For those who have been following The Pin the Map Project, you may be surprised to see this post title. I have never been shy about how much I abhor the 9 to 5 work grind. Over the past four years, I have been candid about my dislike for my career in advertising, about my decision to pursue my dream of travel writing and my choice to ultimately kiss the office goodbye and waltz out the door.
I have been transparent about my failings as a freelancer; about the mistakes I made when going freelance, about the decision to not quit advertising entirely but to instead work gigs here and there to, you know, pay the bills. I have been a public speaker and hosted a seminar on becoming a full time travel blogger. I have spoken to the trials and tribulations of monetizing a blog. I’ve spoken to the inconsistency of freelancing; of how some months find you living like a Rockefeller while others like Oliver Twist.
After all this, I now find myself back in an office in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood. But–unlike previous jobs–I’m not miserable! Miracles of all miracles, I didn’t leave my apartment this morning and head to work like a death row inmate. I didn’t play violins in my head during my subway commute to work as I lamented all the reasons I had to go sit at a desk. No, instead I am—dare I say it—happy. I am back at an office and sublimely happy about it and here’s why.
The Big Bali Epiphany
To understand why I’m on cloud nine about being back at a desk let me tell you about my life-changing epiphany in Bali. To begin, for the past year I have been working as a freelancer, picking up writing gigs, advertising jobs, and all the while focusing on my blog.
Around summertime, I noticed that my brilliant plan of kicking back with a laptop and living out my days as a carefree travel blogger wasn’t cutting it.
First off, I live in New York City and the Carrie-Bradshaw-Sex-and-the-City-lifestyle is very far fetched. Despite my best efforts to pour everything into my website—money, time, effort—I couldn’t monetize my site enough to earn a living. I drove myself crazy with frustration as I balanced the contradicting realities of having a successful blog in terms of readers, hiring staff writers, attending trips and earning press; all without the bank account balance to prove it. Here’s the thing about blogging: the industry is saturated with bloggers. Every couple seconds a new blog is published, which means competition is fierce.
Now let’s take that truth and compound it with the fact that most people are striving to turn their blog into a career (because we all dream of ditching the office, no?). In order to reach that point, bloggers will work for FREE to rapidly gain exposure. It’s a smart tactic (hell knows, I’ve done it too) but it’s a double edge sword. Not only do you not earn money for your work but you ultimately do yourself (and fellow bloggers) a huge disservice by working for free since companies get accustomed to paying little to nothing for blog exposure. See what I’m getting at?
So, in the midst of all this I was trying to live solely off my travel writing, which was–well—unsuccessful. Sure, I could fly to Indonesia on a whim at the expense of the tourism board but couldn’t afford to pay my student loans.
I blamed my writing. I fought against my creativity as it stared back at me blankly. I pleaded with my writing to pay the bills. I berated myself, blaming lack of talent or business savvy on my flailing finances. Under such pressure, my writing grew worse, my love for blogging dwindled and I started to lose my love for travel writing as a whole.
This brings me to Bali and my BIG BALI EPIPHANY. I arrived in Bali with the sole goal of isolating myself from everything I know and getting back to basics with my writing. I had reached a metaphorical crossroads in my life where I knew I wanted to make a career of travel writing but wasn’t sure how. As both a blogger and journalist, I had straddled both worlds for the past couple years. I had tried to break into editorial without any luck and so stuck to freelance writing and editing. I tried to build my blog into a viable career and was struggling to pay bills. I had reached a point where I knew I had a decision to make about going back to work and getting back to writing for myself.
At this time, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, BIG MAGIC, which is a great read about creativity. A lovely traveler from South Africa listened to me wax poetic one day about my writing and insisted I read her copy. Three days later, I sat stunned as I stared at the book I had just finished. The book was like a giant slap in the face. Why the hell was I putting so much pressure on my writing to pay the bills? Some of the best authors worked as bartenders or in offices to pay their bills while indulging in writing in every spare moment.
Even Elizabeth Gilbert kept her day job until after the success of Eat Pray Love so as not to destroy her creativity by pushing it to pay her rent.
I realized after this book how silly I had been to think my writing was all or nothing. To think that either I had to have an office job or be a full-time writer. To think that somehow by having a job it would make me less of a creative. I spent the next few days in Bali writing for myself. Oh, what a treat that was! No sponsored posts, no listicles, no obsessing over blog stats. Just letting my emotions splash on a page–for better or for worse. I left Bali promising to be patient, loving and kind to myself and my writing. Knowing it was time to be an adult, get back to work and realize that nothing–not work or bills—can take away my passion for writing.
I went back to New York and applied for jobs. I applied for advertising jobs and–just for good measure–applied for editorial jobs, which still remained a dream of mine.
Long story short: after a week of interviews, I landed a job as Travel Editor of The Culture Trip!! In other words, I landed my dream job.
Now here I am today–my 4th day on the job—sitting at my desk and taking a moment to recap my life. I am being paid (full salary and benefits!) to finally do exactly what I love. Every day I wake up, check travel stories, think about good story angles for the website, sit at my desk and write about travel. I do exactly what I have been doing for myself every day for years, except now it’s for an incredible website, a massive global audience and a paycheck twice a month.
When I was blogging it would break my heart when stories I felt passionate about went unnoticed; but today? Stories I write have the power to create dialogue and reach readers. That is all I’ve ever wanted from my writing–to impact change with the power of my words.
What I’ve realized now is that putting pressure on your creativity–whether it’s writing, film, painting or anything else—serves you no good. We are completely inundated with stories about why you should quit your job to travel or chase a dream; but here’s the thing those stories are missing: you don’t HAVE to quit to chase a passion. If anything your job allows you to afford your dream without the added pressure of demanding it pays the bills (because trust me here, nothing kills a passion quicker than blaming it for not earning enough).
So if you’re happy in your job—which is all that really matters, truly—then keep on doing what you’re doing! And as for those dreams? Well, no one can ever take them away from you.