Monday, October 22, 2007

Another work-life crisis

What's new, huh? I've lost my mind. Again.

I have had some writer’s block here on the blog lately because of all the personal struggles I’ve been going through. They are hard to talk about, mainly because they have been very much unresolved and in the NOW. After weeks (more like months) of soul searching, wrestling with work/life priorities, and trying to figure out how to be OK with putting my hopes and dreams into a sack and drowning them in the river.

I am a recovering workaholic. I say “recovering” because I don’t know if workaholism is completely curable. I’ve been fighting it for many years, with little success. The various enticements throw things off-balance. The latest crisis: about 5 years ago I took a full-time job. It didn’t pay very well but offered health insurance and holidays, also it was fairly easy especially since it was a step backwards about 15 years in my career path / skill levels – and offered none of the psychological reinforcements that people like to get from their work, AKA recognition, job satisfaction, accomplishment, blah blah snore.

So I branched out on my own. I put my hat in the ring for the job of redesigning and maintaining a website for a band that I liked. I got the job, and all things turned out very well. I felt needed and appreciated... not well-paid but that’s why they call it a “labor of love”. Before I knew it, other people (usually creatives, bands, etc.) were being referred to me, and I took on their projects too, one by one. In order to be able to do all that, I changed my hours on the “day job” to part-time, 20 hours per week. My new base of operations was my G4 Powerbook.

Trouble is, and my fatal flaw in the grand design, is that I didn’t build in a back-up system for myself. There was nobody to do my work if I was not doing it, so there was no down time. My average hours worked per week over the last year was around 60. I’ve had no more than a handful of whole days off, have worked all holidays, all weekends, nearly all my “vacation days”, and all the days that I was home sick from the day job.

It’s easy for other people to say “why don’t you just hire someone”? Sounds like a Duh, doesn’t it? All I needed to do was to find someone whose website skills and methods were similar to mine (so that I wouldn’t come back to a mess that I would have to spend twice the needed time redoing after I got back... at my own expense), someone I trusted 100% with all my customer’s passwords (websites, MySpace, SonicBids, etc.)... which very often offered access to credit cards and other sensitive info, and this person would be willing to work for next to no money, including on the weekend. Where are you, you perfectly wonderful mythological creature of a person??

I have already told my main client (an entertainment publicist) that I will need to be replaced by December 21 when my day job gives me a nice “winter break”. I will still have the rest of my clients so it won’t exactly be time off, I will still be on the job and on call to some degree. For the past two years I have spent my "winter break" working feverishly trying to meet a deadline on either a new website or CD art project.

Tentatively, I plan to keep taking care of the current clients until they need a new website – at which time someone else would take them over. Sounds like a plan, so we’ll see what happens next.

(even if it kills me)


MichaelBains said...

I do SO wish you the best! It sounds like one of those things where, even though you do really like what you're doing, if only there were a bit less of it, you need to find a kind of Me First point.

Good Luck and you just gotta Know that You Are Worth It!


Nava said...

I think your "perfectly wonderful mythological creature of a person??" is here in California. (no, it's not me!). Like you ,she is also a website designer with demanding clients, a freelancer, and has no backup in case of crisis. But she somehow managed to bring it down to a point where she can have a life, and even take vacations. not quite sure how she does it, though.

I do hope you find the golden path and - as Michael Bains so wisely put it, put yourself in the first place. Nobody else will, you know.

Blueberry said...

nava: the fine art of time management. Never passed that test. Failed stress-management too.

mb: I've got lots of lessons to learn when it comes to Me First. Maybe when I get my head back on straight, or crooked, or however it should be!!