What Do I Want My Life to Be, When It Grows Up?

I can’t help feeling I should have a better answer to this question, by this point in my life and career. But I also can’t help but be cynical about the idea that I can know what’s around the bend, that there is a single right answer to that question, and that such an answer, if it existed, would be knowable by me. My life tends to regularly disabuse me of the notion that I control all the factors I’d need to, to perfectly predict my future. I’m not a naturally cynical person, so this streak doesn’t go that well with the rest of my personality.

I delivered my fourth speech at Toastmasters, this morning, based largely on this post. In the moment, I felt like it went pretty well, but then my evaluator got up and, though I don’t think she meant to be, said some things that felt a little harsh. The fourth speech for a new Toastmaster is “How to Say It” and it focuses on vibrant word choice. She said “has there ever been a better example of how not to say it than [the names of the two psychological theories I discuss]?!”

I’m a few hours past it, and I read over my evaluations (hers included, which wasn’t as harshly written as the one she delivered in front of a room full of my peers and betters.) Nobody else disliked how I handled the two clinical terms (I mentioned them, referenced them on my visual, but explained them using accessible terms and concrete examples.) In fact, I talked with some people after the fact, and when I said “yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have used those terms,” they said they appreciated them. I feel like if someone wants to know more about the theories, the theory names are good to have, and anecdotally, I found some support for that idea.

My evaluations were generally strong and complimentary. I’ve got some things I can work on (coincidentally, they are predominantly the things I’m supposed to work on with my next speech), and broad support for what I’ve done so far and what I’ll continue to do.

The interesting thing that happened, though, was that my one-second mention of my past as an editor got two hard and one soft inquiries for me as a freelance editor.

I’ll be honest, I don’t love freelancing. My experience is that the client has only a vague idea of what they want you to do. Once you deliver a final project, they have a more concrete idea, and they want you to go back and do the project again (at no additional cost), only with their new idea. I’m a very thorough person— we have an intake meeting, in which they tell me what they want and I reflect it back to them until we’re sure we’re on the same page. When I start the project, I give them early representative samples of what I’m doing, so they can let me know if I’m on track. They generally say “yeah, looks great.” I send them my work on a regular basis so they can tell me if I’m getting off track. They generally don’t acknowledge these progress reports, but I’m careful to send them. When I turn in the final product, they pay me and say “this looks great, but instead of up, could it be down, and where you have it black, could you make it white, and where your instinct tells you in, could you go out?” To which I respond, “I’d be happy to do the project over according to those instructions, because I want you to be happy, but because this isn’t covered under the scope of the project, and because I delivered the project you described (as well as gave you several opportunities to give me input along the way), you’ll need to pay me for the extra time.” Generally, that doesn’t go over so well. When you add in all the paperwork that goes along with self-employment taxes, etc., I find that unless I’m fairly desperate for the cash, I’d rather do with less. Quite frankly, I’ve washed dishes and worked as a housekeeper, to make just-getting-by money, and found both less frustrating than doing editorial or research work for a client who doesn’t have a good sense for what they need or can reasonably expect from you.

For a people-pleaser such as myself, it’s hard for me to be so matter-of-fact, but I deliberately give the client every opportunity to get the product they want. The only time I’ve ever fought with clients about their vision has been when they’ve asked me to do something that is unethical (I served as the historian for a project, and the client wanted me to say that famous historical figures were affiliated with the project when I could not substantiate their involvement, and had pretty solid evidence that they were unaffiliated. I offered them a range of historically important people whose involvement I could substantiate, but they kind of had their hearts set on certain names.)

But even though I don’t love freelancing, and my day job currently provides for my needs, I might be willing to take on some small projects, at this point. I’m not entirely sure what the future holds for me, professionally, and I’m exploring a variety of options while I figure it out. I have a full-time job doing work that I like, but I’m game-planning a variety of things, and reminding myself of the diversity of my skill-set tends to help me extend the range of opportunities from which I have to draw.

It’s kind of the same thing I do when I’m dating. I get to know multiple guys at once, going on casual coffee or hiking dates, until I have a clear sense of which relationships have promise and which are less viable. It works out great, when I can muster the energy. When I’m at the end of my rope, notsomuch.

What do you think? Any tips on getting the freelance thing right? Wisdom about how to answer the “what do you want to be when you grow up” question? Names of eligible bachelors in my area I should take hiking?

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2 thoughts on “What Do I Want My Life to Be, When It Grows Up?

  1. I KNOW what I want to be when I grow up, I’m just afraid I’ll never get there=[

    (I’m pretending I’m not already grown up, for the sake of my sanity, and this conversation.)

  2. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got more than a decade on you. I just tend to think grown up is kind of like tomorrow or the horizon— you never really get there— it’s always just over the next ridge.

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