I’m not a trust fund baby, nor married, nor have a pension, and, as of yet, I have no sugar daddy. (Let’s see what the new year brings!). When the ability to earn an income is tied to a career you can no longer handle, a financial crisis begins. How does one adapt?
In 2010, I was juggling, trying to maintain a long-time career of office work and caregiving for my mom. The work part was becoming increasing harder to sustain physically and mentally. With the onset of health issues, and the wear and tear of caregiving, it was best for me to remain more at home. I was living off of savings, and then when my mom passed away, I was living off what she left me. Three years after she passed away, the family decided we needed to sell her house, where I was also living.
Here’s some background on why I was doing office work. In 1983, I graduated from college with a degree in Anthropology and a minor in Film. To pursue a career in Anthropology, I would have needed more advanced degrees. San Francisco’s job market for me in the 80s and 90s was limited. The job climate was a bit elitist. I pursued office work because I could type well (something I learned to do in high school). And office jobs were easy to get. I briefly lived in Los Angeles after graduation and actually temped for 6 months at an office at the UCLA Medical Center. They offered me a full-time job, but I, with my 22-year-old mindset turned down the offer. I told myself I had come to Los Angeles to work in film. I ended up only staying there for a year and then returned to San Francisco.
Despite only being an office worker, I worked for some great companies. 9 to 5 schedules were never my ideal, but I conformed the best I could because in those days there weren’t many options. There was no remote work, no Internet jobs, and no reason any hardworking person would be at home during a weekday unless they had called in sick at work.
I managed my career the best I could. I was intimidated to apply to high position jobs, although I sometimes tried anyway. In 2004, I was hired at a museum and the job title on the application actually said Sr. Secretary. Yes, secretaries still existed back then. I feel quite ancient now having to say that was my title. The job itself had a long list of duties and was quite encompassing and enjoyable. I was the only administrative assistant within one of their large research departments, directly assisting the department chair, and the curators, as well as any visitors, graduate students or staff. It can be said that my Anthropology degree finally paid off because although I didn’t work in the Anthropology Department it was one of the nearby research offices. This is also the job where I began to do web work, designing websites. I created the department’s home page and their photo gallery that linked to the museum’s main website.
My skills, abilities and interests were not always matched to the jobs I would do in offices. I was quite often bored, and therefore, didn’t stick out a job until retirement, as was routinely done in those days. I also am a bit of a capitalist. I wanted a good salary that I needed to give me validation for my work, but also just to live well. I always worked and so I like to be able to spend money. I had a good work ethic and I also wanted to be compensated for that. I can’t complain that any men made more money than I did, because many women made a whole lot more than I did too. I also felt like an underling, and unfortunately, often as a peon. I have always been ambitious, tried really hard (despite certain limitations as far as committing to 9 to 5 schedules), and dreamed of a big income.
In 2010, I was working temp for a construction company. After having worked at their front desk as an admin, I was then offered to create training videos for them that I shot and edited. I had never let go of my minor in film, accomplishing a variety of film-related projects and studies, including shooting my own film and video shorts.
In early 2010, I then went back to caregiving as that needed my full attention.
In 2011, I was volunteering for a local literary site providing technical help on their website. The editor sent out a request for someone to write an article on caregiving. I offered to write it just because I had been enveloped in the subject for a few years already. I was an insecure writer then but the editor kindly let me take it on. I was just dabbling in writing at that point. I wanted to try it out. I occasionally thought of writing over the years but never seriously. (I did write a film treatment in 1997, in Italian.) My article was published and was actually shared by a family caregiver organization.
I attempted a second article for that site but I couldn’t get all the interview subjects to agree to it. I was still too green to pursue it further.
In 2012, I worked very part-time as an admin for an Italian language school. And then was hired to assist the Director of Catering at a yacht club in Marin County. That was the most beautiful job location I ever had!
My mom died within 2 weeks of that job. And as grief started, I suppose that is what led to me to quit that job.
Also in 2012, I signed up for a personal history writing course. I was thinking of ways I could work from home. One idea was a home-based memoir business. I completed the course in 2013 and ended up with a compilation of my own memoir stories.
In 2013, my memoir business was official and licensed in San Francisco.
In 2014 I briefly did more website work for a packaging company. However, grief hadn’t left and health issues that were brewing since 2010, now began to surface even more. I left this job in 2015.
In 2015, I realized the personal history business was not going to be lucrative. Since working from home was becoming my only option for an income, I needed serious money to sustain me. Memoir wasn’t it.
On the side in 2015, I was writing for a film service site. It was unpaid but it was fun to write about film and to be published by an editor. I wrote for the site for a year.
In 2016, I started a cat website. It gave me the chance to write about cats, art and culture. I built up the site with my own content, my research, and interviews that I acquired myself. It was so rewarding and it gave me the ability to write about topics where I could really speak my mind. I grew the site for a year and had intended to sell cat-related products and to gain sponsorships or partnerships. That didn’t happen but not for lack of effort. I closed the site in 2017 for reasons that are too complicated to discuss in an article about work.
In 2017, I decided to become a freelance writer. All that I had done in the few years before, led to it. I turned some of the stories from my personal history certificate into an e-book. That book is now available for purchase online. I now had experience researching, creating website content, and had a lot of my writing already published. I was given two freelance opportunities, one short term and one I did for over a year.
In 2018, health and life issues arose again.
In 2019, my health is improving. And although I can’t write under deadlines nor on demand, I am continuing to write as I can. I submit my work here and there, and my e-book is still available. Nonetheless, I now call myself a writer.
The funny thing is that I became a writer in a haphazard sort of way. It was just a way of adjusting to a life with deteriorating health and life issues. I enjoy writing and wish the inklings I had about it in earlier years of my life were more pronounced. I now wish I was always a writer.
While I am sometimes angry that I didn’t get the full attention that my health required from doctors, and that life threw me several curve balls, I still made it. I turned my tragedy into harmony. I have found peace. I’m not the worker I once was, with my very proactive daily stamina. However, I am still ambitious. And the quality of what I produce now from home is quite the improvement from just typing in an office. Writing for me is fulfilling and it makes me not feel like a peon, whether anyone reads my work or not.
We will see what the next decade brings. Where I was in 2010 and where I am now in 2019 are diversely set apart. It can be said in some sense I am in decline, but in another I am just beginning. With every downfall that got me here, I have found a way to lift a leg up, and another and then to step over the heap of garbage that was thrown at my feet. There are better writers and there always will be. I don’t compare myself because I’m neither a literature major nor an English professor. I have a growing skill and ability to communicate and although that was borne from necessity, I am now at my most fulfilled in life. Whether or not I can keep a roof over my head is another story. For sure, I aspire to be discovered before I’m gone from this earth.
On the eve of January 1st, I will sip champagne and await a 2020 that will be sparkling new and close the door on a past that feels foreign to me now.