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  • I Went Freelance

    Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash

    I did it. I did the thing I’ve been envisioning for years and working nights and weekends on for months. I did the thing I’ve always said was my long-term career goal. I did my dream.

    The past two weeks have been a whirlwind. I signed three clients in five days. I jumped into the deep end of several new projects, on top of my full-time job. Oh: I put notice in at my full-time job. I talked to my manager. I told my team.

    I was more nervous to break the news to my boss than I was the time I forced myself to tell an old manager to his face that I thought he was condescending (long story). I was similarly nervous to tell my coworkers — after I hit send on my email, I tensed up so much and shook so hard my upper body was sore the next day.

    Why was I so nervous? It’s not like I haven’t had plenty of stressful conversations in my life (hello, I TOLD MY MANAGER HE WAS CONDESCENDING TO HIS FACE). I can only conclude it’s because my subconscious was acknowledging the reality of the situation, while my conscious brain was too overwhelmed to process. Somewhere in there I was thinking “This is it, Cassie. You’re really, finally doing it. You’re overhauling your career — and your life.”

    ***

    I accidentally lost seven pounds. I accidentally lived on coffee and chocolate and adrenaline for days. I’ve barely slept — I have too much work to do (and too much caffeine in my body)!

    I’ve been in the weirdest emotional state. And it’s more than sleep deprivation. I’m so anxious I’m vibrating. Buzzing with electricity. Floating over my chair. I have so much responsibility now, so much to learn, and so many opportunities to screw up. It’s setting in. I’m stressed out to the max — and yet you can’t wipe the smile off my face.

    I told some friends recently that this is the most stress I’ve ever been under that I’m not trying to get out of. I’m just taking it, feeling it, sort of enjoying it, pushing forward with it. (Shout out to my business-owner friend Sara, who gifted me the most perfect book at the most perfect time, and probably delayed my first nervous breakdown.) Somehow, though so much of what I’m doing feels scary and painful right now, it also feels so RIGHT. I’m simultaneously bursting with anxiety and happiness at any given moment. It’s bananas. I’m drowning. And I’m thrilled. I’m both.

    ***

    Some people believe that repeatedly seeing the time 11:11 on the clock is a sign. They say it’s an acknowledgement of — or a prompt to acknowledge — alignment and synchronicity in your life. John and I have been seeing it constantly for about a month now. Is it because I’ve finally found my thing, and can finally stop making John crazy with my search? I’m choosing to believe yes.

    I still can’t articulate precisely why I feel called to freelance, even after years of working toward it. Something in me has always pointed that direction. I’ve jotted out half-baked business plans dozens of times — it always helped me feel like I was taking action on escaping a path that wasn’t … in alignment.

    ***

    I want to end with thank-yous, to: Lindsay, Eric, Wendy, John, Kyle, Matt, Sara, Katy, and my Nolan and Sanchez families. Thank you for encouraging me, for asking how things are going, for caring. I’m so grateful for your support.

    Here I go!

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  • FYI Jury Duty is Actually Great

    image via Freerange Archives (CG Collection)

    (OK: it’s great unless someone died or was abused or some other traumatic event happened—that would be horrible and would make jury duty horrible. But in general, it rocks.)

    I was selected as a juror a few weeks back for a personal injury lawsuit. I served on the trial for five days. I thought I was supposed to dread jury duty—everyone groaned and offered tips to get out of it when I told them I’d been summoned—so when I got chosen, I dreaded it. But after day 1 of the trial, I was loving it, and after day 2, I was practically skipping home. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Here’s why:

    It’s Mentally Challenging & Intellectually Rewarding

    You have to really pay attention when a witness is on the stand—you’ll likely never get to hear that testimony again, and testimony is everything. Between the actual words a witness is speaking, their body language, and your background cognition of assessing their credibility, your brain is firing on all cylinders and you’re furiously taking notes. And it’s a very important use of your brain, which I appreciated so much. I know that sounds weird, but it was a really good feeling for me to leave the courthouse at the end of the day knowing I’d devoted my daily brainpower to something with serious, direct impact on lives.

    It’s a Fascinating Study in Human Behavior

    I positively marveled at the performance on display by both the witnesses and attorneys. Of course the lawyers were skilled influencers*, but even knowing they’d be doing their persuasion thing, I delighted in studying the specific words they chose, the phrasing in which they delivered them, the intentional pauses and suggestive facial expressions… To be able to send all those verbal and non-verbal cues while also laying out a narrative and adjusting to a witness’s sometimes-unpredictable testimony was super impressive.

    As for witnesses, here’s one thing I now know (as much as one can know after only one trial): When in question, it is human nature to oversell. Every single witness—even those who had no skin in the game and were only there because of some non-controversial information they had—seemingly felt compelled to over-explain each point they tried to make.

    Attorney: Was the treadmill in that position?

    Witness: Yes, it was like that…[should stop talking here, but:] and in fact, I’ve stubbed my toe on it several times!

    Attorney: Oh? So you have been in the exercise room several times, you would say?

    You see how this gets people into trouble. And yet every person up there under oath did it. Amazing.

    It’s the Most Down Time You’ll Ever Have on a Work Day

    I finished a book and took a few short online courses during my jury service. There’s a ton of waiting around—the courts move (necessarily) slowly and there’s a lot the jury isn’t allowed to see or hear—and it’s lovely. Well it’s lovely if you like quiet free time.

    You aren’t allowed to talk about the trial or even review your notes until you’ve heard all witnesses’ testimony and deliberation formally begins. So when the jury is excused from the courtroom, as it often is, you’re free to occupy your brain with whatever. (You can chat with your fellow jurors about anything but the trial, which I did do some—but usually I’d dive straight into my studies.) Each day of jury duty, I loaded up my backpack with a book, a notebook, and my laptop and practically giggled in excitement over the idea that I’d likely have so much time for learning and thinking. It was just the best.

    It’s a Ready-Made Opportunity for Civic Service

    The judge on my case said “thank you for your service” to my fellow jurors and me several times throughout the process, and at first it felt weird. I’d only heard that phrase used in addressing members of the military and government officials, and their service is far more significant than the handful of days I spent deciding whose fault the trip over the treadmill was. But as I was reminded, my participation in jury duty enables our judicial system to work like it does. Some people don’t show up** when they’re called for jury service—sometimes for legit reasons, sometimes because they feel they have more important things to do—so even just being there matters.

    I think many of us would like to contribute more to our communities and country, but we need a little nudge to get started. If you’re not a Leslie-Knope-type who knows the ins and outs of public service, the whole “getting involved” thing can feel intimidating. Listen: Being called for jury duty can be that nudge! In my experience, the judge, bailiff, and others go out of their way to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible—no sweat. It’s a well-organized, already-scheduled chance to perform a civic duty. Take it!

    And seriously, don’t dread it.

     

    *well, one of them was. The other was comically bad.

    **the consequences of skipping vary from nothing to fines to jail time. Just go.

     

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  • What I Learned From Landing—& Promptly Leaving—My Dream Job

    dream job
    image by atsuke

    About a year ago, I left a manager and team I adored for what I thought was my dream job. I was wrong; it was very much not my dream job (let’s call it my “nightmare job”). Now, I genuinely don’t want this post to be a bash fest, but the 6-month period in which I struggled through this role was a slap in the face I must write about. Because I always, for whatever reason, feel compelled to be authentic. Having this experience—and feeling like I took away lessons from it—and not sharing it feels inauthentic to me. Like I haven’t told the world the whole truth.

    So here’s what I learned.

    I Learned That Nothing Zaps Me of Energy & Motivation Faster Than Micromanagement

    Prior to taking the nightmare job, I would have told you I disliked micromanagement (doesn’t everybody?). But this job taught me it’s an absolute deal-breaker for me. I was working in an environment of rules, “suggestions,” and worst of all, mistrust. I was given instructions on how to manage my projects (uh, didn’t you hire me to handle this?), questioned when I didn’t constantly communicate what I was doing (instead of just doing it), and even told how to respond to certain emails (oh! oh! and how to manage my motherfucking inbox. Seriously!). Ugh. Kill me.

    I think my brain just started to shut off at some point. I was a puppet; that’s what it seemed they wanted from me. Just follow the rules, do what you’re told, don’t think for yourself, don’t color outside the lines… I despised it.

    I Learned That the “Right” Industry Doesn’t Necessarily Lead to Job Satisfaction

    The only reason I was even open to leaving the job I had before the nightmare job was that the former was in the IT software industry. I just felt like I’d never do great work in that space—not fine, not good, but great. It’s not a subject I naturally grasp. But lifestyle-y stuff? Hell yeah. Let me focus on health & wellness or career strategies or personal development or something along these lines, and I’ll knock your socks off. I’ll be the most effective, most inspired employee you’ve ever had.

    Well, LOL at that. The nightmare job was in health & wellness. But the role itself was wrong for me, as was the culture and even the brand (see bonus learning below).

    There was a time when I thought the industry of a job mattered most to me, and that my actual responsibilities, my manager, my team, the culture, and everything else were minor details. I thought as long as the industry was a match, I could make almost any job work. Wrong-o, Cass.

    Fast forward to today, and I have the best manager in the world; work with crazy-smart, super-chill people; get to focus on my strengths; am afforded generous amounts of autonomy, flexibility, and creative freedom…and I’m in the tech industry. Haha! Tech?! Is tech a “Cassie” industry? Oh god no. Am I happy? Yep. Am I good at my job? Yep. Who’da thunk?

    Industry ain’t everything, kids.

    I Learned That This Whole Thing Was Actually All My Fault

    I’m an idealist. This is, uh, not a good thing sometimes. It certainly wasn’t in this case. When I was approached about the nightmare job, here’s what I heard: health & wellness brand! work from home! social media & editorial role! What I didn’t hear: health & wellness personal brand; work only from your home office, no coffee shops or anything; social media analyst & editorial (not writer) role. (Not that these things are inherently negative, they just are for me.) I didn’t hear these things because I didn’t want to; I wanted to focus on the good, exciting, in-alignment stuff.

    I also just assumed the culture would be Cassie-friendly. I never saw the micromanagement coming. Oh, and the near-constant collaboration, omigod. Didn’t see that either. Again, it’s not that these things are universally bad, they’re just bad for me. And my rose-colored glasses prevented me from seeing them. I didn’t ask enough questions, and I didn’t give the negatives the weight they warranted.

    It’s hard for me to recognize and appreciate faults in something I’ve romanticized. And it’s hard for me to not romanticize things when I get excited about them. I’m hoping this particular rude awakening has taught me a lasting lesson, though.

    Bonus: I Learned That a Super-Sweet & Flowery Writing Style Just Doesn’t Come Naturally to Me

    And it never will. And I never want it to.

    🙂

    image credit: The Dream by atsuke via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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