If you are considering freelance writing as a career, brace yourself. It is not a quick career fix. There will be monthly struggles to gather more assignments and lean months where you wonder if it is worth it. You will fight to get paid at times and it will be a while before your paychecks actually add up to a real salary. That all being said, it is worth it. Do it if you can find a way to afford to do so (cutbacks will be required). Your life will have more freedom and purpose that you can imagine.
If you are like me, you may want circumstances to present you with the ideal time to make the move to a freelance writing career. But that is not what happened to me and I doubt that an “ideal” time ever would have arrived. What did happen was a traumatic event that motivated me to rethink what mattered in my life and led me to the unexpected choice of leaving behind me all I had worked for for so many years. I leaped.
Here is why:
The newsroom’s AC was not working again. I had just been told by my boss that I could not take a much needed day off the following week. I sighed and said that I understood, though I clearly did not, secretly wanting to just slam the damn phone down and walk out. I was 38, seven months pregnant and feeling so exhausted that it was difficult to just keep going and just get through each day.
My neck was damp with perspiration, as were the backs of my knees, and my feet felt like they were in an oven. Something was wrong. I felt it. I had two other children and had never felt this bad before. I was trying to make this work, but I really needed a day off to rest. I took a deep breath as I hung up the phone and begrudgingly plunged into the morning of work. No time for lunch that day and I had a prenatal doctor’s appointment I could not reschedule.
As the clock raced ahead, the baby kicked me, tapping the desk in front of me and pinching the skin of my belly between it. I fell behind in the workload and I left my office in my usual scurry of being ever so slightly late for my doctor’s appointment. I waited impatiently at the traffic lights to turn into the hospital. I watched as coworkers passed in a car heading towards the local sandwich shop. I envied them being able to squeeze in lunch. I envied their freedom.
I raced into the doctor’s office and breathlessly said my name as I checked in. The baby in my belly had grown quiet.
In the examining room the doctor breezed in and made the usual small talk as I lay down on the table and she began to listen for the baby’s heartbeat, moving the scope around on my belly. Time ticked by. Stupidly I did not notice.
“Can’t find him,” she said, as she searched. I continued to chat not realizing at first her expression had changed. “Something’s not right…something’s wrong.”
“What?” I asked, still not quite getting it. She said something about an ultrasound and ran from the room. I heard her yelling for the machine and in seconds she burst back into the room with a portable ultrasound machine. “Is something wrong?” I asked. “Is he alive?”
“I can’t find the heartbeat. I don’t know,” she said, her voice strange and slightly shaky. “Oh…oh. Something is not right. OK we are going. No time to wait for a wheelchair.”
I was confused and beginning to panic as it was sinking in. He had been moving an hour earlier. He had to be OK. This could not be happening. He had to OK.
She swiftly took me out a back way from the office, holding on to my arm as she urged me to go quicker. We got to the elevator where she slapped the button, backed away like it would magically open knowing the urgency, then said it would take too long.
“We are taking the stairs,” she said, grabbing my arm again and pushing open the door. “I know it may not seem like you should be doing stairs like this but we don’t have time.”
We don’t have time. I thought about her words as we hurried down the stairs. He was dead. She really thought my beautiful baby boy was dead or near death inside me. I fought back tears as we raced into the maternity ward. The nurses there got me to the first room. They helped get my clothes off. Doctor Brown was kicking some of her street clothes off, scrubbing her hands and stepping into the operating garb the nurses were holding up for her. I was lying down as a nurse came running in with a roll of something. She spread it out on a table and it clanged of metal as the surgical equipment for the emergency C-section rolled out. Another nurse had begun searching for a heartbeat again…she told me her name…which I will never recall. Then we heard it.
Ka-thump. Slow at first, and then regaining its speed, the sound of a little heartbeat filled the room.
“Oh, God! There…there,” the nurse whose name I will never recall said. Tears were streaming down her face. “Oh, hunny, it’s OK.”
She leaned onto me, hugging me in a very uncharacteristic way of a medical professional, both of us crying and sputtering words of gratitude. I was shaking and felt sick. I could not stop the tears. I vaguely heard Dr. Brown saying< “Thank God” over and over. The sound of my son’s little heart downed out all else.
I never went back to my corner office as fate would have it. I spent a week in two different hospitals. I was monitored every day for the last three months and was on modified bedrest. Then after a normal birth, I found it impossible to leave him. I walked away from everything I worked to achieve. My heart now beats for him as his did for me that fateful day.
I still freelance today, almost nine years later, because I have found a way to make this work for me and my family. It took a lot of persistence and hard work, but It was one of the best decisions I ever made.