When I first moved to New York in 2005, I became a freelance writer and (later) a guitar teacher by default. There weren’t any magazine jobs, but I had a lot of b-to-b writing skills — so friends of mine who knew I needed money just started sending my name to editors. I got assignments. And more assignments. And soon, I had so many assignments that I didn’t have time to look for a job. Sometimes I didn’t even have time to take a shower.
I did manage to find time to volunteer for the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls as a vocal/guitar teacher. So when an opportunity to teach guitar to kids came up on the Rock Camp listserv, I applied on a whim. The job — teaching students with the Brooklyn Guitar School — was mine a week later. A part-time freelancer’s position.
So the e-mail tagline changed with my identity: I became Marisa, a freelance writer and guitar teacher.
Then, the economy tanked in 2009, taking most of my high-paying media outlets with it. After months of trying to get new contract work, I humbly applied for a full-time job, tail between my legs. When I was hired, I felt like such a huge sellout, going corporate after years of being free. But numbers, like hips, don’t lie: I could barely afford more than rent, subway fare, and groceries. At the time, my then-fiance was a student teacher. We decided to move to Stamford, Conn., from Brooklyn, and I would need a car. And more money for things like gas and car insurance. There was no way around it: I had to get a job.
It’s been five years since I moved to Connecticut and returned to the corporate-job world. And now, I am leaving it again, only this time around, the circumstances are VERY different. Unlike before, I am not just working for myself. So I can’t just get up at 7 a.m. and plow through an assignment until noon. Rather, I can get up at 6 a.m., and plow through some work until 7, but then I’ll need to take a break to eat waffles with my toddler, and nurse my infant. I’ll need to make sure that bottles are washed and both little men are dressed and changed. In other words, there is only so much I will be able to work. Instead of working up to 80 hours a week, I’ll have to make sure my workload ends up being no more than 40 hours a week. I’ll have to have hard limits.
Of course, there’s the usual sadness about not having paid sick days (when you’re a freelancer, you don’t get paid when you’re sick!). And I’ll miss having colleagues — one of the nicest things about working in the corporate world. I’ll also miss the income that comes with working 50-60 hours per week. The idea of giving up money to put toward little luxuries like weekend getaways or new clothes is crazy scary.
But in return I’m getting something better: More time with my sons, big dude and baby dude. At the end of the day, I didn’t want to give up having waffles with my older boy, or nursing my little one because I’m on a business trip. I want to be there at the beginning of the day, instead of in a car on the way to a job. I want to be there for them at the end of the day. I want to cook dinner for them — and learn to use a food processor.
As much as I love work, family comes first. So here’s to “living the dream” as my friend Miriam called it. I truly am a lucky girl.