I have had a day job, but I currently do not. I had been working as a graphic artist in a basic science research department at a large teaching hospital. About a year ago, in late 2013, the Powers That Be announced that the new department chair they had been wooing decided not to take the job, and that all options for the future of the department were on the table. In May, the Powers That Be decided on the most radical and disruptive course of action, to eliminate the department. Everybody had to find homes in new departments. Nobody actually lost jobs except for a small handful of administrative specialists, ranging from a 12-year employee (me) to a 35-year employee (surprise early retirement). I tried to sign on with another department. Everybody loves my work, but nobody had the budget to take me on. Fortunately, the institution has been as generous as they can be with severance. My last day in the office was in early October.
I liked my job. I didn’t love it, but I liked it the vast majority of the time. I got to work 30 hours a week, and I was still granted nearly all the benefits of full-time, which are considerable. I had a lot of autonomy. I did good work, and I did work for good purposes. I had this comfy little niche, with a title that didn’t really describe my duties, but I didn’t care.
From mid-May until early September of this year, I did not know what was going to happen. I found very few positions to apply for, and I couldn’t even score an interview due to the job-title-duties-mismatch weirdness. I didn’t know for sure what the institution would offer me. I was paralyzed, holding my breath. I didn’t make anything. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t plan anything. I could only just try to catch everything that was happening, or not happening. I certainly couldn’t sign up for multiple-day shows, because I might have to find a new job and then not have the vacation time available. It was 3.5 months of very stressful uncertainty, which had been preceded by 7 months of more generic uncertainty.
After Labor Day, Human Resources gave us hard information, and I knew I would have some guaranteed severance, and I wouldn’t be tossed out on my ear. Then I started breathing again, and got busy. I began ramping up my freelance graphics business. I signed up for the International Quilt Festival and Dickens on the Strand. I started crocheting again, and getting into some new designs and ideas. So far, so good. I just finished the most successful show I have ever had, at the International Quilt Festival. I have steady freelance clients, and am talking to potential new ones. I have plans to branch out, in both fiber art and graphics. Right now, things are very successful. If things continue to be successful, so much the better. Or, I might decide after the holidays that the risk is too much, and I might look for steady income again.
But right now, I’m having a lot of fun! After the year I’ve had, I deserve it!