Wearing the Uniform

Freelancing has its perks. There’s flexibility of schedule, a comfortable working environment from home, and no employee handbook to memorize.

My membership in free agent nation is coming up on three years. During that time, I’ve managed to cobble together a myriad of paying gigs—unique reports, video production, facilitation, teaching writing, and managing grants. I’m also learning to be more patient, during the dry and uncertain patches.

Last year, a unilateral decision was reached that the JBE needed to update his writing portfolio. So 18 months after setting that goal, I’ve managed to write for a number of newspapers, including the Boston Globe, did a couple of critical pieces about Portland (one of the few not sugarcoating life in the “golden” city that sits on Casco Bay), plus putting together a series of monthly travel features for the Lewiston Sun-Journal. I had hoped to do a bit more muckraking, but there aren’t many venues that pay local writers to dredge up stories about Maine’s kakistocracy.

Through it all, I’ve managed to fend off having to knuckle under, collecting mere scraps from Whitey TM’s table.

About six weeks ago, I lost a primary monthly source of writing income. Not a problem, I thought. I’ll find another one. When one door closes, etc. I’ve always managed to pick up work in the past.

Then, the phone stopped ringing and the emails weren’t being returned. My skills hadn’t changed. In fact, my skills are sharper and more refined than ever.

I rarely doubt myself. However, I struggled through a crisis of confidence for a few days.

Family stepped up and provided some needed tasks and opportunities to fill-in my down time. Thankfully I had my umpiring every afternoon taking me out into the sunshine and supplying some needed part-time income.

I’m now back surveying Maine’s limited employment market. There are plenty of jobs caring for people and flagging that pay $8.50 to $9.00 an hour. That means things are about like they’ve always been. Employers have the upper hand and you are often left wondering if you’ll get a call, or even an interview.

Yesterday, I headed out to a local employer. After a phone call, they asked me to come in and fill-out an actual paper application. I felt like it was 1997 again.

Sitting in their office, hearing the banter among their employees, color me unimpressed. From what I witnessed and heard, they would be getting a bargain snatching up someone with my skills, experience, and proven track record. Probably they’d expect me to accept $10 an hour, too. We’ll see what happens with this particular employer. I got some penmanship practice, at least.

Trying on my old work uniform.

Trying on my old work uniform.

Oh! I also got to put on my old uniform for the first time in awhile. A nice pair of dress slacks, an Oxford shirt, and my blue sport coat. It was warmer than I thought it would be and I was sweating with my long-sleeve dress shirt.

Over the past week, or so, some old friends have been back in touch, telling me that I’m doing the right thing, reaching out to my old network. This validation has been helpful.

If I had my druthers, I’d continue working from home most days, and have one or two outside projects that drag me out to interact with a wider circle of people, countering the isolation of that comes with writing and some of my other freelance activities.

Time will tell what’s around the corner for the JBE.

Thursday was also an umpiring day.

Thursday was also an umpiring day.

6 thoughts on “Wearing the Uniform

  1. We never know what is around the corner. The most important thing is be who you are and continue to use the talents that you have. All of us get discouraged at times, though in our society especially being a male we have to hide it. I wonder about myself lots of times and on a daily basis struggle with confidence and what am I really bringing to the life of others and my own life. But then I look around me at my few dear friends, my devoted husband, my creatively challenging daughter and maybe some other people who I don’t even realize appreciate me for who I am (I hope there are some anyway) and I realize if I was not who I am I would not have those few people who know me and love me for who I am. You are a special, smart, brave person Jim. All of us are. I guess we just have to keep working on believing it especially when things get tough. Like I tell my daughter, “write your truth.” I think it also important to “live our truth.”

  2. @Sally I appreciate the comments. It is especially hard to believe we’re doing the right thing when everything “goes quiet.” Freelancing can be isolating that way.

    I’m really enjoying reading Mary’s blog posts at the BDN as she “writes her truth.”

    Oh, and we’re approaching Moxie Season. My sister is ramping up for the upcoming Moxie Recipe Contest that will be bigger and better than ever, and happening on Saturday (it had been Friday night, prior).

    @Bryant I’d concur about Maine remaining the same in many ways, despite the never-ending drumbeat coming from business boosters and their minions in the biz press, touting “the bigger, better” Maine. Where? Portland, possibly, but yes, things keep clunking along pretty much everywhere else.

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