Hinterland, Week Eleven: A few pros and cons
If you’ve ever wondered what it might look like to quit your job, throw caution to the wind, and race into the great unknown… good news! I can tell you all about it, or at least as much as I know from 2.5 months in. Which, let’s be honest, is not a lot… but it’s still something! And hopefully that something is helpful if you’re considering whether or not to embark upon your own version of Hinterland in 2018.
Let’s start with the cons:
- DEATH AND TAXES
- And by that I mean… health insurance and taxes. Picking my health insurance plan felt like a dangerous and expensive game of Risk, in which making the wrong choice could literally kill me. Also, I think about taxes every. single. day. and having recurring dreams about crying to the accountant at H&R Block about how I didn’t put away 40% of every paycheck for taxes and how is that even possible??? Taking responsibility for your own health care and taxes is for sure the worst part of this whole deal, but it’s not completely crippling, as we’ll discuss in the pros section.
- DO I ONLY WEAR SPANDEX NOW?
- The answer to that is a resounding “Basically… yes.” Pre-Hinterland, I vowed that I would get up every morning and put on real clothes and real makeup in order to feel like a real professional. That has happened approximately twice. If I’m not meeting with a freelance client somewhere, I’m either covered in flour at the cafe or in leggings and a sweater at home. The makeup portion of this scenario usually happens in some form, but as for real clothes… it just doesn’t make sense to choose something other than comfort. I’m listing this as a con because if you only wear leggings and then you try to put on normal pants (what most people refer to as “pants”) you will feel like a boa constrictor has wrapped itself around your hips and thighs, and that is a harsh reality.
- ONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER
- There are some projects that feel completely normal to do alone, like this blog. But 90% of the time when I’m doing freelance work, I miss my people. I miss working collaboratively, doing creative work with a creative team. This became very clear earlier in the week when I sat in on a meeting with a video production team about an upcoming project. The meeting was only 45 minutes long, but I left feeling more creatively and professionally fulfilled than I have in a long time. There’s a lot of good work that can be done solo or remotely on a laptop, but there’s no replacement for working together with real people in real life.
- THE GRASS IS NOT GREENER AND THERE ARE NO UNICORNS
- This is probably the most important one: nothing much changes when you quit your job and choose a new life. It only seems dramatic and adventurous, but really, it’s just a continuation of your regular life. The best parallel I can make is the start of a new year; you imagine your January Self as wiser, more organized, and deeply committed to working out five days a week. But then it’s January 15th and you’re still you and all that has changed is that two weeks have passed… because real change takes time. It’s the same with pressing the reset button on your job or your life. It’s a slow reckoning. Progress grows like grass, unnoticeable for long stretches and nearly impossible to see as it’s happening. Ultimately, you realize that what looked like a handful of diamonds is really just a handful of kosher salt… and that’s ok.
- DEATH AND TAXES: AN EDUCATION
- While it is a little bit troublesome to figure out your own plan for health insurance and taxes, it’s also incredibly empowering. Pretty much the only thing I knew about my former insurance plans was the provider. I barely knew the co-pay, let alone how much I was paying a month or the ins and outs of my coverage. By necessity, I now know all of that and so much more. And it feels good to be educated, even if it takes much more work.
- THE PARABLE OF THE CIABATTA CHRISTMAS TREE
- I made a Christmas tree out of leftover ciabatta dough at work on Wednesday. And while this is not front page news for most people, it felt significant for me. It meant that instead of repeating the same pattern—making regular loaves out of leftover dough—I decided to do something new. And it was delightful, a better experience for all involved. It’s not that I didn’t make a few proverbial Ciabatta Christmas Trees in my old life, it’s just that it’s so much harder to do that, to break out of the mold, when you’re in the mold all day. It’s been really nice to see some unexpected creativity pop up here and there now that predictable patterns are harder to come by.
- IT’S NOT ALL RAMEN NOODLES AND THRIFT STORES
- I had a picture in my head of what living on a smaller budget would look like, and it looked a lot like diving headfirst into the discount bins at the Goodwill Distribution Center to find a new (old) flannel shirt. And while I love a good thrift store run, I figured it would be the only place I’d shop for awhile. But that hasn’t been the case at all. I certainly think through purchases with more scrutiny than I would have previously, but it’s not like I’m Ebenezer Scrooging every single penny, either.
- WALKING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND
- You know what you can do when it’s December and you’re only doing enough work to keep the lights on and not much more than that? Go for a long walk in the snow in the middle of the afternoon. Start the day with a Christmas movie and work on homemade presents. Go to the market mid-morning before/after everyone else in the world is there. Read. Make popcorn. Make cookies. Make lunch. Pick a friend up from the mechanic. Meet a friend for coffee. You can do all of those things and so much more because you work when there is work to do and then, after that, you have the freedom to live the rest of life. You don’t have to squeeze it all into nights and weekends.
- BUT REALLY… THE FREEDOM
- I think that last point is the one I’ll carry with me long after this experiment is over, because it really is amazing. I’ve spent a lot of time having a job and trying to fit my life into it. But whatever comes next, I want to have a life and fit my job into it.
Hinterland has been everything I thought it would be and nothing I thought it would be. That’s the way it goes, I think. But regardless of the pros or the cons, I’m glad to be out here.
(And so far, the pros far outweigh the cons.)