Since this summer has been a bit of a drag workwise, I’ve actively stopped calling my parents. Calling them is something that wears me out in the best of times, but when I can’t tell them anything they want to hear, it’s that much more taxing. Last Monday was my birthday, and they called me Sunday night and left a voicemail, then Wednesday it was my mom’s birthday, so I made the call.
Naturally, the conversation eventually settled on my job prospects and she asked what it is that I’ve been doing all summer. “Well, I’m writing for a magazine, and doing that text-message answering thing, and I taught that screenwriting workshop, I did a medical study, secret shopping–basically anything that makes me a little money.” She sat there for a minute taking it all in, then burst out, “So you freelance!”
“Yes, that is what I do,” I told her.
She seemed so relieved to put a name to it, I almost felt validated. My parents like labels, they like to compartmentalize things, so even the fact that in the same conversation we also talked about them buying me emergency-only health insurance (just in case my appendix goes) she seemed relieved.
Later that afternoon, I was coming home from the grocery store and ran into my upstairs neighbor. He’s a nice, older man– friendly, quiet, etc., but he also has a tendency to do what a lot of people do when they find out that I’m trying to find a full-time job–give me a lot of career advice that I already know. When he first found out that I was looking for work, his immediate response was, “The Rockefeller Library, that’s just down the street, why don’t you work there? The Providence Athenaeum, that’s pretty close too.”
I listened politely, and chose not to remind him that just knowing where libraries are isn’t enough to get me working there–they have to want me as well, and have money to pay me.
This time when I saw him has asked, “How have you been? Where have you been?” I haven’t bumped into him on the stairs in a while, but I haven’t been in hiding either.
“I’ve been in my office, mostly.” I told him, “I’m doing some freelancing.”
“Did you get a job yet?” he asked.
As thrilled as my mother is with me having this “job”, things that I’ve read about the perception of people who freelance, are becoming all the more true. See, since I have the time, and no idea how long I’m going to have to shine this on (plus I figure I can keep it up once I’m actually working and pay those loans down that much sooner) I wanted to do it right. So I did a bit of research. A lot of people who get enough work freelancing that they’ve been able to quit their “real jobs” report that most people just don’t understand that what they do is a viable job. People either think your schedule is completely flexible you can certainly avail yourself to them for anything, that you must not take what you do very seriously, or that you really don’t work at all.
I’m fine with it, even if my neighbor is not. The fact that my mother accepts it is just the icing on the cake.