Friday, July 3, 2015

Along With The Golden Ticket, Comes The Fork In The Road

My latest column in The Laker.

When you're a single parent, you don't take risks with your income.

I realize most parents and people in general would rather not take financial risks, but when you're the only breadwinner, you have to make sure you know that rent/mortgage, utilities, food, childcare, clothing, shoes, haircuts, medications, sports fees, school fees, a summer trip to a water park if you're lucky, and … and … you get the picture, will be paid, because you're the only one paying it.

Once you reach a certain salary level, it's hard to go back, so you'd better enjoy your chosen profession.

If you change employers, and explore your industry's opportunities and continue to educate yourself within your niche, you're constantly ensuring your salary is increasing or at least maintaining.

I'm one of these single parents.

For 22 years I worked in the IT industry as a software instructor, software tester, business analyst, knowledge management/documentation specialist, and finally finished as a courseware developer for military aircraft systems.

I've run meetings, led teams, produced results and quality products.

Ms. 9-5 corporate professional. And don't forget … Mom.

All of that came to an abrupt halt last fall, when I was laid off after over nine years with the same organization.

I think most people were surprised by my reaction to the news that I would no longer have a job.

I wasn't angry.

I wasn't sad.

I wasn't worried about the future of my family.

Maybe I should have been. I probably should have been. I know my mother definitely was … is, but I wasn't.

In all honesty, I looked at the situation as my golden ticket.

When you have a job that pays your bills and supports your family, you can't simply quit that job if you no longer enjoy it.

You can't leave a good paying job to pursue something that may be in a totally different field and down a different path, and doesn't offer benefits!

Even if you've always wanted to try something 'new', that you believed you could be successful at and really enjoy, you can't let go of that income.

That security.

However, when you've worked for a company for a few years, and they suddenly let you go, you're also entitled to a severance package. Not that it lasts forever, but it does give a bit of breathing room.

And time to explore some options.

Because you see, to be honest, I really don't want to be Ms. 9-5 corporate professional anymore.

I'm good at what I do, but it's never been my true passion.

This. Writing, in some form, is what I've always wanted to do. That's why I started my blog all those years ago. People liked what I shared. And it felt great to connect with them and earn a few perks along the way.

But I always wanted more. Still do.

I want to do something like this, freelance writing, as my 'job'. But how do I get that, when I don't have experience, because I've spent the last 20yrs maintaining?

And so, along with the golden ticket, comes the fork in the road.

I'm pushing 45 and don't want to be living the corporate lifestyle for the next 15 or so years that I have left to work 'full time'.

I want to try something for me. Incorporate my interests into real work. Turn my passions into a paycheck.

But … I do still need a paycheck.

I'm still a mom and I still have two children to provide for.

So in the past few months, I've started writing this column to get myself 'out there', I joined the board of directors of the Rehtaeh Parsons Society, because I strongly believe in what they're trying to do for our youth and I want to be involved with their efforts, and most recently, I was an extra on The Trailer Park Boys, which is currently shooting Season 10.

I didn't know until the last minute, it would be the scene with Snoop Dogg and Tom Arnold. And I'll admit, that was pretty cool!

No, I've never done anything like that before. First time as a background actor, first time on a set. But as I was applying with the casting company, I figured, why not?

Life is about taking a few chances, welcoming new adventures, and traveling new paths.

The big question is … can I make a living at this freelance work?

I hear it's possible. I've read it's possible.

But when you look at sites like Elance, which is designed to cater to freelancers, and you see ads that want 500 word articles and will pay $2 for them, I'm thinking … NOT A CHANCE!

Not a chance that my time and talent is worth that little and not a chance that I'll make a living at this, if that's the going rate for freelance work.

I do think I'm talented, and I do think making an enjoyable living is achievable, outside the 9-5 corporate box.

I'm at the fork in the road, and I really want to follow the path that my heart is pulling me down.

But as the golden ticket severance runs out, as they tend to do, will the need for a 'stable' salary' and 'job security' (if there even is such a thing) pull me down the opposite path, back to the 9-5 reliable corporate niche, out of necessity?

I really hope not.

I guess only time will tell.

So,if you happen to be in the market for a fantastic freelance writer, I know just the girl!

Oh, and don't bother looking for me in the scene in Trailer Park Boys. I was in the crowd at the back, but it was a rockin' good time for a days pay and new life experience!