hello, anxiety…but trying to remain calm

September 16, 2009 |  Category:   life



Now that Home Improvement Fest 2009 is coming to a close, I’ve been left with a lot of time to think…which often leads to worry, which is not such a fun thing. I’m a natural worrier by nature, as opposed to Mark who is not, which is why it’s best for me to keep busy so my brain doesn’t wander too much and get into trouble. So what’s spurring the anxiety? Uncertainty. Worrying about our future in a general sense. I am still working sporadically on a long-term project, but for the first time in three years (which is a remarkable run I know) I don’t have any freelance work lined up on the horizon. A few things have recently fallen through or have gotten postponed so it’s caught me off guard financially. I’m used to that – nothing in freelance life is definite which is why you hoard money for the slow times – but you would think that after so many years of working independently I’d be used to this emotional rollercoaster ride. It takes a lot of effort, however, to mentally brush away any fatalistic thoughts (“I’m never going to find work again!!”) and remain positive. When you’re feeling vulnerable and down it’s hard to keep the faith that work will come again and it’s tiring to constantly hustle for jobs knowing that a good number of any prospects you’re working on will never come to pass. Sometimes I think you’d have to be mildly sadistic to be a freelancer – when it’s good it’s great, but when it’s not it pretty much sucks. So why do we do it? Remind me, all you freelancers out there, why do we live like this only to put up with an unreliable income flow, self-funded health insurance (don’t get me started on that – it is our largest expense after our mortgage – an outrageous $1227 a month) and periodic blows to your ego and self confidence? Sometimes I am not so sure.

So a few concrete things that I am working on to deflect the anxiety is to keep working on being busy. When I am swamped with work I often complain about not having any time to pursue other projects, personal and for the business, but ironically this anxiety grips like depression and I end up being too crippled by it to actually do anything creative. I’m trying to change that. The second thing is to get back on a budget. It’s true that we’ve fallen off the horse of our carefully drawn budget during the last year. Home Improvement Fest 2009 did not help. I used to be really militant about sticking to an impossibly tight budget, so much so that one of our friends joked that he was going to put a photo of me in his wallet and pull it out in moments of financial weakness and ask “what would Jenna do?”. I need to get back into that mentality of not making any purchases unless it’s absolutely necessary. Better for the wallet, better for the earth. It’s time to buckle down, people, and conserve for the lean times ahead while I find more work…wish us luck. I’ll try to remain positive in the meantime.

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  • Manya September 16, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Jenna darling, I think that you should keep a picture of me and a thousand others, as well, just to remember that you’re not alone and that we’re all on the same boat. Believe me I know what you feel like!

  • Jenna September 16, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Thanks Manya, this actually made me cry 🙁

  • Lani September 16, 2009 at 10:13 am

    I hope you can remember all the times where uncertainty took over, but that eventually the waters calm and you get back on course.

    The two pictures with this post are a beautiful way to express what’s going on with you. Genius.

  • patricia September 16, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I’m with Manya. You’re definitely not alone. I completely understand where you’re coming from. The sacrifices that we make because I don’t work ‘for the man’ are many but in the long run I know we’ll be OK and that it will be worth it.

    Why do I do this? My main reason is for our kids. Sure, we could probably afford better vacations and other material things but I’m keeping my focus on the non-materialistic benefits. If I were working full-time I wouldn’t have the opportunity to pick up the kids from school every day, help them with their homework (calmly!-not in the pre-dinner/bedtime rush) and have the chance to volunteer or visit their school when I can. I hope that these will be things that they will remember in the future. I know I will.

  • Mary-Ellen September 16, 2009 at 11:31 am

    I get in the complete same train of thought, my creative side disappears, and I can completely relate to your post as a bread winner. I work a full-time job for healthcare and consistent salary now as well as freelance. The downside is that the freelance jobs become less and less as I tend to neglect pursing jobs, and cannot have many meetings, etc. I will say to you what my friend Brian says to me in these times, Oh, Jenna, don’t worry, it will be fine. I promise.

  • Perideau Designs September 16, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Althought I’m not entirely a freelancer I can commiserate to an extent. Slow times are really tough. The unknown sucks. But you have an amazing talent and people will come. Let me know if you have any advice on sticking to a budget. I am not good at that…at all.

  • ashley@decorology September 16, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I just went freelance fulltime this month. I had a full time job and it got to the point where I was up until 3 AM every morning completing my freelance projects. Now that I’m a freelancer it’s a tough adjustment – but it’s the little things that remind me why I do this. Spending time with my family, the three week trip to Spain I’m about to take, exercising and having time to prepare all of my meals!

  • jean September 16, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    somehow, things always work out.

  • Amanda September 16, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    I hear ya! The only thing you can really do right now, in this vulnerable position, is to take it day by day. I know it sound slike complete crap but trust me. Focus on what you have to do today, what will help you end the day with a smile. Sometimes thinking in the big-life-mindset brings upon panic attacks because I feel like I am wandering around aimlessly. But the best things pop up when you don’t have plans 😉

  • Luann September 16, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    My husband is a freelance photographer and when there is no work on the horizon, you can feel the change in the air. All of a sudden, we are examining Visa bills closer and wondering about purchases. Throughout the last ten years, It has always worked out though whether or not we worried about it. We have lots of time with our kids, a roof over our heads and freedom we would never have with fulltime work. We may not have elaborate vacations or state of the art electronics but overall we’re happy. I hope you can be too.

  • Noemi September 17, 2009 at 3:24 am

    hello from europe
    things will be fine. you have a beautiful family

  • jennifer September 17, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Freedom. That is it really. The freedom to be this the people that are most important to us. The freedom to pursue our passions. The freedom to go out and create our own destiny – with our without a plasma tv : )

  • Andrew Thornton September 17, 2009 at 7:14 am

    I have the same mentality. It’s bad, but such is the feast or famine of being a freelancer.

    I think I’m a freelancer so that I can wear my boxers and pajamas ALL day and sleep during the day and make things and so that I don’t have to leave the house unless I want to or am forced by the Law.

    BTW, Azalea and Cynthia love the miniature food too! I’ve got a small collection myself!

  • joslyn September 17, 2009 at 9:18 am

    i wish you luck and also some commiseration as even though we’re not freelancers, we are also attempting to curb our spending drastically. we’re on a draconian budget right now. Maybe I’ll ask myself what would Jenna do? the next time i’m tempted 😉

  • Cynthia September 17, 2009 at 9:47 am

    I have greatly admired your web site since last spring. I look forward to your posts each day. I don’t know if it will help or not but maybe this is a great time to go see some art exhibits and have an art date!

  • jen September 17, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    My husband and I have been following your blog now for quite awhile and love it – thank you! We often wonder when you sleep 😉
    We are both freelance designers in Seattle with two small boys. I absolutely share your pain right now as my long term project has ended and I’m freaking out a bit.
    Hang in there – you guys are so talented. Good things are definitely on the horizon.

  • Seda September 17, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Hi Jenna,

    I have a full-time job, working in a very promising position in an industry that is not really affected by economic crisis, one that keeps growing. However, I have constant anxiety too because of the lack of time I spend with my husband, with my 1-year old daughter, with myself, with things I enjoy to do.

    When I see your posts, I envy the time you spend with your girls, with your family.

    If this on and off anxiety really bothers you, maybe you should try to find/do something that would make you happier, less stressful, something which would provide a more consistent income. At least this is the decision I came about for myself. Hopefully, I will be able to do something about my situation soon.

  • Jenna September 17, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Jen, hope something comes along for you soon too.
    Seda, I hope you find a way to spend more time with your family too. Being a working parent, whether you are freelance or staff, is tough – there are pluses and minuses to both situations.

  • Amy September 22, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Jenna, I can relate to your worries as I’m a freelancer too (I’m a copywriter + editor) and there are times when I feel as if there is no end to the worries, or if I will be able to find another gig to cover expenses for the next coming months. We’re also covering a mortgage and we’re saving up to buy a fridge and a stove (basically, the entire kitchen), and right now I’m hoping that we can do that before the year is out, but I foresee that it might be a little difficult since my husband will also go freelance next month {EEP!}.

    So sorry for my rambling! I think I ultimately wanted to thank you for bringing it out in the open. Sometimes freelancing can get a bit scary, and somehow I feel better knowing that I’m not all alone in dealing with my neurosis and fears.


  • Jenna September 23, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Good luck to both of you. we will all pull through somehow. Yes, 2 freelance incomes is…challenging!

  • Catlin October 8, 2009 at 4:46 am

    My bf is a freelancer, and while it is really hard sometimes to stay positive when you see the decrease in jobs – especially for me, ’cause I’d never freelance! I have a very boring need to know what’s coming in month after month. But I know what makes him really happy though: FREEDOM! No shitty boss telling him what to do. No irritating collegues. And of that I can be a bit jealous.