — there are moments where it actually feels really HARD.

I’m starting a new series today called Real Talk, where I’ll shift gears and write honestly about my more ridiculous, frustrating, and discouraging moments. My intention here is NOT to complain (I promise!), but to give you a balanced picture of the ups and downs I experience in this new chapter of my life. I’m not perfect, and neither are the changes I’m navigating. Read on to get a glimpse of a few of my low points.

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Image credit: Pinterest/spoken.ly

  • Last week, I broke down in tears and cried on the floor of my apartment because I somehow managed to lose both of my contact lenses in the same morning and I didn’t have any back-ups. (Ugh, I’m embarrassed just to admit this!) Obviously, it wasn’t really about the contact lenses (as I always say, “it’s never about what it’s about”) — it had been a tough week and I was feeling strung out in every possible way. I had also scratched my eye in the whole mess, and when you spend most of your time working alone, it’s easy to get a little freaked out that if you really got hurt, there wouldn’t be anyone immediately available to help.
  • I haven’t purchased a new piece of clothing in three months (not even a T-shirt). My amazing husband and I pool our collective income to keep things moving here financially, and my paychecks have now started to roll in (yay!), but I’m still being very conservative with spending until things get further off the ground.
  • I’m still adjusting to talking about my new job as a writer when I meet people for the first time. When I had a more traditional gig, I barely gave it a second thought when people asked me what I did for a living, but now I find myself stumbling over my words. Since this is all still new and I’m continually growing my portfolio of clips, I’m not 100% confident about how to present my career to new acquaintances in a way that will be taken seriously. (Any advice from fellow writers and freelancers on this would be much appreciated!)
  • Bad weather can be isolating. It rained almost every day last week, and the cold temperatures are finally starting to set in. I’m finding that it’s now all the more important to make a little extra effort to get myself out of my home office and into other workspaces.
  • Getting bad news is REALLY hard when you’re on your own. I’ve found that working for myself means that the professional highs feel very high…but that the professional lows feel that much lower. At my previous job, I was lucky to be surrounded by some really special co-workers who were always there to pick me up if I was having a rough day, and now it’s entirely up to me to turn the mood around. It’s also difficult not to take things personally when they don’t go my way.

These challenges are honestly so minor compared to how I felt in the hard days toward the end of my previous corporate job. Still, it’s not all about writing fun stories and making my own schedule, regardless of what my Instagram feed and the rest of this blog might suggest : )

two month recap.

 

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Image credit: Pinterest/spoken.ly

Somehow in the craziness of the world this past week, it’s crept up on me that it has been TWO months since my last day of work pre-freelancing.  It’s hard to believe how much has changed in the four weeks since my one-month recap, and I’m happy to be sharing the strides I’ve made (as well as some of the continuing challenges!) with you today.

Here are the major updates:

  • I’M PUBLISHED!  Obviously, when I left my corporate gig to become a writer, the goal was to be a published writer, and my greatest fear was that I would end up feeling totally silly with nothing to show for my leap of faith.  Within just the last few weeks, I’ve become a regular contributor to Brit + Co, and yesterday, an essay that I wrote for The Kitchn went live.  The fact that just one month ago I was working my butt of and still waiting to see a byline anywhere and now I have a little starter portfolio of clips to my name — it makes me happier than you can imagine.  (As a reminder, I link all of my work as it’s posted right here to the blog!)
  • I’m feeling the benefits of calling my own shots.  Now that I’m getting more traction and seeing the evidence of my efforts in a more tangible way, I’m really starting to understand how the hustle works.  My success — and my paychecks — are directly correlated to the amount of time I invest and the number of ideas I can generate.  As safe as it felt to get a consistent paycheck every two weeks in my previous job, I feel so much pride when I see that my willingness to put in extra work often results in a greater reward.  It’s certainly less predictable financially (especially in these early stages), but now that I can actually see how satisfying it is to make my own luck, I am all the more motivated to be my own boss.
  • I’m meeting really interesting people.  Whether I’m connecting with fellow freelancers at a coffee shop or interviewing people who are doing really awesome things for my articles, I’m loving the opportunities I have to build professional relationships in a new way.  Working from home can feel lonely at times, and I was almost entirely isolated for my first month, so it’s been totally refreshing to network with a community of other writers and creatives.
  • My confidence is growing.  As a journalism student, one of my biggest struggles was conducting interviews.  Although I’m usually pretty self-assured, if you put me in front of a source for a story, I would immediately become uncomfortable and awkward.  It’s amazing what a few years of life experience can do for your conversation skills!  I still get pre-interview jitters here and there, but it’s nothing compared to the anxiety I used to get.
  • The bad news — I’m still not sleeping.  You can check out a post detailing all of my sleep issues here, but the short update is that I am still really struggling to get enough rest.  I’m sticking to my goal of phasing out my (formerly) beloved over-the-counter sleep aids, and I know I’ll be happy I did it in the end, but right now I just feel completely exhausted.

Sometimes I forget that what I’m really creating is a “new normal,” and that someday, it won’t feel like some wild experiment that I’m still figuring out one step at a time.  Until then, I appreciate all of your continued support as I build this new life for myself — growing  pains and all.

 

success (these days).

First, I owe a major THANK YOU to all of you for the incredible response to the blog launch last week.  I am totally humbled by the many kind words you shared after I made the link  public, and it means so much to have you along for this ride!  I hope you will continue to enjoy, and to share if you feel so inspired  🙂

We spent the weekend back in Pennsylvania visiting family and continuing the birthday celebrations.  Too many helpings of ice cream cake later, I am officially feeling 26, and vey loved, too. I woke up yesterday morning (almost) 100% ready to jump into another week of hustle.

I’m going to make a confession, though, because honestly, it’s something I’ve already been thinking about way more in Week 2 than I was in Week 1.  You may have already guessed, but here it is, spelled out in plain black and white: I currently have no paycheck.

Don’t get me wrong– I was obviously prepared for this reality when I made the decision to leave my publishing job.  Matt and I spent a lot of time talking through our finances and making sure we were comfortable.  Both of us have been diligent over the years about saving our money, which has taken a lot of pressure off of us, and we can continue managing our money without major issues as I work to build up my writing business over the next few months.  I’ve spoken with enough freelancing friends to know that it can often take that long before you’ve established any sort of steady income in this industry!  Still, I have always been very frugal and careful with my money, and I know the financial implications of my situation will be a constant personal concern until I’m fully up and running.

Last week was SO incredibly positive.  I’m already lining up exciting conversations in the coming days that will give me the chance to touch topics and projects that will be fresh, exciting, and totally stimulating.  Yay!  BUT, those endeavors aren’t paying…yet.

In the meantime, I’ve decided that my usual metrics of success might need a bit of tweaking.  I’ve spent my life pursuing success in very conventional ways– good grades, a good paycheck, promotions, etc., all of which are totally awesome and have gotten me where I am today.  In this moment, though, success lies in the small victories I achieve each day, because the little wins get me closer to my goals.  Here are some of the ways in which I’m currently defining success:

  • Time at my desk.  When you’re working from home and still learning the ropes of your routine, more than half of the battle is sitting your butt in that chair, opening your computer, and chugging along with research and communication that’s going to generate paying projects down the road.  Since I’m still nailing down official assignments, I was worried at first that I wouldn’t know how to actually structure time at my desk so it would be productive.  I am amazed by the amount of potential work that I can lay the foundation for if I simply take the time to sit down and focus.
  • Content generated.  When I’m not researching potential outlets or working on outreach to editors, I am working on this blog or logging time writing my book.  A lot of thought and mental energy go into creating this content, and there’s no doubt that I’m putting in a good day’s work when I shut down my computer having produced it.
  • E-mails and follow-ups sent.  I’m investing a lot of time now in reaching out to and following up with editors and potential clients.  If it really is “all about who you know,” then I’m trying to get to know as many people as possible early on!   The more contacts made or messages sent in a day, the better I feel.
  • Sticking to my routine.  In my last blog post, I talked about the importance of keeping up with a routine even outside of a structured office environment.  For me, maintaining these habits is key to keeping me on track.  If I give in to the temptation to stay in bed until noon, skip a workout, or lounge around all day in sweatpants, I’m setting myself up to fail.
  • “Work talk.”  One of the first things I realized when I began feeling disengaged and unsatisfied in my corporate job was that I no longer wanted to talk about my day at work.  My (now) husband would ask me what was going on at the office, and I wouldn’t know what to tell him, or how to express what was exciting me about my day-to-day.  Now, when Matt comes home from the office, I’m so very excited to fill him in on the new leads I’ve found and the conversations I’ve been having.  I count that as a huge win!

Don’t get me wrong– I’ll do a MAJOR happy dance when those paychecks start rolling in, but for now, I’m working on tuning in to all of these other markers of success.  I love this quote from one of my very favorite humans, Amy Poehler– “You attract the right things when you have a sense of who you are.”  I am feeling more like my real self each and every day, and in doing so, I am attracting all of the “right” things– happiness, personal growth, creative opportunities and yes, eventually, financial reward, too.

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Photo credit: Pinterest/www.spoken.ly