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Man overboard

Freelancing can feel a bit sink or swim.

From within, a career felt restrictive and enforced. The trajectory they had planned for me wasn’t objectionable in itself, but the increasing distance from the one I had planned for myself was.

So I jumped ship.

Initially I jumped from a big, agency galleon onto a more nimble start-up. Perhaps a speedboat.

Then I jumped again, this time straight into the water.

To hijack an analogy I once read, various materials were now floating around me. I had a hammer, a few nails, and the opportunity to build whatever vessel I wanted.

From the water — that outside, future perspective — the career trajectory I’d left behind seemed more inviting than it did from within. It offered structure and guarantees; it offered security.

It also turns out that the trajectory I’d planned for myself was more nebulous and less defined than I thought. At first it was shapes of ideas and nice things, without a coherent path connecting them.

An occasional temptation was to shout back up to the galleon. To ask them to throw down a rope so that I might climb back up, shake myself off, mutter a defeated apology, and get back to work.

Building the vessel from wood and nails and hammer-blows was hard work.

Not knowing the exact type of vessel was harder still, and seeing your peers cruising around together in exciting crafts of all shapes and sizes really makes you wonder what the hell you’re doing.

But then the thought of a vessel hand-built to my exact specifications, that I can use navigate wherever and whenever I want, remained slightly more appealing. Now I’m sitting in it.

The answer to the question of whether I will make it, or whether jumping ship was reckless naivety, was a good (if intense) motivation. If you’re asking yourself the same questions, stick with it.