This is my third July spent in this one particular place. We moved to our current apartment (l'appartement des lilas) in the Plateau in July 2016. I wrote a little bit about that first summer here and about that first year in the Plateau here. It's amazing how quickly two years rush by, I am honestly having trouble keeping up. Yet, if this past winter and summer have taught me anything, it's that it is especially important to carve out time to actually take stock of what's happening. That's what I'm doing here.
I've been reconnecting with some old friends and it occurs to me that a lot of people genuinely have no idea what I do. A few folks still think I run a nonprofit that teaches kids to code when I stopped doing that years ago! So what do I do? Basically, whatever people will pay me to do. In 2018 specifically, that includes the following grocery list: Wordpress management for people who just don't have the time to keep up their own blogs at the moment but need them managed anyway, updating and fixing broken websites, freelance English to French translation work, independent editing for writers and academics, static website design for artists & programmers, some other miscellaneous web design and programming work, copywriting for blogs, emails and social media, some graphic design, and even some article writing! In the winter, I even did some independent consulting for an organization who had some serious IT needs but no in-house IT specialist to help them. It's a big eclectic mix, and it's sometimes a little bewildering. My work situation can change wildly week-to-week based on what kind of emails I get and what kinds of responses I get to my job ads on FB and elsewhere.
And to be honest, sometimes I feel very discouraged. I feel as though there is no coherent progression — as if I don't really have a career, or that my career is botched. I'm a kind of digital handyman, but it sometimes feels like there's no real opportunity for something really interesting on the horizon. I have lots of unrelated if mostly complementary skills, but most people don't expect them to cohabit so closely. English to French translation or editing of dissertations doesn't seem to have much to do with programming websites, though on an abstract level I guess you could say most of what I do is with communications and honing people's digital footprints.
Some of the frustration I've been feeling lately also has to do with the stuff that usually gets relegated to the HR or sales department of most companies. I am my own HR rep and salesperson and client manager — and the unpleasant side of that is dealing with the companies who don't pay me on time, or who consistently behave poorly and disrespect my boundaries, limits, and generosity. It really sucks that for every wonderful person or company I work with, there are always two or three others who have no qualms stepping all over me. This winter and spring especially have taught me that companies (nonprofits especially) like to outsource misery — offloading their crunch to independent workers and subcontractors caught unaware, and these companies know how easy it is to find outsiders that need the work badly enough that they'll accept mangled or nebulous terms and conditions, and usually unworkable schedules. Since my professional network is so heavily entangled with my social network, this becomes especially bitter when I'm waiting on thousands of dollars' worth of unpaid invoices, and emails and messages to friends working for those places go unanswered. I do my very best not to take it personally. The lack of respect as a matter of course is nonetheless tremendously discouraging.
And yet, there are still elements of working independently that I find incredibly salutary. I like being almost completely in charge of my own work schedule. I like working from home, or remotely (because of the recent heat wave, I've been trialling a floating desk at a workers' solidarity coop in my neighbourhood this month — it's been a very good experience so far). And, from a health perspective, I know that if I can manage to keep the stresses of finding work and wrangling clients to an acceptable minimum, this is probably the most manageable arrangement in terms of keeping my chronic illnesses and health issues in check. Of course, none of this would be possible without the extreme privilege of living as a settler in Montréal, Québec, in North America, where we have universal health care. And even though I live in the Plateau, my rent is nothing compared to my friends in Ontario or elsewhere in Canada. I'm fully cognizant of that.
There have been some developments in the last few weeks that have been giving me a little bit of hope. I received some really good feedback on some translation work I did. I also received praises from a publishing company for on some work I did on a manuscript, and an invitation to reconnect with them in the fall to discuss future collaboration. It makes me think I might eventually find a place in the publishing or journalism industry, working on books or literary magazines, which is honestly something I really want to do.
... Now, if only I could gather enough energy to write fiction or creative nonfiction again, which honestly is the big reason I opted to work as a freelancer in the first place. It's so endlessly frustrating — all I have to do is sit down and write, and yet I seem utterly incapable of doing just that! But perhaps it's just not meant to happen right now. UGH. Writer's block. I seem to be in a permanent state of it, and I just don't know how to trick myself into writing something that isn't a blog post.