Cafe Witness

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Perseverance (Or, Succeeding Because You're Too Stubborn to Quit)

NOTE: This blog post is my entry in the 2008 Heart Kids Tweetathon, organized by Dr. Mani to help raise money for children with heart defects. His theme for this year's event is "Passion, Purpose, Persistence."

When I quit my day job in 2005 to live the luxurious life of a freelancer, I never imagined how difficult a life I was volunteering for. Instead of the sanity (and health insurance) that comes with a steady paycheck, I was opting to live by my wits. I was stubborn (or cavalier) enough to think that I could make at least as good a living on my own as I could from all the clients my day job had worked so hard to bring in and keep happy.

In short, I was wrong.

Not about the money part, but about how easy I thought it would be. I took the security of my salary, and the ease with which work fell into my lap, for granted. I spent the better part of two years struggling to make ends meet, paying credit cards with credit cards, and dressing five layers deep in the winter to save on heating bills.

I was a mess.

But I was also stubborn. I refused to blame anyone other than myself for my inability to live a comfortable life. (Well, at least in the end, after I tried a bunch of excuses and realized none of them were legit.) More than anything, I knew that what was separating me from success was my own attitude and motivation, not some karmic conspiracy to keep me down.

So I kept at it. I made new connections, pursued new clients, took chances. And, most importantly, I had support - from friends, from family, and from people who refused to let me sink too far to recover. (Perhaps not coincidentally, all of the business I currently enjoy comes from clients who were either acquaintances of mine or who recommended me to their friends.)

I'm not quite living the life of luxury yet, but I've also held fast to my promise to myself, that I would find a way to avoid having to work a 9-to-5 job again. I hated not having control over my own destiny -- and even though it took me several lean years to figure out exactly what kind of responsibility comes with that control, it's a lesson I wouldn't trade. In fact, I highly suggest it. There's no better way to learn what's inside you than to put yourself through incredible difficulties simply because you refuse to change your course without achieving success.

Just make sure you bundle up in the winter.

Photo by Evan Prodromou

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3 Comments:

  • My husband and I are in those lean years right now. One of us works while the other freelances, and from time to time we switch off.

    Sometimes we have a decent amount of money. Sometimes we have none. It's certainly a roller coaster ride. Add in bills, college loans, no insurance and having to move in with my parents to make ends meet, and we're not exactly happy with where we're at right now.

    We have support from some, but not from others. My parents seem to think that unless you're slaving 40 hours a week at work, you can't make a living. Never mind that we make the same amount in 20 hours that we would for 40 hours of work anywhere else.

    Things have slowly been improving, and I hope they continue to do so. I'm trying to learn the art of social networking to find more clients, and we're hoping to move back to the city soon.

    It's good to hear of success stories like yours. It gives me a boost and reassurance that we haven't made the wrong decision, we've just made the tough decision. Congratulations on your perseverance and success!

    By Blogger Dragonchild, at 12:50 PM  

  • Really excellent post.

    By Anonymous TheJim, at 9:49 PM  

  • oh, i'm so glad i read this. i was just thinking of putting another pair of slippers on instead of cranking up the heat again!

    i take comfort in your past sufferings and it gives me hope, as i'm going through the same stuff. but i am so MUCH HAPPIER "controlling my own destiny". even though i feel like i work constantly, i do love it. and i bet you felt the same sense of empowerment of managing your own life, or else you would have returned to the security job, no? stubbornness wasn't the only factor keeping you going, but also, like you said, an optimistic outlook. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. or so i keep telling myself.

    By Anonymous jami, at 12:17 PM  

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