Transiting into freelancer mode
“So are you happy to have moved out of Hong Kong?”, asked a friend today. I smiled, and replied, “Yes.Quite so.”
The last few weeks have been busy and idle at the same time. Busy for having moved between countries, packed and unpacked travel cases, gone out to meet friends and retreated back into dim corners, slept late and woken up earlier than usual.
There have been long stretches of noiseless hours; afternoons turning into evenings, and then calmer nights. The weekday hours have passed by quickly, with nothing to do, but stare at the seas, look down the passersby from my tenth-storeyed apartment’s window.
In the middle of these bustling paradoxical phases, I’ve transited from one life into another. These past days have helped me transition from being a full-time policy professional and repackage into a full-time freelance writer.
While the transition has been smooth so far, the process behind making that decision, wasn’t quite so. Until last month, I was employed at a think tank in Hong Kong, working on public policy issues in Southeast Asia. My life there, could be summed up as pretty comfortable. I was earning a decent salary, exploring a new city, making new friends, and having weekends to myself. Everything was in order, except the 40 hours that I spent at the office.
Early on into the job, I realised that I did not enjoy the work I was learning to do. While I had helpful colleagues and kind management, I was a square peg trying to fit in a hole there. I gave myself three months to learn on the job, before making any decision. However, by the end of that time, I knew, this job did not motivate me to wake up every morning. Instead, I would look forwards to weekends to write and read.
But, by this time, I had also, realised the value of my savings and how invigorating it feels to be financially independent. And so began my sleepless nights over contemplating the next step. My writing continued and I managed to get published in a couple of places too. Meanwhile, I continued on the job, miserably. The work did not inspire me and nothing that I did, could make me think otherwise.
This full-time professional, part-time writer job continued, until I hit a breakdown. One evening, I returned from work, dejected, and broke down in my room. I had started making errors in my work, and the fatigue from copiously writing to make up for ‘lost’ time, drove me to a point of collapse. I texted my best friend. “I know you’re going through a lot yourself, but I really need to talk to you right now. Call me.”
She instantly dialled back, “kya hua? What’s eating you up?” “I cannot do this. I am tired of doing work that I do not enjoy, and it is debilitating my self confidence with each passing day,” I said through broken statements. “Mariyam. This world has enough people hating their jobs every single day. Do not be a part of that room,” she replied. “Chod do naukri. Just write and write away. I love what you write, and I’m rooting for you.” The following weekend I sent in my resignation letter.
This was a month and a half ago.
As I write this short note today, it is more as a journal entry to this version of myself, who is now walking that decision. A decision that will come with rejections, guilt, fear, insecurity and even misery. A freelancer’s life promises independence, but you’ve got to accept the opportunity costs too. Or at least remind yourself each day of that.
As I now plan my days as a freelancer, I am also taking this time as an opportunity to learn more. Not just skills, but self-love. This means deliberate efforts to improve myself, my mental health and my habits, while undergoing changes in life.
This is the beginning of a journey that comes with no promises of success. However, it does come with the opportunities of perseverance, confidence and self-valuation.
For now, that is all I seek.