Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech to the University of the Arts found me a couple of years ago. At the time, I’d just lived through the equivalent of a mother’s existential dilemma. I have a scattering of essays I’ve tried to write about that time, those months, but keeping it in my past has been enough. We’ve recovered. Well, we still work at recovering. Pursing an art degree as a single mom has always been a struggle for me. Not just in the act of going to school. I felt like my status as a solo mom and a low-income one at that didn’t allow me art degrees. I thought I should be getting a two-year degree for a fast-track path to getting a job as an administrative assistant. Anything that would earn me an 8-5 office job with some benefits and enough pay to just barely not qualify for government assistance. And that would be my life. I’d wake up, get the kids ready, and go to work.
But that’s never been my life.
Working as a freelancer adds a special sort of stress. Yes, you make your own hours, are your own boss, and don’t have to ask permission to take a day off. But you don’t apply once for work. You apply again and again. You have work disappear and you have no one to go to for more hours. It’s up to you to get out there, promote yourself, and earn their trust that you’ll do a good job.
Two weeks ago I wrote about feeling despaired over not having any work. In the last week I’ve started my position at an academic writing firm with a vengeance. I have one client I’ll write content for. ESME.net asked me to write a few pieces for them. And I still have my editing job with MissoulaEvents. It’s finally enough for the words “I WORK” to flash in my mind. It’s a sense of pride to pay the bills and have a little bit left over. It’s a sense of hope to think I might be on track to having enough to pay off the debts I’ve been making minimum payments on to keep in good standing.
It’s a sense of maybe feeling like my refusal to sink into a full-time office job until I retire, get tattooed all over my arms, and stubbornly try to hack a writing career out of nothing but my own determination was a pretty awesome idea. That’s always been my mountain, like Gaiman speaks of.
Then this happened.
It’s like a nod. A congratulatory nod. It’s a blessing. Not because I’ve made it to the top of the mountain. I’m nowhere near it. But I kept trekking. I keep trekking.