Sunday, January 09, 2022

onward, across the sea

Much has been afoot this week, including giving official notice at the library that my last week will be the first one in February.  It's hard to leave a place you've been for 21 years, and also hard to leave people and a place you actually like, to feel a little like you are letting them down (the rehire process being arduous and time consuming and  sometimes not even possible--and this is understaffing part of the secondary set of  reasons I am not staying.) The other secondary reasons--less important but still relevant--money (for which I can work half the time for twice the wage freelance), mounting responsibilities that have me doing multiple jobs there and then coming home to do multiple jobs on my own stuff. It may be the pandemic, it may be middle age, but my head had to reach a point where it screamed a Enough! and this has been the past year or so when I realized how incredibly burned out and unhappy I've been. All the while convincing myself that this was not the time to be making crazy, life shifting decisions. But maybe that is exactly the best time to make them. 

But of course, the primary reason to go are that it has always been my intention to strike out on my own.  Ten years ago, I felt like I was almost there just with the shop all alone, but so much overhead made me reluctant.  I was also investing a lot of time in areas that were lucrative, but weren't what I felt I should be doing with the so very limited time I made for it around my real job. I scaled things back and chose instead to focus on building the chap series and my own zine projects, and made other things (originals paper goods, accessories, etc.) just ancillary to the books. It made sense at the time, but it did put a dent in profits, but I was willing to take it if I could invest that time wisely and had something else paying my bills.  Over the years, I bought some things back, but never to the level they were. The chapbook series became a bit more solvent as the author stable grew and people discovered us. and was less likely to operate at a loss.  I took on occasional paid editing and design work for other writers.  I did keep up my writing practice, but art always took a second seat. Everything always felt like it was just happening in the crevices.

I also felt like I was never doing any of it particulary well--disorganized, dropping balls, always behind schedule. I'd buy supplies and they'd sit untouched for months, sometimes years. Because I didn't have that earlier income cushion from the shop,  I also was struggling to pay the rent on the studio space, dipping into personal funds.  This was also untenable, so I left that space in 2019 (serendipitously right before covid shook everything to hell). It was sad, but it also freed up time, both to work on things on weekends and in the late nights, but also that money could be invested in supplies and other projects. (Of course it was countered by crippling covid-related anxiety that made it hard to work on anything, but that eventually eased and in the past year, things have gotten back to normal in terms of layout, releases, and production.)  At the same time, I could see the possibility of making a full go of it (if only) and it was like this charming, far off city on an island.  But I was not, in the middle of pandemic uncertainty, ready to die in the ocean getting there. 

A couple things changed in the last 6 months--even the last two months.  I began to feel a little more smothered and hopeless at the Library as things continued to be too much weight and my enthusiasms that used to buoy me waned.  Remedies for it seemed even further on the horizon if there at all, with pandemic budgets and hiring freezes.  I was trying to hold on to the side of the boat, scared to swim, but I was still drowning somehow.  I started looking for wreckage, a door, a board, anything I could build a raft with.  I didn't want another ship (ie another library job), though nearby ships were aplenty in this land of the Great Resignations, but I did need something that could keep me out of the water should solid land be further out than I thought or the sea more treacherous than it looked.  

I found a good one in the form of some freelance work, maybe even comfy as a rowboat, in  November and its proved to actually be pretty enjoyable, but is not so heavy that I can't control its weight.  Enough to make up the lost library income (that's actually not that much, also part of the problem) and get me somewhere safely.  By leaving, I realized that I could parlay funds from unused vacation hours (months and months b/c  we could never actually take time off) into a nest egg of savings should I need it for emergencies (this was another thing, as single person household I worried about.) . I figured things like health insurance premiums and self-employment taxes and other things that seemed scary. 

All I needed was to let go and start rowing...

(forgive the too many sea analogies, I've been reading about Poseidon and sea monsters all week.)

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