I walked up to the counter for my appointment. It had been a while since I had visited my doctor so the typical information and forms had to be dealt with.
We covered insurance, address, and phone number. But when she asked me where I worked, I paused, and fumbled with my thoughts and emotions.
First, I felt the sting of annoyance rush through me. Why do I have to work anywhere? I could be a SAHM or maybe I just don’t work in general.
Then I felt angry with society. Maybe I work for myself, which I do, so why does she assume I work for anyone but myself.
I blurted out my secondary job, ESL Teacher, which I am extremely proud of and has had a proven track record of obtaining oooohs and ahhhhhs.
She then asked me who my employer was, and I simply stated that I was an independent contractor. I was frustrated, but she was satisfied with that answer.
Then, I calmed down and realized that she wasn’t being judgmental, and her questions were probably the easiest way to learn about my employment without making assumptions.
It’s not surprising, since only about 10% of the American workforce was self-employed as of 2014, according to Pew Research Center.
In reality, it wasn’t the receptionist’s fault.
I realized that my initial feelings were misdirected. I was actually ashamed and embarrassed to say “where” I actually worked for fear of judgment — gosh darn it, it’s all in my head, I thought.
The truth is, I am a writer, and the majority of my income comes from the writing I do through my blogs and for my clients.
I know that being a freelance writer is truly no different than being a business owner down at the local construction company, but for some reason, I felt less credible.
A Natural Storyteller
I’ve known I was a writer since I was first able to put a sentence together. I’m not even joking. I loved using big words, even when I was just learning how to write. I’ve always been a storyteller. But, I never took myself seriously when I wanted to do it for a living. I thought it was just a pipe dream, or that successful writers were just lucky and hit the jackpot.
The thing is, I don’t think I’m alone on this. So, I have to wonder, where do these deep-seated feelings about declaring my status as a writer come from?
It All Starts With Family
I reside on the top-end of the millennial spectrum. I grew up watching my parents work extremely hard. My mother was a nurse, of course, and my father was a mechanic. They both believed that a good job, with benefits, is the way to be successful or live the American dream.
My mom came home every night tired and desperately needing to put her feet up. My dad worked long hours, and his hands were always covered in grime, and his skin was cracked. They worked extremely hard for everything they had, and they believed that to save me from the same kind of labor, I needed to go to college, and get advanced degrees — which I did.
When I was in college and declared that I would be pursuing a degree in English, my parents didn’t balk at all. I was a little surprised because it wasn’t anything like what they dedicated their lives to — but they knew I would love it, so they supported me.
The Job Search After Graduation
After I graduated, I soon discovered the challenges of finding a job, that would justify my student loans, in a rural area with a degree in the arts. I was hit with the harsh reality that there just weren’t writing jobs for me in our small town, but I refused to move away from my family. I was forced into other jobs that I hated. The internet was not what it is today, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2005, “…fewer than 1 in 10 workers were self-employed.”
My odds of working my dream job, writing copy from home, were out the window.
It was a hard reality to accept, and I began seeing my chosen career as a farce, or a far-fetched dream. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and scared of what my financial future might look like.
The Media’s Portrayal of The Arts
While I was working my miserable non-writing job, I began to let go of my dreams of a successful writing career. I put my head down and fell in line. I had benefits, and I began to believe in employee loyalty…until I was let go due to financial problems at the college I was working for.
I sat on my couch for three months, binge-watching Hulu. I watched a ton of movies during my phase of unemployment and I noticed that a lot of media alluded to the arts as a joke. In the movie Holiday in Handcuffs, Mario Lopez’s character stated that a degree in the arts is, “…an expensive way to say, do you want fries with that?”
I laughed because, over the years, I grew to believe this sentiment.
I Couldn’t Go Back to Work for The Man
As time passed, and I fell into a deep depression, I began skipping interviews and struggling with my identity. I had no idea who I was anymore. I used to believe that if I put my head down and worked hard for an employer, I would have a job for life and retire well-off.
In the end, getting let go was reality’s way of slapping me in the face, and giving me the gift of rediscovering myself as a creative writer.
I had been suppressing my skills, and even worse, my authentic self. So, I stopped looking for non-writing jobs, quit wrestling with my ego, and decided to just start writing.
Now, I am able to support myself by freelance copywriting from my home, and I have no income ceiling.
So, why is it that I’m still embarrassed to admit that I am a successful, creative individual? Well, it’s my own hangup, isn’t it?
Times have changed, and the internet is bursting with opportunities for writers. What was once considered an expensive, useless, college education, is now a booming industry.
Instead of cowering behind what I perceive to be a successful career, I will no longer hide my true identity. The world needs good writers, and they might be hiding out on a small farm in Wisconsin, just like me.
As I sat in the waiting room that day, I reflected on my journey back to writing, and as the nurse called my name, I had a new understanding of my self-destructive thoughts. As I stood up, I vowed to never stumble over my writing career or sweep it under the rug again. Instead, I’ll declare my career with passion and fire.
Because being a writer is nothing to be ashamed of.