my silver linings playbook for the new year

new-years-ball

Here we are again at the start of a year that will, from the looks of things, be full of changes and challenges. I see some good things on the horizon, like paying off a big loan this year, and I see some things that could be horrific (I already touched on that back in NovemberBut one thing I would like to accomplish this year is being more grateful and in being grateful, I cannot focus on the negative. I must find those silver linings even if I have to look through hundreds of dark clouds to do so.

How this year will be different:

  • I will write at least one blog post each week, and I will end one posting with three things I am thankful for that happened that week, even if it’s that the cats only threw up three times or that I was in line at the DMV for forty minutes less than usual.
  • I will explore my city more and enjoy the great things it has to offer. In other words, I’ll appreciate what is available to me. I live in a part of the country that people fly and drive to from all over to visit, but I sit at my desk and work in my house day in and day out, some weeks barely getting out more than a couple times and within a five-mile radius of home. I choose to go someplace fun each week. Even if I have to take my laptop with me to work there, I will get out and see this city.
  • I will not belabor bad things I have no control over. The dilemma of anxious control freaks such as myself is we worry about everything, much of which we can’t control. Unless ruminating over the horrible consequences of something that may or may not happen is actually going to help put a plan into action, I choose to not waste my time and the finite space within my brain worrying about it.
  • I will not feel as though everyone’s life is so much better than mine and be envious of the good things that happen to them. I have a terrible habit of doing that: I’ll hear something positive that a friend of mine has accomplished, like she got a new job or a new kitchen or a new car, and I’ll compare my crappy sporadic paychecks with hers or my fifteen-year-old vehicle to that shiny new one sitting in her driveway and feel bad about myself. Well, no more of that. I have been trying hard to get more and better work and I could afford a new car and a kitchen if I wanted one, but it’s not all that necessary right now. So no more comparisons. I will feel happy for her, and that’s all.
  • I will realize that others’ lives are not all they appear to be and be thankful for what I have and when things go well. A friend of mine who I never think has to struggle as much as I do told me a story of something frightening that happened to one of her children when he tried to do the right thing a few weeks ago. On the outside, her life looks better than mine, but I went home that night and thanked the heavens that I don’t have a child struggling with such an issue right now. My kids may not have the greatest jobs or be in fulfilling relationships, but at the same time, they’re not in difficult, dangerous situations either.

And that brings me back to my premise of feeling grateful for the things that are good in our lives. We all have something to be thankful for and this week, for me, it was:

  1. Having my healthy, well-rounded, smart kids around me over the holidays and getting to reconnect with friends and family members I don’t get to see all the time.
  2. Getting to enjoy a nice lunch with a view and a walk with my husband on New Year’s Day.
  3. Being alive and well.

Goodnight.

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should i pursue a low-paying job to get me out of the house and back into the world? (a freelancer’s dilemma)

libraries.jpg

I am a freelancer. Anyone who’s freelanced, especially in the writing and editing field, knows it’s a lonely career path. Most of the time–in my case 100 percent of the time–is spent in a small room, at a tiny desk, where the only communicating I do is by e-mail and instant messaging. If I didn’t have a dog at my feet or a habit of talking to myself, I’d never utter a word all workday. Now I have a chance to break those bonds and get a job outside the house. But is it a job worth pursuing if it doesn’t pay well, is a fairly long commute, and would disrupt my routine?

I finally heard back from one of about nine library systems that I applied to and was put on an eligible list for over the past year. It’s actually the very last one I applied to. And that was just two weeks ago. Most of the time, names of eligible candidates are added to a list. People need to reapply if they haven’t been called in twelve months, so the wait can go on into perpetuity.

The library in question, the one library in a small city within my county, has offered me (and many others, I’m sure) an opportunity to take a test for a position that is at the bottom of the hiring hierarchy and at the bottom of the pay scale and with zero benefits. I have applied to better-paying library jobs with more responsibilities and with benefits, but I’ve yet to get a call to test for or be interviewed for one of those. This job is at the lowest wrung of the ladder, but combined with my more challenging freelance editing career it may be just what I need. Sure, I’d like more money instead of being paid barely over minimum wage, but the benefits of my taking such a job are manyfold. Still, leave it to me to find the dark cloud outside every silver lining.

Reasons to not take the job/pursue it (even if I take the test and get a perfect score, it doesn’t mean that I’m the one who’ll get chosen):

  1. The job pays very little.
  2. The commute is 25 minutes each way on a good day, possibly double that on a bad one. And it involves driving over a bridge, which is over a large body of water, which is kind of frightening.
  3. It would force me to work regular hours and I’d have to clear vacations and sick days instead of being free to take a trip around my husband and kids’ schedules or when I want to (which I rarely do, but I have the possibility to do so anyway).
  4. I’d be away from home, meaning my family and my dog, and that’s kind of hard on me.
  5. I’d be paying for gas, which I figured today would cost at least $40 a week. That’s like four hours of work just to fill the tank.
  6. I’d miss out on important events at home or even just the regular stuff, like eating dinner together (hours are 10-9 weekdays and the library’s open till 6 on Saturday and 5 on Sunday).

Now for the pluses of taking a low-paying, low-risk, low-expectations job (or at least pursuing it):

  1. I won’t feel guilty if I have to quit.
  2. The job is in the most quaint, adorable city in the county, and the library is very nice.
  3. It probably wouldn’t be very demanding work, which is kind of nice for a change.
  4. It will get me out of the house and give me other humans to talk to (see paragraph one).
  5. It will give me some stable income (maybe $8,000 or $9,000 a year) to rely on in addition to my rollercoaster freelance income.
  6. It’s part-time and wouldn’t require a huge commitment of my time, leaving me free to do my other work and have free time. Plus, unlike a retail establishment, it’s closed on holidays.

I keep kicking myself for not going after another very similar position with the main library system in my county close to a year ago. I was offered an interview but cold feet and a head filled with anxieties made me cancel. I was upset with myself for a long time for not going after it, and I swore that the next time an opportunity came through, I’d jump on it. So, with that kind of history, I plan to take the test. My chances of getting the one open position may be good or they may be not so good. I realize there will be people whose personalities mesh with the interviewers more or who know the interviewers or who just appear to be the best candidate in whatever way, like, say, they live on that side of the big, mean bridge. But it’s worth going after.

I did a dry run today. I got in my car around the time I’d have to leave for the test in two days and I dialed up my Google maps. I followed the path to the library without a hitch, and I found street parking easily. I had never been inside the building before but always wanted to go in. The pillars leading to the door, the beautiful lawn, and the coffee cart out front were beckoning me. So I went in and looked around. Dang, it was just as cozy and quaint inside as I’d imagined! Even better, in fact. There were rows and rows of books; a cute, roomy children’s section; a divine sitting area with big, comfortable leather chairs, the way a library inside a mansion might look–I could almost smell the cigars and brandy; two Christmas trees (no generic “Happy Holidays” will be uttered here, I guessed); and a big, 24 foot by 8 foot display case containing a winter scene, set up with a moving toy train and storybook characters looking on. Gazing out of the floor-to-ceiling windows with views all around, including of the adorable gazebo and park in the town square, I felt like I belonged. It was as if I’d walked into Bedford Falls or, better yet, Stars Hollow.

“I could really enjoy going to work here,” I said to myself. (No, I didn’t say it out loud this time.)

And I knew right then and there that $11 an hour or not, I’d be happy to spend time in this place. Now to get the offer….

 

with a slow workweek, i’m trying to enjoy the beauty of life

 

beach

Having felt as though I wasted my entire day yesterday, yearning for work and clicking on the Refresh button a gazillion times to will something into my inbox, then wasting five hours –yes, five hours!–taking a test I correctly assumed wouldn’t lead to a job, I drove myself to the water today.

So here I sit, facing the glorious Pacific. I watch a couple, possibly honeymooners, approaching the water. Deeper out are surfers, some young, some old, enjoying the moderate-sized waves.

I’ve rolled up my sleeves (having fought off a farmer’s tan all summer, I don’t want to promote one now), and I’m busy doing what? Taking in my surroundings, I guess I’d say, enjoying the bounty of what God’s given us (for it can’t be just science and happenstance that made the deep-blue sea, the soft sand to walk on, and the sun to warm our bodies and souls).

I’m easing into the comfort of the scenery, but I’m still on edge. I don’t do “outside the box” really well. And being at the water on a beautiful day–the many that we have here on the West Coast–instead of being at my desk is, for me, literally outside the box when considering my house is shaped like a cardboard saltine container. I realize I have a lot to learn about living in the moment. With four kids, whose futures I’ve spent more than half my life shaping, I have become a planner and not an enjoyer of the present. I’m better at trying to figure out what lies ahead, who needs to get where, when the next pediatric appointments and tap lessons are, and how to get from one field to the other without leaving a kid waiting for a ride, than appreciating what is in front of me.

The fact that work is slow to nonexistent at the moment, with the promise of a very busy October and November ahead of me, should be a relief and a motivator to linger in the present, but to me, it’s not. I will try very hard, just the same, to make it so and take in what’s here and now and not what may be–or what should be. Yes, I’d love to have work that comes in steadily. I’m a person who likes having a plan. But it’s currently not possible.

I’m not starving. I’m not unclothed or homeless. We have enough to get us by and savings to fill in the gaps. I’m a pro at budgeting when times get tough too. And we will work as long as possible if the money isn’t replenishing quickly enough. I have to remember all this when the stress of not working and, therefore, not earning hits me.

So right now I will put my pen and paper away, continue along the path beneath my feet, and say a little prayer for the truly unemployed (and the underemployed) who don’t have this view of the ocean (and a soundtrack of crashing waves) before them. I may not have a perfect amount of work for my liking and the money coming in will have to stretch a little further than usual, but what I do have before me right here, right now is pretty perfect just the same.

 

how being underemployed can result in a whole lot of wasted time

underemployed_med

 

I am underemployed. If I could just be paid for the time I waste looking for work, I’d have a healthy five-figure salary.

I work freelance, and for the duration of the time I’ve had little ones–and not so little ones–at home, it’s been a great thing. I could be here for the children and also be able to bring in a few extra bucks. Fast-forward twenty-five years, though, and what was once a wonderful thing is now holding me back and keeping me from moving in the right direction.

There are so many jobs I know I could do if just given the opportunity, but picking up crumbs of jobs that require copious amounts of time to do them is all I can find right now. And I’ve been looking.

I applied for a full-time job last week that I felt I was perfect for. I still see the job up on the company website, therefore, the company didn’t see me as a perfect fit. (I think the salary-requirements line tripped me up, not having any idea what real people make out there.) In addition to applying for jobs, I keep working toward getting a certificate to make me more marketable for a government-agency job, but those jobs, after having applied, can take months and months to get called back on. There is no rhyme or reason as to how people are selected for interviews, although the county’s website says that people are phoned alphabetically. Great. I’m in the middle of the alphabet (which makes me want to hyphenate my maiden and last names. I used to be a “B.”)

So today I sat down at my computer and, not having received any work again, looked at the work-at-home job sites. I found one job that looked interesting. It’s with a company that requires candidates to input metadata (whatever that is). I took the test, being that I’m good at tests and am uber proficient in editing and researching, which was part of the test. After two and a half hours of working on this three-hour exam, which partially included identifying pop culture figures and events, I was switching between open tabs in my browser when–oh, lord–I accidentally clicked on the horrible, no-good, very bad X, closing out the tab and losing all the work I had input.

I tried to recover the page, but it had flown into cyberspace for good. So I restarted the test. Having done a lot of the research already, I had half the battle won this second time around. It was a matter of remembering and, if I couldn’t do that, looking back into what I had originally researched. In the meantime, I was supposed to be watching and listening in on a webinar being presented for that certificate I’m going after. I was able to do both, albeit half-heartedly. Still, I managed and was pretty proud to have multitasked those efforts and while picking up a phone call from my husband, to boot.

After the webinar ended, having made good time on the test the second time around, I focused my mind on it and was nearly finished within two hours. I just couldn’t figure out the identities of two of the people who were featured. I tried to research some more but had no luck. So I reread and reworked some of the longer questions that needed my attention.

When I thought I had finished the entire test, I submitted it. Trouble is, I’d forgotten to fill in one of the answers–the name of some pink-bikini clad woman standing on a beach while holding a microphone as some performers were singing on a stage in the background. (Can anyone place that?) Everything else was perfect, trust me. But I knew I was doomed. I knew this was going to be one of those tests graded by a machine, whose first role was to make sure there were no blank answers. And what do you know, within minutes of punching the damned Submit button, I received a ding saying I didn’t get the job. All because of one idiotic semi-celebrity whom I couldn’t ID. No human at this company even bothered to read my answers.

What ticks me off the most is that five hours were wasted. Five hours. I didn’t even walk the dog within that time, which is something I do every morning. I hadn’t even showered. I looked at the clock and it was after 1 p.m. when I got dinged. I realized that I hadn’t gotten up from my chair since 8 in the morning. Five hours wasted because I don’t have a full-time job–or even a regular part-time job–to call my own. If I made twenty bucks an hour, that would have been one hundred dollars I could have earned.

It’s not just the money–or potential loss of it–that is so bothersome, it’s what I could have done with my time. This has been a really slow two weeks for me. Make that three or four weeks, actually. Last week I got some painting done in the house, but this week I was hoping to get some paid work. Only it never came. So after sitting at my desk and feeling like I wasted precious days in the beginning of the week, I promised myself yesterday that I’d get out of the house today. The weather has been stifling hot and my office is the hottest room in the house, and I promised I wouldn’t make myself sit and pine away, clicking through website after website to look for work one more day this week. I told myself I’d get out and get some fresh air.

But when you are at the mercy of others for work, a job can come at the least-expected time. It can pop up when you’re walking the dog or getting some fresh air or sitting in an air-conditioned coffeeshop sipping a pumpkin latte. So I’m sorry to say that I probably have a lot more disappointingly slow, unproductive days in my future as long as I can’t find a regular job. I won’t stop looking for freelance work too, but I sure as heck won’t take another five-hour test to get it. I worked backwards today. And that’s never the right direction.

underemployed waitress.jpg
“I have a B.A. in journalism and 30-plus years of experience.”

is full-time employment in the cards? when working from home may just not cut it

working-woman-1900s

I applied for a full-time, outside-the-home position yesterday, the first full-time job I’ve appied to in about thirty-two years. I’ve been a work-at-home mom all that time, which was a great alternative when the kids were little. It brought in extra income–although at times what I earned was so piddly that it barely paid for the newspaper subscription for the year–but it kept my foot in the water of the working world and my brain from frying from kiddie overload. With four kids spread out over a lot of years, it was so easy to put them first and myself last. And I did that. Had I not had something to call my own–a little bit of employment–I’d have been much worse off.

But my youngest is now a senior in high school. He probably will not play sports this year (a great reason for a parent to have a flexible schedule is being able to drive the kid and attend away games), and he has a license and drives our old car, so I’m not even needed to transport him to and from school anymore. He’s looking for a part-time job to help pay for a phone and his insurance and to have a little spending money without having to hit up the parental unit. A job will take him away from home even more often.

In the meantime, my freelance career is in a lull. I will be madly, deeply busy in October and November, working both day and night, and I have been promised some assignments into December and January even, typically a slow period in publishing, but at present I’m bumbling around, finding stuff to do at home, like laundry and cleaning, and refreshing the home page of one of the web portals where I obtain some of my work. I can do that all day at times and find nothing or maybe one assignment that can take less than an hour. So my precious hours spent “working” from home are not getting me anywhere.

And that is why I applied to a firm that is looking for someone who does exactly what I do. Those jobs are rare to find and because it’s an altruistic nonprofit, I applied. Time will tell whether I hear back for an interview, but I was encouraged to find something so specifically tailored to my career choice.

I have applications in with a couple local government agencies as well, but with them, being placed on the eligible list is in no way a guarantee of being called for an interview. I’ll continue courses for those positions and I’ll get busy with work in the coming months and not even think about looking for something outside the home, but then the doldrums will hit again . . . and again . . . and again.

Am I ready for full-time employment outside the home? With a little adjusting, I think so. It certainly would beat hitting the refresh button and finding nothing for forty hours a week.

 

 

work-at-home depression–yes, it is a thing

Some people–a lot of people, actually–would think that the perfect job is one in which you get to stay home and still earn money. That sounds good to me too, but working at home is not all it’s cracked up to be. And here’s why.

Working from home can be awesome, especially if you have children at home or have a difficult time commuting, for whatever reason. It’s also great if your schedule is ever changing, say, you’re a student. Or if you have a partner with a full-time job and benefits and your income helps out but isn’t the big moneymaker in the family. And there are work-at-home situations that offer the same benefits (monetarily and otherwise) of working outside the home, such as if it’s a full-time gig for one employer or it’s contract work for an employer that had to downsize, reduce its payroll, and pay its people on a per-project basis. There, the same amount of work is available, but the terms of “employment” have changed.

But for those of us whose work is piecemeal, working at home can be a drag for a number of reasons, including it can bring on depression. And here’s why:

1) Who’s the boss? Most people would think not having a boss is a good thing, right? But when you freelance for a number of different companies, you are at the mercy of their very different rules and requirements, and although you run your own company per se, the clients are the ones who direct your work. Many times too, projects can overlap and deadlines can conflict, meaning you have to take on two or more jobs at once, working crazy-long hours to get everything done, and oftentimes the work suffers. If that happens, you run the chance of not getting called on for more work.

2) Whose line is it anyway? Because of the Internet, e-mail, and smartphones, most workers would say there’s a fine line between work and home. But with freelancing, there’s no line at all. If people are forced to leave their offices and workplaces at a certain time because a shift ends, they do so. Salaried people too are able to walk away from work, get in their cars or hop on the bus or train and go home. They may take their work with them via a laptop or running through work scenarios in their heads when they get there, but there’s a line of demarcation between work and home. Freelancers don’t have that luxury. They can work at 2 p.m. or 2 a.m. They work weekends, weekdays, and holidays even. They work when the work is there or, as stated at the end of point number one above, they may not be working at all.

3) Show me the money! Unless you’re JK Rowling or someone equally fortunate and talented to have made it big while doing something without a regular paycheck, the money from freelancing or contract work is not as lucrative as working for an employer. Polls have shown that people doing the same amount of work and who have the same education as those in a full-time job are paid woefully less for the same work. A small percentage can make more, but I guarantee you they are working many more hours. And yes, you can pay for your own health care and it is a tax deduction, but take it from someone who has had health care plans through an employer and plans through a self-employeed situation, without a workplace plan the premiums are higher, the benefits are lower, and you have to earn enough to pay for those premiums. It’s not a win-win situation at all.

4) I’m so lonesome, I could cry. Sitting in a room for hours on end and staring at a screen, a canvas, or whatever work tool you use can be isolating, to say the least. Whether you like ’em or not, people need other people. We’re social animals. So’s my dog, of course, but I can only have a one-sided conversation with him. We crave human interaction and if you’ve raised a family and are a freelancer simultaneously or in succession, years and even decades can go by without being able to stand by the watercooler chatting about last night’s episode of 60 Minutes. (Do offices even have watercoolers anymore or have those been replaced by water bottles? Well, at least 60 Minutes is still around.)

5) Risky business. Even big corporations shut down entire plants and office complexes at times (now more often than ever), so there’s not a soul who isn’t at risk of losing his or her job at any time these days. Long gone are the companies that hire men or women straight out of school or the service, employ them for their entire working lives, and send them off into retirement with a nice, fat pension.Though they’re few and far between (and oftentimes government agencies), there still are some employers like that. Freelancers, however, can’t count on steady work, let alone steady paychecks, ever. And there’s no pension, not even a 401(k) to fall back on one day. Sure, you can squirrel away a few thousand a year into an IRA, but there are limits to how much you can contribute and it’s all after-tax, not pretax money.

6) Happiness is a warm gun. The hot-and-cold of freelancing is extremely difficult to handle especially if you’re a lukewarm person. I like things I can count on. I’ve been married for 30 years and have had some of the same friends for decades. I hold on to my cars (the one I drive turned 14 last month), and I eat the same breakfast daily. I’m a very consistent person, so having a job without a consistent workflow is really difficult to bear. I am trying to supplement my freelance career with a “regular” job outside the home just so I have something to count on on a weekly basis–even if it pays half as much per hour–but finding work outside the home is difficult if you don’t have a regular employer to vouch for you. References are really hard to come by. Yes, you can use as a reference the client for whom you did a bang-up job on a recent project, but if you go after the steady, outside-the-home job, how are you going to look to that client? He or she may think you’re no longer interested in the occasional project and not call on you again, whether you got the regular job or not. He or she may think your time will be limited now, little does he know that you were juggling gigs while doing work for him too.

There are ways to get around the feelings of isolation (take your work to Starbucks, take a walk, go to the park, join a group either virtually or in person with other freelancers) and there are times the money is good for the work done, but there’s no getting around the rollercoaster of workflow that freelancers have, which in turn can affect one’s mood.

I try to look at the positives of working from home (being “there” for my kids, being in a comfortable place, not having to fight traffic in a big city–that one’s huge in my mind, and not having to dress up or even shower–OK, that one can be a big negative, actually). And I do realize that there’s good and bad with both scenarios and, truth be told, I’d rather work at home. I am fortunate that my husband earns bigger bucks in a steady job. But there’s no getting around the fact that there are negatives. Now if only I had someone to discuss them with.

sabotaging my life one anxiety at a time

I just finished Jenny Lawson’s new book, Furiously Happy, and am amazed at what this woman can do while suffering from mental illness and anxiety. As she says in her chapter “We’re Better Than Galileo. Because He’s Dead,” there are degrees of mental illness–it’s sort of like the autism spectrum–and some of us are worse than others. I’ve never been diagnosed but I am pretty sure I fit squarely in the middle of the anxiety spectrum.

What’s horrible about anxiety, or at least to the degree I experience it, is you are your own worst enemy. When good things happen, there still is a sense of dread that something is wrong with it. And it’s not like we can’t see the good in situations, it’s more that we run through the worst possible scenarios of every situation, while hashing out some positives as well, but the bad always outweighs the good in our minds and we vote for bad.

Take my recent job prospect as an example. I have had my resume and application online with a government agency for a little under a year for a position I thought I could do and would enjoy doing. It doesn’t pay well, it is entry level, but it’s in a field I’ve always had an interest in and is semi-related to my writing and editing career. A year ago, when I learned from one of my work sources that there would be no more assignments coming from her or the publisher, I panicked. I had recently lost another contract because of tax implications for the company in hiring freelancers in my state, so that source of employment dried up. It was fleeting and never amounted to much money or work, so not a problem. But when my longtime publishing source, which comprised one-third or more of my income, dried up I knew I was in trouble. It’s pretty amazing in the freelance world to have a relationship and source of income for twenty years, so it goes without saying that I began to panic. I decided that maybe freelancing isn’t for me. But I still sent out resumes in my field to try to snag something, anything, I could do from home.

I also explored other avenues and enrolled in a program that would ultimately award me with a certificate in another area of interest. I took one class toward the certificate and updated my online application to reflect that. I also watched a few webinars for professionals in the field. I never heard back from the government agency at the time, which is not atypical, and I was able to pick up two more clients for my freelance editing career, which was excellent, so all was good.

With no contact from the government agency for months on end, I put it out of my mind and simply responded to e-mails to keep my application active in the system when asked.

In the meantime, my editing work dried up again. It’s a fickle business, publishing, and the work either comes in in droves during the two annual publishing seasons or it’s as dry as the Sahara and you’re left rearranging the items on your desk and looking for other means of employment. So I was in a huge dry spell when the e-mail arrived last week notifying me that the government agency was hiring for the entry-level position and to call if I was interested in scheduling an interview. I ruminated on it for a couple days: Do I want to give up–or partially give up–working from home and the luxuries it provides? Do I want to start at the bottom and make barely over minimum wage in a position with no benefits? Do I have the time to add on one more job–and one I’d have to drive to and physcially be at–when I get so busy and overwhelmed during publishing season that I can’t even get up from my desk for weeks on end? Could I do work and be on my feet, something I don’t do while editing or writing?

And then the phone call came.

I had a feeling who it was from when “City of” appeared in the caller ID window of my phone. I hadn’t made up my mind about accepting an interview but I picked up the phone anyway and agreed to meet for one. I thought it was a sign that I was meant to take this job if offered, after all the city never calls.

Then the panic really set in.

One reason, which would sound ludicrous to some, is because I would have to submit a list of three recent work referrals. As a freelancer, I don’t really have a boss. I work for myself but I also work under production editors who send me work. There are two of whom I used once, for the freelance editing job I got that I love but only worked on three assignments for so far. The third resource is a friend of mine whose book I helped edit a few years back. She gave a glowing review of me last spring, she said, and I knew she’d help me again with this job. But here’s the kicker: It’s awkward givng a potential employer a list of names of people who themselves don’t have regular 9-to-5 jobs and who are often vying for the same jobs as you. It’s also awkward because I just gave out those three names to get that freelance editing position and what would these women think if I were having someone contact them again, that I didn’t get the first job? That I’m now striving for something beneath me? That times are that bad? That this career change might be something they would like to consider and sabotage me? Mostly, though, I didn’t want to bother them for an entry-level position I may or may not get and I didn’t want to bother them this time when I might need them to secure a much better position in the future.

I mulled over the offer to interview and got input from some of my family members. Two of my kids, a teen and a seasoned, employed adult who is very rational, said don’t bother because of the pay and the disruption to my life. They said I should wait until (or should I say if?) the other position with this agency that I had applied to opens up and I get called to interview for that, which pays about what I make per hour freelancing and offers benefits (and it would be steady work!). To them it was a no-brainer. But to me it wasn’t so cut and dried. I like the work I do–even love some of it–but some stuff is tedious and boring. And this may be a plus to some but not to me: it fluctuates. There are seasons of an abundance of work, too much so at times, and there are seasons when I’m anxious and scouring the Internet job boards for any morsel I can find and applying to anything that I think I can do. For so many years, I’ve longed for a job that’s reliable that would be a boon to my freelance career.

After my kids’ sage advice, and being the anxious person I naturally am, I ran through all the negatives of taking such a job. I still have a child in high school who doesn’t drive and I have to drive him around town for games when he plays a sport and to and from school daily. How would he get where he needs to be until he is able to drive and until we have an extra car for him to drive if I were locked into working regular hours (but then again, what if the hours were when he’s in school or on the weekend?)? I also fretted over having to run off to a $10-an-hour job when I could make double that from home–if the work is available. And then there was the sense that I have a good thing going right now in freelancing. I can take work when I want it or refuse it if it doesn’t fit into my schedule (although I rarely refuse it because a freelancer will not be sent work if she’s apt to pass it up; it’ll go to some other freelancer who can then be relied on all the time while your name gets erased from the list). I texted a friend of mine for advice and she said stick with working from home. Another said to go to the interview and learn more about the position. Then when I showed how anxious I was to disrupt my life, she finally said don’t do it if it would alter your life so much.

So the other day, I sent an e-mail to the recruiter, thanking her and letting her know I would not be able to take the interview and that I had applied for the assistant position instead of the aide position and would be happy to accept an interview for that if and when I was chosen to do so. As soon as I hit “send,” I felt relief. I ended up having a really nice day with my husband, which reassured me that staying home and being able to write my own hours is the right thing. (I usually plan our family vacations around his much-less-flexible schedule, which makes me grateful for having a schedule with flexibility.)

Then the regrets hit.

And it was a tsunami of hits: Why did I not go to the interview and present my resume asking to be considered for both positions? Why didn’t I at least meet the people who do the hiring for these positions because they will no doubt be calling me (or not anymore!) when the other position opens? I felt I not only closed a door, I slammed it right in my face and theirs.

I did some work at home on one of my boring jobs the morning of the interview and then called the interveiwer because I never received a reply e-mail after canceling. I wanted to make sure she got my message and wasn’t waiting for me to show up. But I got her voicemail and left a message. I also called the person her message said would be of help to callers if she was not answering her phone. But he didn’t pick up either. My phone call was not returned. My e-mail was not replied to. The slamming door reverberated so loudly it shook the house from its foundation. I am doomed, I thought. I am the Charlie Brown of humans. I am my own worst enemy.

Now I am awash in regret and guilt for not doing what I now realize was the right thing: going to the interview, learning about the entry-level position, discussing my qualifications, which would somewhat make me a better assistant than aide candidate, but at least I would have gotten my foot in the door–the door I ended up slamming shut.

Some people would be thinking I did the right thing. That I shouldn’t take a job beneath me, that I shouldn’t take a job with low pay. But I’ve been wanting to work in this agency for decades, yes, decades, and this was the very first time I’d gotten so much as a request to set up an interview.

I just sent a text to a friend asking if she wants to meet up. I can use a shoulder. Then she, who has been out of a good-paying career for about nine months, just told me she is taking courses to boost her chances of getting hired and she has other unexpected expenses. I told her I could drive to her on the weekend, but she laid it on the line. She’s not feeling up to it. She, like me and probably the reason we’ve been friends for thirty-plus years, is anxious and just needs some time to feel better. Now I feel like a fool for having bothered her about my $10-an-hour-job worries. Unlike me, my friend is single and doesn’t have a husband to support her. (She doesn’t have kids or even pets either, which is a plus, but it has to be anxiety filling to be out of work and have no income at all. Even if you were well paid at one time and have some savings and have a retirement account to lean into, the bottom line is you’re still with no visible means of support.)

I have a big tendency to compare myself to people who have it better than me–or whom I think have it better. Then I read about or get a text like the one from my friend, whom I’ve always envied, and learn that even when you’re feeling bad there’s always someone who has it worse.  As Jenny says, “Really, the only people you should be comparing yourself to would be people who make you feel better by comparison. For instance, people who are in comas….” There are plenty of people between me and the comatose. I just have to remember the silver lining is within every cloud and just forget the fact that the cloud is gray.