Thank you all who reached out over the past few days after I shared the news about my mom. My heart feels so full. So many people—childhood friends, family from Japan, study abroad friends from England, former and current coworkers from all over the globe—reached out to say that they could be my outer ring of comfort (sorry, Maddie, your spots filled now), that I could vent to them anytime, that I could stay at their place if I just needed to get away for a weekend.
When you're just typing behind a computer in your bedroom, sometimes you forget how many people care about you and will show up when you raise a hand—or chirp a Tweet, or... okay, I'm trying too hard.
Anyways, since I've been a Negative Nancy in a lot of my posts (like titling my posts "Burnout" and "How to Make Working Remotely Not Suck As Much"—yikes, Alison, cool it on the theatrics), I thought I'd share some positive news:
Okay, that's all I can think of for now, but anyways, thanks again, and thank you for reading!
This past Fourth of July weekend, I spend most of it swimming.
I swam back and fourth from wall to wall, without any goal in mind. I just knew that it felt healing. The water was protector, a barrier from life’s problems. I could tune out the world and feel my problems melt away with each kick, feeling comforted and hugged by the water.
The whole weekend felt like that, avoiding reality. That’s why I love Ohio so much. It’s where my aunt, uncle, and cousin live, and it’s always so fun there. It's also where my older sister Kathleen lives, and she always makes me feel better.
But I knew the weekend would end, we’d have to come back home to Illinois and face the problems waiting for us there.
In June, my mom’s breast cancer came back. It first started out with a nagging cough, which we found out was pleural effusion, “unusual fluid around the lung.” They tested the fluid to find out where it was coming from—it could have just meant pneumonia. But the results came back with the worst-case scenario: Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer (cancer that spreads to a different body part from where it started). What the heck?
My mom beat breast cancer 17 years ago when I was 3rd grade. Why the heck did it decide to just pop up again unannounced, like, “Heyo, remember me? I’m back!”
Word to the wise: when you find out your mom has Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, do not go on the internet searching for answers. It will just lead you down a rabbit hole of panic. One helpful piece of info that I did learn though was that metastatic breast cancer is starting to be viewed as a chronic illness that you manage, and you can live 10-plus years with it. On the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network website, it says, “Is metastatic breast cancer a chronic disease? Not yet, but that is an important goal. As researchers identify more and better treatments, MBC could become a chronic disease like diabetes or HIV/AIDS, where patients can be stable on medications for 20 or more years.”
I've been trying to cope with this sad news in the best way I can. My sister recently told me about this concept called “The Ring Theory” (Note: It does not involved the horror film “The Ring” or crop circles or UFOs. Okay, let’s continue.)
Basically, it means that you can't vent to the person dealing with the trauma; you have to vent to someone outside of it. So I can't grieve to my mom; I have to talk about it with someone outside of the ring, like my siblings or friends. Here’s an explanation of “The Ring Theory” from Psychology Today:
I’ve been trying to follow this ring of grief, but it’s hard when you live with your parents and work from home, and the only one outside of your ring is your dog Maddie, and if you start sobbing at her, she’ll just give you a weird look and then go to the treat drawer.
So, where am I taking this blog post.
I guess a quote that keeps coming to mind is “Man plans, and God laughs.”
You picture what your life will be—or should be, when you compare yourself to your Instagram feed—and it all goes to crap. I've been itching to move out of my parents' house for months (I've lived here for 4 years!!!!), and it's been a real source of shame and embarrassment for me, whether I'd like to admit it or not. But now I'm grateful that I've been able to spend this time with my parents, and that I can be here to help out as she goes through treatment.
I guess to end on a sappy note, I'm just so grateful for our strong support system of friends and family. I'll just end with this great quote from David Sedaris.
I recently got a Polaroid Mint Instant Print Digital Camera as a sample, and I've been testing it out as I've been running errands, meeting up with friends, or hanging around the house. This camera is fun, lightweight, and a nice breather from iPhones and other high-speed tech. Since you have a limited amount of 2x3" ZINK paper, each photo feels special and intimate. There are also some other cool features — if you have a microSD card installed, you can download the photos to your computer.
There are a few downsides though, which can mostly be cleared up by thoroughly reading the User Guide. The camera isn't as intuitive as you'd think. The light on the camera flickers a few times, so sometimes I couldn't tell if the photo had been taken or not, and then I ended up taking duplicate photos or the picture came out blurry. Also, you have to make sure to include the blue color calibration sheet for the printing to work.
Anyways, check out the full product review below!
When you work from home, it’s hard to recognize burnout.
You get to hang out in your PJs all day!
You get to pal around with your pup all day!
You can run errands at the drop of a hat, all day!
But that’s the key word: all day.
You can work all day, including Saturdays and Sundays. It never turns off.
Self-employment is uncertain. What if you don’t get another project for a month? What if a check is late? What if an unexpected bill comes up? What if an expected bill comes up, but you forgot how big that expected bill is, like car insurance, student loans, self-employment taxes, or health insurance (heyo, turning age 26 soon!)?
So you say yes to every project. And you still feel guilty all the time.
“Hustle or die”—not exactly the most encouraging mantra.
I think everyone is burned out in the winter. It’s dark early, the weather is terrible, and you don’t see your friends as often because they’re also hiding inside. There’s no relief.
I’ve been feeling burned out lately, but I’ve noticed a few things that have put a spring back into my step (that will hopefully last ‘til Spring.)
So ladies and gents, here is my fail-proof list of burnout cures! (Okay, probably not fail-proof, but oh well.)
1. Do things you love
Whether it’s scrapbooking, blasting music in your room, painting or redecorating your basement, watching your favorite TV show, or going for a run, DO IT. Who cares how much time you’re “wasting.” If it makes you happy, do it. It will rejuvenate your soul and give you perspective.
2. Take a break from what you’re working on
Whether it’s a short story that’s just not working or a marketing project that’s just not resulting, step away from it and either work on something else, or do anything at all, per Number 1!
3. Avoid your phone for the day (or at least turn off notifications)
This may sound like a terrible idea, but at least it will make you feel better! Not everything has to be done right now. Give yourself some breathing room from social media, email, etc.
4. Find like-minded people
A lot of people are going through what you’re going through. Actually, anyone going through a Chicago winter is probably feeling what you’re feeling. Find your people, commiserate, get drinks, watch a movie, or do whatever else you fancy!
5. Listen to podcasts or join Facebook groups
Listening to podcasts about freelancing, finances, self-care, etc. makes me feel less alone and realize that we’re all kind of making it up as we go along. Some of my favorite podcasts are “Bad With Money With Gaby Dunn” and “Forever35.”
6. Remind yourself why you’ve chosen this lifestyle
One reason while I’ve chosen to be a full-time freelancer is because I love the projects I’m working on. One of them is Cinema Femme, a new Chicago-based female film magazine. It launched in October, and it’s been so exciting seeing it grow and give a voice to female filmmakers, critics, artists, and writers.
I also love the flexibility freelancing has given me to pursue my love for children’s book publishing. I’ve been part of SCBWI since 2016 and I’ve always loved writing, but this year I’ve decided to really study the craft of picture book writing, go to events, and take myself seriously.
7. Get some sleep
Sleep is important. Get some of it! It makes a world of difference!
8. Call your sister
She’ll make you feel better and listen to you vent (and will also review your blog post before you send it out into the world).
I hope this was helpful in some way. Just remember, Spring is only 35 days away! (Unless winter decides to stick around a little longer…)
When editing, I can never listen to music with lyrics because then one of the following will end up happening:
1. "Zen: Indie Folk for Focus" playlist by Spotify
2. "Songs for Editing" playlist by Stephen Thompson
3. "Deep Focus" playlist by Spotify
4. "Quiet Hours" Playlist by Spotify
5. "Eighth Grade (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)" by Anna Meredith
6. "Rainbows" by Bicycles in Amsterdam
This one has lyrics, but it still a great album to listen to while editing:
7. "Complètement fou" by Yelle
Happy Friday, and happy 2019! I thought I'd kick off the New Year with some of my favorite articles/humor pieces about freelancing that I read in 2018 (and 2017). So here we go!
1. "I Work From Home," Daily Shouts, Colin Nissan, The New Yorker
2. "I'm Your Freelance Check and I'm Here to Change Your Life," Kimberly Harrington, McSweeney's
3. "Admin Mondays," Jessica Hische, Swiss Miss
4. "7 Steps for Taking on Freelance Projects Without Pissing Off Your Boss," Kelli Smith, The Muse
5. "10 Freelance Writer Website Examples for You to Emulate," Maggie Linders, Freelance Writing Riches
6. "The 3 C’s of a thriving creative freelance business," Justine Clay, Freelancers Union
Happy holidays! What better way to show the freelancer in your life that you care than by getting them oddly specific, practical Christmas gifts? Here are some useful and fun gifts you can get your favorite freelance writer, designer, consultant, etc., this winter season.
I remember watching “Grease” (1978) as a kid and thinking they looked SO OLD. I know that a lot of them were actually in their 20s or 30s (John Travolta was 24 when the movie came out, Olivia Newton-John was 30), but still. I’m 25 now and I still don’t look like that.
Twenty-five is a weird age. I feel like even my siblings think I should still be 18 and running cross country and picking out colleges again. But here I am, at age 25! A quarter of a century. I can rent a car if I really wanted to. Neat.
In honor of age 25, I thought I’d create a list: 25 Things That Make You Feel Like You Have Your Life Together and Are a Semi-Adult. And then another list: 25 Things That Make You Feel Like You Don’t Have Your Life Together At All.
So here we go! Here are the two lists:
When I first graduated, I pictured most ideal jobs being like this: a 9-to-5 office; my own little cubicle or desk; a hip, cool office with young, creative people; and a daily commute on the train.
I never considered working remotely, and I didn’t know what it entailed. Initially when I’d find out a job was remote, I’d feel crestfallen and imagined I’d feel isolated and lonely within weeks of starting the job. For a lot of people, their workplace is their main source of friendship and community. I mean, you spend at least 40 hours a week there, and you have something in common with these people—a love for teaching, writing, coding, singing, etc. Or maybe you all just bond over how much you hate your job. That can be equally as bonding.
It can also be hard working remotely when you’re young and just starting out your career. A lot of the pros of working from home sometimes don’t apply to you: you don’t have children or parents you’re caretaking for. In other words, you don’t have lot of responsibilities at home that would make working at home ideal.
But I’ve found that working remotely can still have a lot of pros as a 25-year-old: you save money on commuting, you can pal around with your pup and give her walks, you can sleep in, and if you’re an introvert like me, sometimes it’s easier to focus.
A lot of jobs today are remote because 1. Office space is expensive. 2. Employees/freelancers work in different cities, states, countries. 3. A bunch of other reasons I can’t remember.
SO, here is a list of tips on how to make working remotely not suck as much, whether you’re working remotely full time or just a few days a week.
Earlier this year, I thought, hey, I should probably have a logo. I asked my sister Kathleen, who's an illustrator, if she could create one for me and I'd pay her.
Reenactment of convo:
Me: "Hey, sis, could you whip something up real fast that embodies my whole essence, and vibe, and style? Cool, k thx luv ya tonz byeeee!"
Okay, that didn't happen, but Kathleen was super busy so she couldn't do it anyways. And I also feel bad for always relying on Kathleen for anything art-related.
(I'm really painting myself in a bad light here, but it's fine, srsly—Kathleen and I are buds. Right, Kathleen? Right????)
Anyways, I ended up using 99designs.