I woke up yesterday morning earlier than expected. I’m home for a week, and I expected to sleep in later than I usually do. This is, after all, my vacation.
I couldn’t do it though. I woke up, and I was awake. Mind alert, energy flowing, anxiety pumping. I was up, I was mildly freaking out, and it was only 8:05am.
I’m no stranger to anxiety. Two years ago I went through a pretty rough patch with it. I was feeling anxious about everything, all the time. Two years ago it stemmed from being having too much free time on my hands, a boatload of debt, and fear that I would never find a real job.
I felt trapped in a terrible cycle. I couldn’t find a job, so I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have any money, so I couldn’t pay off my debt. I couldn’t pay off my debt, so I felt poor all the time, and didn’t want to spend money. I couldn’t find a job….you see where this leads.
That period of my life totally sucked. There’s no other way to put it. It was horrible. Waking up yesterday, a lot of those old feelings came rushing back. I was totally unprepared for it too. It was 8:00 in the morning- give me a break, brain.
Where exactly was this anxiety stemming from? After all, I’m in a much different place than two years ago. Chiefly, I’m debt free, I have actual money in savings and investments, and I’m pursuing a dream I’ve had forever. I’m an actual writer, that people actually pay to write!
Well, sort of. I do have a few clients, but the money isn’t great right now, and it isn’t steady. I do a lot of writing for free, and I do a lot of work that I don’t get paid for. All my social media, all my blogging. I spend hours every day not earning money.
As a freelancer, I earn money only when I work. I have no passive income streams. I have no paycheck that will arrive even if I spend a few hours on Twitter. What I write is what translates into money. Right now, at the start of my career, there’s just not a lot of money.
That lack of cash flow feeds directly into my biggest fear: financial insecurity. I’ve been there, and I don’t ever want to go back. I want to have enough money to live my life, and build up a big old cushion. With the fits and starts of freelancing, financial insecurity seems almost like it’s unavoidable. The fluctuation is outrageous. It truly is feast or famine out here.
At first blush, that fluctuation was ok. When I first made the transition, I had my Fuck it Fund, my Emergency Fund, catering, and I was working with a few clients right off the bat.
But then two clients bailed on me. Then my car broke down and I had to dip into my Fuck it Fund. Summer is catering’s slow season, so my checks have been tiny. What I have the most of right now is unscheduled time. Just like two years ago.
It’s not the same situation, but tell that to my anxiety. I woke up yesterday sure that I had royally fucked myself over by quitting my non profit job and going freelance. I thought about the fact that all my close friends have been in their jobs for years. They all make good money. They all have real connections, resumes and experience in their corner. And I celebrate when I land a $100 writing gig.
I was scared. Flat out scared. Have I made the worst choice of my life by pursuing this freelance thing? It directly feeds into my biggest fear, and it’s a schedule very similar to the toughest period of my life. Sometimes it feels like I am my own worst enemy. It feels like I am deliberately hurting myself. It feels like I am stuck forever behind, while everyone else in my life continues getting ahead.
Technically, I know that’s not true, and I know that I will be ok. I’ve set several things in motion for myself that I am excited to see through. I have enough money to see me through the end of the year. I’m going to FinCon, catering will pick up in a few weeks, and I am pitching my butt off. Things will not remain stagnant.
It was just an anxious day.
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.
16 Replies to “An Anxious Day”
You got this girl! Spend some time setting up your own stuff as well. Figure out what can work for you and do it. Don’t give up! You’re doing awesome so far. And I’m seriously sorry about the anxiety. I had that with one of my pregnancies and it was real and tough. So I feel for you!
Thanks Maggie. It kicks in every so often and I hate it. But I am keeping my eyes on the prize. I try to do at least one BIG thing for my business myself each day- send a big pitch, work on a website redesign. It’s not always paid, but it does make me feel like I am accomplishing things.
Kara, I’m sorry to hear about the anxiety. I’ve suffered from depression on and off over the years and it still comes back to rear it’s ugly head now and again.
My advice, if you are confident that you have done your numbers correctly and you have sufficient financial buffers in place (which it sounds like you have) then you need to train your mind to push these worries away as they probably don’t really exist.
I did this when I retired and checked my numbers several times from different approaches to make sure I’d got it right. I didn’t ever want to go back to work because I’d got it wrong.
I know what you mean about all of the writing work for free. I do it now for enjoyment but it would be nice to get some financial benefits later on. We’ll have to see.
Thanks Martin! Depression and anxiety are a nasty mix, but I can handle them much better now. You’re right that I need to trust myself, but the doubt creeps in. I hope you get a few paying gigs soon!
Thanks Kara. The writing is primarily for my own enjoyment but hopefully one day it might help pay the bills.
I can totally understand that Kara. I had moments like that the entire 7 years I was freelancing. I think you just have to know that the feeling will pass and you will make it through no matter what. And this, btw, is not a prison sentence. If it doesn’t work out, you DO have options. Many options! Hopefully that will make you feel somewhat better?
Thank you Tonya. I know you’re right- it’s not a prison sentence. My brain just goes rogue on me sometimes! Talking about it always helps, so I’m so grateful for my blog and my readers. ????????????
I can get those anxious bouts and occasional depressive episodes, and haven’t quite figured out how to get out of them. Over time, I’ve learned to treat it more like a white water ride and those are the white water parts, not the calm, everything’s pretty, enjoy the scenery parts. 🙂 That’s what spawns my usually yearly – how to get out of a funk sort of posts. haha!
At least you’re taking steps to get to where you want to be, and are working towards a goal you set. I read a post recently (I think a guest post at Northern Expenditure) about someone quitting their career to do anything else because it was more fulfilling and didn’t cause as much stress, balh, blah, blah. But the thing that stuck out from that for me was something along the lines of
“I’d rather be at the bottom of a ladder I want to climb, rather than stuck at the top of one I don’t want to be on.”
Something to think about since you’re starting on your own ladder. Good luck!
Thanks Mr. SSC! I love that ladder quote. It’s scary at times, but this road is better to be on!
I also love the ladder quote- thanks for sharing : )
Things will not remain stagnant. I have total faith in you.
Thanks Amanda. I appreciate that so much. At the very least, the world keeps on keeping on, and I do find that a little comforting.
Good luck. I get into stress loops too, and it makes life difficult because it’s so hard to work my way out of the loop. I’m glad you were able to find the perspective to realize that your setback were temporary, you'[re okay for now, and you will overcome.
Thanks so much. These loops are killer, but they do end. Anxiety is such a terrible feeling, so it’s nice to hear that others have similar experiences sometimes. Helps me to remember we all have our moments of struggle!
Im sorry to hear about your anxiety and I appreciate your candor. I go through bouts of anxiety too and every now and then stop in my tracks and think, “what the hell am I doing with my life??” But then I mentally review my plans, remind myself that I’ve always been ok before and always will be ok in the future, and go back about my business. Which is helpful, but of course doesn’t always quell the anxiety which has a mind of its own.
On a more practical note, I tend to get more anxious when I’m not following a full schedule and you mentioned “unscheduled” time. When I have several days off in a row, I have to stack my days full of stuff (not serious work stuff- just stuff, anything) or I start to get really anxious. You got this!
Thank you for sharing your dealings with anxiety! I also tell myself it’s short term. Unscheduled time is definitely a trigger, so I’m trying to do more wholesome things when I have down time like exercise, reading and crafting.