I just finished a huge week of work. Freelance is very difficult to justify in a capitalist society. Even though I work sometimes in excess of 100 hours in a week, pounding through to-do lists and making things easier for our theater company or someone else’s, even though I am proud — even thrilled — with the amount of learning and progress I am making toward becoming a more complete web developer, even though I am conquering fear after fear to become a better person, I flinch when people ask me what I do.
There’s a certain degree of male self-importance here. A fellow actor asked me this innocuous question tonight: “What do you do?” Translated from actor-speak, that generally means “What is your day job? How do you pay your bills?” I felt a little shame in saying I was a freelance web developer, working from home. Through no particular fault of her own since we are trained to equate financial success with worth, I could see my value diminish in her estimation. I quickly mentioned that I had worked at some quite prestigious agencies before I quit to pursue my dream.
But I still struggle with it. And it does get in the way sometimes. I think my wife resents that she makes so much more than me, despite my semi-feminist belief that this is a good thing. I couldn’t make what she makes doing what I do, even if I commanded a proper salary for it. I’m just not in that kind of demand as a specialist. I also don’t really care to make that kind of money. We have everything we need, within reason, and if we had more money, we would just be wasteful with it under the guise of stress relief.
Often, I want to go back and live in a studio apartment. I crave that kind of simplicity. The feeling that at any moment maybe I would just move to Johannesburg or Taipei or Switzerland and just be me somewhere else. I know that’s a common fantasy, but the part I really treasure is the place from which the fantasies spring.
I’ve always required a sanctuary, and right now, that just is not possible. In the last few years, I’ve been saying all too frequently that in a few more weeks, my schedule clears up enough that I can take a weekend off and go to a workshop, or that I can finally start a regular D&D game with some friends. But what really happens is that I’m just on to the next ten-project quarter, desperately trying not to let anyone down, and failing most if not all those people in the process.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve managed some wonderful collaborations in the past year or so, ones of which I am undeniably proud. I just can’t help wondering if I would be more successful if I focused on one thing at a time. I’m not sure I’ve set myself up to make that happen.
This felt good. Maybe more of this.