Mark Terry

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Square Pegs

June 24, 2008
The last couple weeks have been sort of stressful. As I mentioned a while back, I was taking on a contract job.

Yesterday I resigned from the position that had barely started.

For a variety of reasons, I was just not a good fit for this position. The two biggest reasons were that one, it was a full-time staff job that I could work from home, but I have writing commitments through the end of the year, so I was trying to essentially work 14 hours a day. It wasn't working and I had the good sense to understand I was going to kill myself or screw up both the freelancing and the staff job.

The second biggest reason is more esoteric and has to do with self-identity. I'm a freelance writer. The freelance part of it is important to me. More important than I suspected. I mean, this was a great gig. It was paying $70,000 a year to work out of my home as a writer and editor and if I had wanted it, would have included medical benefits. The work itself was definitely in my abilities, but no matter how I tried, I couldn't get past the idea that I was giving up freelancing, something I had spent almost 20 years trying to achieve.

There were a number of other items on my this-isn't-working list, but those were the most prominent and rational.

So we parted ways before things got ugly. I might even be able to do some freelance work for them in the future.

It felt like a weight was taken off my shoulders and I've been amazingly productive since. I've also been a lot happier.

It's a pretty nice position to be in, to be able to turn down a job like that. I'm not crazy, I understand that a lot of people would kill for a job like that. But I spent 18 years being miserable in a job I didn't like that I stayed in because I thought it provided security and benefits, yada, yada, yada. Now I tend to think being able to bring in money AND still be happy is important and to balance those.

In other words, I'm a lucky bastard.

Mark Terry


OpenID eric-mayer said...

Damn! I have got to admire you, Mark. I agree -- working for yourself is about the most important thing you can do. I did the corporate employee thing for years too and to be free from that -- to own yourself so to speak rather than being owned -- what's that worth? Well, I am afraid that most people would value that at considerably less than $70,000 and benefits. Sad to say. Frankly this is also a good example in setting priorities for the kids. The first thing I would tell a young person about work is to try and find a way to work for yourself. Dependency on an employer is demeaning and you can't trust them anyway. Now wouldn't be a hoot if tomorrow your agent told you she'd sold a book?

9:41 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yes, that would be a hoot.

When it comes right down to it, this was all about greed--mine. And yeah, the money would have been great. But I was almost instantly unhappy about the whole thing.

My wife has been understanding--not without at least a little bit of teasing, but it's pretty good-natured. It's also the second time I've gone after what is essentially a staff editing job that didn't work out--hopefully I've learned my lesson.

At a different time in my life--say 5 years ago--this would have been awesome. I've been spoiled by the freedom and flexibility (or perceived freedom and flexibility) of the freelance life and as soon as I agreed to this gig I started chafing from it. Oh well.

9:53 AM  
Blogger MissWrite said...

I admire you too, and you sure are a lucky bastard--a smart one too. Life's too short to kill yourself for a few dollars even if those are bangin' bucks.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

All right, Mark! Good for you!

You don't want to work for The Man.

Life isn't a dress rehearsal. We get one turn 'round.


11:13 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Well, yeah, life isn't a dress rehearsal, you're right.

And before anyone gets to complimentary about my quote "sacrifice" unquote, I'm not really losing any money on this deal, I just don't have it guaranteed in a salary format--I've got to go out and earn it like I have for the last several years.

Still, it did offer some comfort and stability, which apparently wasn't as valuable to me as doing my own thing.

11:18 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

You know, that's funny. I wrote you last night in the middle of a screaming headache. I woke up this morning, and I was totally berating myself for emailing when you had so much on your plate. I was surprised you didn't write me back saying, "Are you kidding? I don't have time to breathe!"

So where can I apply for this job? Will they take someone with no experience? :-p

11:46 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

That's okay Natasha, feel free to write me any time you want, headache or not.

Yeah, yeah, you know, they just might. It's hard to say. Anyone out there with a strong biotech background and writing experience that wants a referral?

11:49 AM  
Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

That took balls. I wish I could come up with something sage and poetic but all I can think of is that "let go of the river bottom" parable in Richard Bach's Illusions.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Melanie Avila said...

Good for you for realizing it before it was too late! As you said, you've worked hard to get to where you are today and it sounds like the job would've been a huge step backwards for you.

Good luck.

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