I’ve actively avoided writing any kind of blog post for the past four months. I had intended to go back to writing monthly updates – or at least an update about my changed circumstances – but roughly a week after my last day at my old job, COVID-19 reached the UK and everything went… well, you know. So late, as ever, but with the benefit of some hindsight, here it is.
An aside: I refuse to write a COVID blog. I was sick of the articles and blog posts by Week Two and I don’t want to add to the noise. But I also left my job and went freelance right as it all kicked off in the UK. So by necessity this update as to what’s going on in the little circle of my life starts with that.
On the one hand, it was terrible timing to go freelance given the abrupt vanishing and cancellation of a lot of events and work. But on the other, it was almost perfect, being that I was already adjusting to working from home, and getting my head round not having a definitive monthly income. There were stages to this adjustment: a wrecked back from unsuccessfully making a standing desk out of a keyboard stand and a plank of wood; a tent in the garden as an excuse to not be in the house; realising after a week of Zoom calls to hand over my job to my replacement that I hate video calls more than I ever realised; and a slight emotional break when the Isle of Man closed its borders.
Where the UK has been comparatively lax in its policing of very confusing ‘guidelines’ that keep changing, the Isle of Man was and is extremely strict. Lockdown such as it was is loosening here, and is over over there, but I cannot see my family and am unlikely to until next year at the earliest. I swing regularly between pure relief that they are all in one of the safest places in the world right now, and grieving because I miss them all, and they’ve gone through some tough times, and I couldn’t and can’t get to them to help. If anything does happen to any of them I won’t be able to get to them in any timely way (two-week quarantine is law on arrival on the island). I know that I’m not alone in this situation or in having these feelings, but that doesn’t make things much easier.
ANYWAY. Onwards, to what is happening NOW and how has it been, paddling in the shallow end of freelancing courtesy of these weird times?
Well, it’s been brilliant, actually. I’d known for a long time that I needed to leave my job (cue my partner’s voice in my head, when I told him I had handed in my notice ‘finally! You should have done it two years ago!’), but had fairly successfully suppressed just how stressful it was. (Try saying that seven times, fast.) And it was: ridiculously stressful in the purest sense of ridiculous given what it essentially boiled down to, which was work that was certainly not of a life-or-death level. I edited one last issue as a freelancer, and I found it extremely tough having that work taking place in my home. Without exaggeration, after I left my average heart rate dropped by c.15 beats per minute (according to my trusty fitbit, now retired till I can get the strap fixed). Opening the documents or my emails to check on work for the issue jumped it right back up again.
Now I know it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, freelancing, but right now I can’t get anxious about finding work in future months. I have the next few weeks lined up, and even if I didn’t my ability to be stressed out is broken, or on bed rest, or something. I’m motivated, of course, and I’m extremely lucky in that people are supporting me by sending me work of varying types, which I love. I’m also in the process of setting up a proper website for myself to get more work. But what I’m not doing is having sleepless nights about my finances, which was something I had working full time.
In fact, though my income is technically lower than it was, by sheer dint of not having to travel to Newcastle, and buy lunches, and pay for buses and taxis when the trains don’t run, I am financially better off than I was by quite some distance. Even in a non-COVID world, I’d be doing okay.
I’m healthier, too. I’m not catching everything going from sneezers on the train and standing around in the rain. I get enough sleep now – 6am starts are a thing of the past – and I’ve settled into something approaching a schedule. And not spending four hours a day travelling and the weekend recovering and worrying means that when something worrisome did happen (step up, please, Dog 2 and multiple vet trips – she’s fine) I had the time and energy to deal with it. I keep seeing articles about ‘how will your pet cope when lockdown ends?’ but it would be me struggling to leave them now, I think. I love being able to actually spend time with my pets, especially now they’re getting older.
I’m working on getting actual accreditation for my c.15 years of experience in proofreading and editing.
I can write and focus on it because I don’t have to slam my laptop closed and jump off the train, or buy a coffee in a pub to keep going while I can.
I’ve also started painting creepy little pictures (which are for sale. I paint what I want and sew the pictures into little wooden frames, and I’ll be populating an Etsy shop at some point. Hit me up for commissions if you want.)
And I’m finally releasing a double A-side single as part of Butterfly Effect Records’ singles club – out in September. I’ve managed to finish the artwork and the songs.
Because I swore this wouldn’t be a ‘My Covid Days’ post, I am skimming over the pandemic fears (which I have, of course). And yes, very occasionally the days seem long or aimless, but I think that’s the lack of seeing my friends than anything else. My friends in town are mostly freelancers too, who I would be seeing fairly regularly in normal times.
Oh, and I drive now. Willingly. Another side-effect of my job was, to some extent, never feeling fully in control of anything and always second guessing my decisions. Now, when I email people with requests and work, I do it with the comfort of knowing that I am answering only for me, and not having to explain or excuse a decision taken elsewhere. I feel like a fully fledged adult (finally, she says, at this great age), and that seems to have spilled over into being able to change gears and cope with roundabouts.
So all round, I’m having a very fortunate time during a very unfortunate one.
Oh, a last couple of things because C-19 is not the only thing going on:
BLACK LIVES MATTER. Still. Always. The media has died down but the truth of this has not.
And please, just Wear A Mask.