This is Paige. We met her at one of our 2013 salons and fell in love with her bright personality + positive energy. While early career days brought her from Kansas City to New York to Chicago, she explains that those were all calculated risks with job security. Then four years ago, she was challenged to take a leap of faith into her first gig working independently for an entrepreneur, which brought great freedom outside the cubicle walls. Taking big leaps in your career can be scary, but she's one gal who embraced the unknown and whatever this new path had in store for her. Today, Paige shares her story of going from a full-time gig to freelance, back to full-time, and after a few more stops, finally finding something in the middle that feels just right. A battle some of you may currently find yourself in as well? We admire Paige for her ability to self-evaluate and 'embrace the now' during every step of her career path. She's taken each career opportunity in stride, using each new role as an opportunity to figure out who she is, both personally and professionally.
It's hard to believe it's already been four years since I let go of the monkey bars. For the first time, anyway.
Four years ago, I finally gave my notice at a job that had made me miserable for the better part of three years. (The work was wonderful, actually, but the excruciating bus-to-Metra-to-rickety-van-shuttle commute to the suburbs and small-minded, tyrannical management style of a few higher-ups made it awfully easy to seize the first chance I got to peace out.)
I'd been offered the opportunity to work remotely, as an independent contractor, for a woman I respected and who respected me. The night I officially accepted her offer, she gave me a bracelet right off her own wrist, engraved with the words "Let go of the monkey bars." The phrase has never left my mind — I still wear the bracelet every day — it's the idea that in order to move forward, you have to release what's behind you.
Spoiler alert: I didn't stick with that opportunity for too long. After several months of living paycheck to paycheck in a pre-Affordable Care Act freelance world, I ran back into the suffocating embrace of W-2 employment. The price of COBRA, my inability to tweak my champagne taste to my new lifestyle, and my complete underestimation of how much I'd miss everyday human contact made cubicle misery look more appealing than ever.
Another spoiler alert: After just a few months of working on my own, I'd become a square peg trying to jam myself into a round job hole. Let's just say my newly free spirit was a little too much for the cubicle to contain, and I was soon liberated from it. Oops. Back to self-employment I went, this time for a little longer. I started working my connections, bringing on more clients and sussing out the type of work I wanted to do. I was even making decent money.
Spoiler alert: I would ultimately accept one more office job (born out of a long-term freelance gig, somehow in the suburbs again) and subsequently leave it — an even more bent-out-of-shape square peg — before getting to where I am today. Making your head spin? Think how it's been for me: I've let go of so many monkey bars at this point that I've probably run out and moved on to the slide, swing set or see-saw by now! Actually, it's been amazing. I don't recommend anyone make the same choices I have — your mileage may vary — but trite as it sounds, the pinball-ricochet of my career has given me opportunity after opportunity to figure out who I am, personally and professionally.
Somewhere along the way, I figured out that I don't much like censoring myself for my employer's or clients' benefit. Can't deal with the way I talk (sometimes I curse) or how vocal I am about the world around me? Don't work with me. We'll both find others.
I figured out that I'd rather make a little less money and be happy with my life. I was making more money than I'd ever dreamed of at my second job in suburban hell, but a lot of it was financing retail therapy to cover up and accessorize the misery — that money wasn't actually worth much in the end.
I figured out that it's going to take a hell of a lot to get me back into an office. I love structure but hate restrictions: yes to productive meetings and to-do lists to cross off, no to cubicles and vacation requests and strict staff hierarchy.
I figured out that I don't want to be writing for clients. One of these days, I'll regain the creative energy I burned writing blog post after blog post for my clients, and I'll go back to blogging. And it'll be glorious.
Finally: I figured out that I don't want to be The Big Boss.
Entrepreneurship is the dream for a lot of people, but not for me. (And that's okay.) I love getting paid but hate chasing the money. (Case in point: Suing a delinquent client for thousands of dollars they just didn't feel like paying me really sent me over the edge, in more ways than one.) Many monkey bars later, I've gone back to a full-time job at a business run by someone else: My wonderful employer is a former client who's trusted me to help him build his business as employee No. 1. I’m focused on client service and strategy, slowly moving away from the day-to-day writing, with enough responsibility to feel like a boss — but not The Big Boss. I get a paycheck every two weeks, plus a coworking budget to keep the solitude-induced craziness at bay. But most days, I'm happily at home with my cats, barreling through Basecamp tasks from my big grey sofa. One perk to working remotely: rainy days spent with laptop literally in lap, Netflix working overtime.
My current television binge of choice is Six Feet Under, which is phenomenal on pretty much every level — but during an episode I watched recently, a character said something that really hit home for me. "I think it's all about timing. I think timing is everything." It's not an original thought by any means, but I found myself nodding feverishly with the character, who's grappled with one major life change after another during the show. Timing has also factored heavily into every career decision I've made. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't beaten myself up in the past for making so many changes, not sticking with a job to see what might happen. But now I realize there's nothing wrong with making the career choice that works for now. Timing is everything, and for the time being, I couldn’t be happier with where I am.